Craft Beer Conversation: Grizzly Peak Brewing Is A Veteran On The Michigan Beer Scene

Grizzly Peak is true to its English roots, but also has a little German flair

WWJ News
November 07, 2019 - 10:51 pm

WWJ’s Zach Clark is searching metro Detroit for the best of the best when it comes to craft beer. On a quest for the best tastes, funkiest brews and most unique experiences on the craft beer scene, “Craft Beer Conversation” will be a weekly series highlighting the area’s best. Be sure to check it out every Friday.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WWJ) – In relative terms, the craft beer scene is relatively young. While Michigan has seen an absolute boom in craft breweries over the last decade, Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor can certainly be dubbed “a veteran” on the scene.

The downtown brewpub has been making its own beer for a quarter century and has become a staple in southeast Michigan. Though it remains true to its English roots – started in 1995 by an English company – Grizzly Peak has a little German flair.

Located at 120 West Washington Street, the former site of The Old German bar, Grizzly Peak has a speak-easy style bar in the basement, which head brewer Duncan Williams says is comparable to the scene in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” While the draft beer selections are largely the same in the Old German Cellar Bar offers a German-inspired menu in a unique setting.

Williams has been head brewer at Grizzly Peak for nearly two decades and he’s gotten to know a lot of other local brewers over the years. He says they get together once or twice a week for a few beers – and he draws a lot of inspiration from those get-togethers.

“I’m often inspired by other beers I’ve had,” Williams told WWJ’s Zach Clark. “Whether these are large commercial brewers or small brewers or even home brewers, I’ll have a particular beer and I’ll think, ‘wow, I really like that.’ And you kind of engineer the beer backwards.”

During his time at Grizzly Peak, Williams says he’s seen a lot of his colleagues and assistants go on to run their own operations – including Jolly Pumpkin’s Ron Jefferies – and it’s been a huge help to his brewing skills. Sports fans -- think of it as a "coaching tree"

While countless breweries have come and gone during the craft beer boom, Grizzly Peak has held steady as one of the pioneers in southeast Michigan.

“There was a time when you could open a brewery, you could put a shingle out and say, ‘hey, we make beer here’ and it didn’t have to be very good because very few other people are doing that,” Williams said. “But now, the game has been raised so high. I think about how little I knew back then and even how little what I think I knew 2-3 years ago. It’s a constant process of just trying to do your best, talking to, finding good brewers and talking about beer, trying beer.”

Not only does Grizzly Peak offer a wide range of brews, from the sessionable GP Lite table beer to the Bear Paw Porter and everything in between, Williams recently ventured out on a limb and created something new:

Grizzly Peak Hop Soda -- A non-alcoholic, hop-flavored pop.

“It’s just hops and water, carbonated. That’s pretty much it. It’s not beer, but it’s dynamic and it’s interesting and it’s got some flavors. It’s like LaCroix, but with hop flavor,” Williams said.

Grizzly Peak offers heath-baked pizzas, dynamite sandwiches and a wide range of appetizers to go along with its beer list. Find out more about Grizzly Peak on their website.

Photo: Zach Clark / WWJ
Zach's Brew Review:

"For a brewery that claims English roots, there's no better way to show that off than the Sheerwater IPA. The beer is cask conditioned, poured at near room temperature and is hand pulled -- meaning no nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure is used to serve the ale. The hop notes are strong, but they are rounded out by the cask and hand-pull service. What you're left with is a bright and flavorful beer that will take you across the pond for a sip or two."

Have a favorite brewery or brewpub you want Zach to highlight in his “Craft Beer Conversation” series? Reach out on Twitter -- @ZachEClark -- or via email at

Listen to more of Zach Clark's conversation with Duncan Williams: