|By Katy Barth|
Mason craft brewery finds success in experimentation — just don’t come hungryGiving your business an off-kilter name could turn out to a mark of ironic genius — Hooters and Fuddruckers laughed all the way to the bank with tongue-in-cheek monikers — but to call your business “bad” seems like a recipe for trouble. For Brian Rasdale and Danielle French, the co-owners of BAD Brewing Co. in Mason, their decision had less to do with the quality of the beer they were producing than it did with the festive environment they were trying to create. And maybe poking a little fun at Rasdale’s alternate personality.
“An ‘after dark’ TV show comes on after midnight because it’s not appropriate for children,” French said. In their case, it’s Rasdale who gets a little R-rated after the sun goes down. “BAD is named after Brian when he starts having a little too much fun: Brian-After-Dark.”
French, 28, uses her 10 years of restaurant experience to run the saloon; Rasdale, 29, keeps all 14 of the brewery’s taps flowing with hand crafted beer, all made in-house. Between the two of them, BAD, the 1,700-square-foot enterprise they launched in summer 2012, has grown into both a destination spot for travelers on the Michigan beer trail and a local watering hole with a dedicated following.
Rasdale’s passion started with beginner beer kits a decade ago, which soon took over his basement. He was laid off from the Lansing Police Department in summer 2012. He called it “a blessing in disguise,” however, because it gave him time to focus solely on opening his dream brewery. He was called back to the force six months later and worked both jobs, but retired last August to make brewing his full-time occupation. And he said he’s working more now than ever before. Four days out of the week he’s brewing a new batch of something, which means the taps are constantly changing.
“We’re beer people, and we make beer for beer people,” he said. “You never know what’s going to be on tap.” But even with all of the rotation, four of the 14 taps stay consistent with the brewery’s stand-bys:, Ash Street Amber, Wicked Wit, No Stout About It and Brothel Brown, a playful nod to the building’s reputed former life as a bordello. The building was stripped to its original worn brick interior (circa the mid-1800s) when BAD moved in, giving it a lived-in, historic feeling.
Rasdale said a benefit of having a smaller brewing system is the freedom to create mixtures with an uncertain outcome. He said by now he’s sure he’ll produce a good beer when trying a new recipe, but he can’t promise that it won’t need modification.
“We follow the rules,” Rasdale starts to say. “But we stretch them,” finishes French. A brew might make several appearances or it might be poured once and never again. Krackin IPA, a staple beer at BAD, was the first beer Rasdale brewed from an extract kit. He said he’s modified it about 30 times since then, with no distinguishable traces of the original. Rather than relying on the kit’s sugar formula, Rasdale now relies on grains to produce the sugar. The hops and malt combinations have also changed, and Rasdale said it has evolved into a malt-forward IPA with a smooth finish. And sometimes he takes requests: This winter, Rasdale said his customers demanded a Black IPA, which he developed in short order.
On a recent Friday, two new beers made an appearance at the start of the day, and two more had a potential of being tapped before night’s end. The rich smell of a Chestnut Brown ale, made with Michigan chestnuts, filled the room. One patron was at the bar chatting with French and sipping a beer from a custom-made turquoise mug, the mark of the BAD mug club member. French said she and Rasdale can put a name to nearly all of the 362 mug owners; most of the time, French said, she can grab your mug before you sit down. Mug club members receive four additional ounces in their 20-ounce handcrafted mug. It all adds to the Cheers-like, everybody-knows-yourname vibe the owners have cultivated.
“I love being out here and seeing people coming together and knowing we’re the reason why that happened,” French said.
“We’ll be sitting here and there will be 10 people at the bar, and only a couple of people know each other, and by the end of the night they’ll be passing food up and down the bar,” Rasdale added. But please note: If you’re hungry, this is a BYOF (bring your own food) kind of place. BAD is missing a kitchen, with intention.
“We’re beer first,” says Rasdale. He said they want to keep their focus on making the beer. Customers are welcome to bring in food from home or down the street, but he’s considering teaming up with a local food truck. It will be open the same hours as the bar and serve artisan style meals, with a majority of the product being locally produced.
Coming soon: Rasdale has a few batches of bourbon barrel beers aging in the brewery’s basement (try saying that five times fast). These beers are stored in the in freshly dumped bourbon barrels, meaning they’ve only been bourbon-free for less than a week before being filled with beer. The beer will take on vanilla flavors from the oak, bourbon flavors and the charred flavor of the barrel. Rasdale says these are going to be “big beers,” with 8 to 12 percent alcohol. Some beers will age for two months, while others with stay down there for a year.
“We’re always trying to get ahead of the game and have new stuff coming,” he said.
BAD Brewing Co.
440 S. Jefferson St., Mason 3-10 p.m. Monday- Thursday; noon-midnight Friday-Saturday; noon- 10 p.m. Sunday (517) 676-7664, badbrewing.com