Within the well-worn wiles of wordplay, plenty of entities have found fame in combining hardcore words with gentle words—Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Steel Magnolias, Hitler Youth—so ‘Black Lotus’ is among impressive, if imposing company.
No problem for Mark Harper, Michael Allan and Jodi Allan, who launched their suburban brewery/restaurant in 2006, fed up with ‘massive corporations serving up inferior products’. I, for one, am in the camp of those who appreciate it when the protesting 99% choose not to set up tents in Wall Street, but instead to brew beer in Clawson.
Ah, Clawson. You know how every metropolitan area has outlying cities that just roll off the tongue as ‘un-hip’? Places that sort of flutter upon the hinterland of the conscience as being loaded with dying storefronts, white-hot roads and non-hot white broads, tool and die shops with QS 9000 banners and convenience stores stocked with cheese-flavored carbohydrates, power drinks and Newports along with all the rest of life’s staples?
This isn’t an issue for Mark and Mike and Jodi, either—they understand that a community’s spiritual journey from not-cool to ironically cool to genuinely cool often begins with a single investment. Look at Hamtramck and Ferndale—even Royal Oak before it became yuppie dysfunctional. The very vanguard of Clawson cool (unless you count the ghost of Thomas Video) is the throne upon which Black Lotus Brewing Company currently sits.
‘Think Global, Drink Local’
Black Lotus Mission Statement: As above.
‘Of the Trio, By the Trio and For the Rest of Us’: The Black Lotus war cry, emblazoned on Black Lotus’ t-shirts of the unabashedly white-hot servers, is ‘Think Global, Drink Local’.
It’s a grand one, too. Over the years, I have taken great consolation crashing inside caliginous cantinas, contemplating cosmic concerns while consuming whatever the hell they had on tap, and although Black Lotus is not—thanks to wrap-around picture windows—particularly dark, it is the sort of think-centric bar (with a conversation pit, wall artwork and overall bargain-basement pricing) that encourages a worldwide conceptualization process. ‘I Drink, Therefore I Think’, especially once you stop staring at the servers in t-shirts.
Think Global, Drink Local also appears on chalkboard menus swinging above the t-shirt and g-force intellects, amid (the day I visited) a lovely loop of Mexican love songs; signs that list an ever-changing brochure of beers. Handmade by Mark, a former school psychologist, these boutique brews are a love labor that delve into breeds of beer that your day-to-day MLIA Detroiter has probably never even heard of.
Here’s a quick rundown of the ones I sampled:
Funkin’ A Apricot Wheat: Pours a pale lemon-color and deliciously cloudy—this is unfiltered Hefeweizen, which means that the yeasts have not been filtered out. The apricot puree comes to the forefront immediately; the nose is filled with summery jam notes along with the characteristic banana and clove overtones, and the ale is rich without losing its lightness; there’s moderate carbonation and a buttery, dry finish. Funkin’ potent at 6% ABV.
Red Tao Amber: A stellar example of an American amber beer: Deep brick in color, strong espresso and orange peel on the nose and a palate that focuses on the malt while still giving the herbally hops their props. A nice bitter kick to the kisser, with an assertive, resinous finish.
Detroit Hip Hops: Cute name. Do Detroiters do cute? No matter, the ale does the culture proud—bright, grassy and large at 6%, the hops—dried or fresh, depending on availability, are the stars of the show. Aroma hops lend nice pine/lemon zest notes to the brew, which otherwise shows toffee and caramel.
The Gift (Belgian Strong Ale): The biggest boy on the block: At 12.2% ABV, it packs a wine wallop. A seasonal ale to commemorate the solstice, The Gift is an artfully balanced brew that combines complex, dark fruit/pie spice aromas with a mid-palate loaded with brown sugar, yeasty bread dough and honey, everything leading to a concentrated, malty conclusion.
Raspberry Blonde Ale: Cloying candy notes in the nose—like those ‘dots’ you used to peel off paper and wound up eating more paper than dot. But otherwise, a delicate and appealing ale that pours with tight foam and follows with nice lacing in the glass. Flavors are true to the name, with tart raspberry carrying though the grainy malts and nearly sour finish.
Firecrotch Blonde Ale: This non-existent paean to Lindsay Loan will likely never find its proper spot among brewmaster Mark’s portfolio of Black Locust beers, but I will review it nonetheless: Sweet and bubbly at the start, with strawberry-tinted lacing and a pretty, freckled profile. However, it quickly devolves into a skanky, alcoholic mess.
True to their shibboleth, Black Lotus also offers several wine selections from Michigan vineyards, but for some reason, the wine list doesn’t indicate, by name, what they are. If I’m going to drink local, I want to think local, and that requires Black Lotus to ink local: What are these wines and where are they from?
And There’s Food?
To sop up the suds, Black Lotus offers a menu that is not only ideal for the venue, but so inexpensive it’s silly. For five dollars, you’ll wind up with a BLT on marbled rye that will take care of you for the rest of the day; the priciest item you can pick is a sensational slab of salmon wrapped in lawash and wasabi mayo. Middle menu items ($6 – $8) are predictable but delectable—burgers, chili, nachos and grilled cheese—but there’s a neat batter-fried dill pickle appetizer than will have you settled into a NOLA-style afternoon.
However, the beer’s thing thing wherein you’ll catch the conscience of the king, and the crown, as worn by the King of Klawson, is over on 14 Mile and Main.
Black Lotus Brewing Company
1 East 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI 48017
Open: Sun. 12 PM – 10 PM; Mon. 12 PM – 1 AM; Tue. 12 PM – 1 AM; Wed. 12 PM – 1 AM; Thurs. 12 PM – 1 AM; Fri. 12 PM – 2 AM; Sat. 12 PM – 2 AM