Review: Maumee Bay Brewing Company

Written by Kevin and Sarah 

Sarah and I often complain that this little corner of Michigan doesn’t have a brewery. Our closest Michigan brewpub is Sports in Wyandotte. It’s a pretty good place with good food but it is still over a 30 minute drive. The brewery closest to our house is actually in Toledo. Maumee Bay Brewing Company is only about a 20 minutes drive.  Admittedly we have never been in love with Maumee Bay’s beer although they did have a few memorable ones like their hand-pulled cask IPA and the beer brewed by a local home-brew contest winner each year. They also used to have brick oven roasted pizza which was incredible.  More importantly, they had one of the best tap rooms we’ve ever seen which included a Toledo Brewing Hall of Fame, a wall-to-wall beer can collection, vintage lit up beer-signs above the bar and bathrooms wall-papered with beer posters dating back to the 1970s. In short, what they lacked in beer they made up for in food and atmosphere.

If you paid attention to the last paragraph you might have noticed that most of it was written in the past tense. The troubles started in October when I went to MBBC to get some pizza for lunch.  I was informed me that they no longer had the brick pizza oven.  Worse yet, they planned on moving the Maumee Bay tap room to Mutz, their sports bar which is located in the basement of the Oliver House (the complex shared by Maumee Bay, Rockwell’s Restaurant and Mutz.) My server also told me that they would be  the turning the dining area of MBBC into an expansion of the dining area of Rockwell’s (an upscale restuarant) and turning the taproom into a banquet facility.  My server must have been able to tell that I was upset because she she kindly gave me a $10 off coupon, good for when the move was completed.

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, Sarah and I decided to check out  the new MBBC. We had never been to Mutz so we’re not sure how it looked before, but we would imagine the same. There were two rooms: one was a small sports bar and the other was drab and cramped like (as John Nasers put it)  a college bar basement.  We ordered a few samples of their beer (which they brought out in what reminded us of plastic bathroom cups – a definite beer faux pas.)  Sarah was excited to try a sample of thier Hazelnut Porter. While the hazelnut was prominent, it was actually a  weak porter with the color, flavor  and mouthfeel closer to that of a brown ale. We also sampled the Blitzen Christmas Ale which  we thought was fair, although we’ve since discovered that it’s one of their most popular seasonal beers and they actually bottle it. Maybe we’ll have to give it another try next year.  As far as the beer there goes, our recommendation is still to go with the Cask  IPA.  

Then there was the food.  As pub fare goes, the food at Mutz is decent and typical of what you would find at your average sports bar. However, having been to MBBC before, you can’t help but notice that the food selection is significantly pared down. While they do still serve “pizza” it’s nowhere near the quality of the pizza they had before. When I asked about the pizza before ordering, they told me that their pizza oven hadn’t been installed yet and that they were serving “flat bread pizza.” I’m hoping that this is true and that they will eventually bring the brick oven pizza back. Sarah commented that the flat bread pizza reminded her of the rectangular cafeteria pizza they used to serve in elementary school. I don’t know if I would go that far, but it definitely needs improvement.  

After dinner, we decided to walk upstairs and take a look at the old taproom to see if they had made any drastic changes. The good news is that the beer-themed room, in all its glory, remained untouched. The bad news is that room was completely vacant except for empty banquet tables, complete with place settings, and two hosts to greet people on their way to Rockwell’s.  Sadly, this warm and inviting beer themed room was completely empty while the craft-beer drinkers who once occupied it were relegated to the basement. We have since been told, from other friends who have been there, not to ask in advance if you can go up to see the old tap room. They won’t let you without a host to show you around.

What’s wrong with this picture? A town the size of Toledo deserves a brewery that cares about beer and people who appreciate beer. Sadly, its seems like Maumee Bay Brewing Company has taken  a step in the opposite direction.  We’re not saying that we’ve written off MBBC completely. We just hope that they realize that they’ve gotten rid of the best things they had going for them.  

11 thoughts on “Review: Maumee Bay Brewing Company

  1. Yeah, it’s never really had the “brewery” feel like most do, my first time there I pinned it as a “tourist” brewery. I was surprised to hear about the Christmas ale that they release annually, but haven’t really heard of any other experimental releases. I second the cask IPA. They have (or had) a great beer cheese soup too.

  2. Being a beer lover, yes I said “lover”, who frequents brewing centers like Portland and Seattle, I was to so pleased to learn of the opening of MBBC I became one of the first to join their mug club.
    One day while sitting at a friend’s house, drinking beer of course, a guy in an old CJ-style Jeep came up the driveway to plow it. It was my buddy’s neighbor and coincidentally the owner of MBBC. We welcomed him in and learned of great plans for his new hobby/business venture. I was ever so hopeful for the plans I was almost giddy.

    We supported and frequented the brewery and loved the High Level Lager and cask conditioned IPA.

    The upstairs bar was great with its open setting and grand view of the brewing room. But, in my opinion things began to change quickly and for the worse. The formal and informal dining areas went from crowded to scant and service was inconsistent. We did our best to support the place but….

    Our last time there we went to an almost empty Rockwell’s to indulge for an anniverery and the bill for four was $435!

    So, are the transformations working? According to Manta.com, MBBC estimates $2,000,000 in annual sales and they have been in existence since 1995.

    I think the Docks may have something to do with the changes. I live in Wood County and the Docks are easier to get to even though the physical barrier of the river never stopped us before. And, while at the Docks It’s like MBBC is an afterthought even though I much prefer the old building and IPA. Perhaps a river access and outdoor deck would help.

  3. Todd – We have one in Wyandotte called Sports Brew Pub. The beer is so-so. I liked their stout enough to buy a growler of it. Awesome food, but if I’m going to drive that far north, I’m going to go just a bit further to the Oak Cafe or Fort St. Other than that, that’s about all we have up this way.. I think you might be thinking of the Big Bear Lodge – for some reason I remember someone telling me possibilities of beer being made there, but maybe I’m just thinking of another place.

  4. I could see why Big Bear Lodge would get mistaken as a micro-brewery. It looks like one. They have some great beer events there and are worth checking out. Once a month they have a beer dinner where they put the proper food and beer pairings together. We went to one that was the beers of Arbor Brewing Co and even Matt and Rene Greff were there. Here is a link to Big Bear http://www.bigbearlodge.org/

  5. I guess I didn’t realize the pizza was coming back (in some form). That might give me a reason to go back and try them again when I’m in Toledo. The hit or miss beer always gave you hope of getting good beer and since they no longer have a cool place to drink there I can hope for good pizza again someday.

    It will be awhile before we go back again.

  6. Thank you for your comment Tom, one thing that cities like Portland and Seattle have that helps breweries is that their beer is available at other bars in their home town. I think that helps build a bigger beer community.

    Hopefully they will keep brewing because I do like the cask conditioned IPA.

  7. We frequent Maumee Bay quite a bit, and through conversations with the staff there, the upstairs will be returned to its former glory soon. Exactly when no one will say, but a plan is in the works.

    Thank goodness too, because that basement is just a crappy place to drink craft beer.

  8. Well, here’s the update for MBBC. The brewer has left the scene!…and the scene has changed once again. Phil, the head brewer has left for greener pastures in Colorado. The assistant, John, is left to take the reigns. His first Pale Ale should be on tap in a couple of weeks. In the works will be a Steam Beer that was a success for one day last year. Unfortunately, a tap was left open and 12 barrels went down the drain. Let’s hope it sticks around a little longer this year. One of Phil’s last beers, an Imperial Stout, is due on tap soon. Can’t wait.

    As far as the ever changing atmosphere at MBBC, there has been another major change. The downstairs pub(s) are now closed and a Moroccan restaurant will be downstairs. Never know what you will find at the Oliver House, eh? They re-opened the upstairs bar but still call it Mutz. No MBBC. No pool table or darts. No dinner seating other than what is in the bar area. Crazy!!

    The manager of this place should be canned. He has ground what was a pretty decent place, into a pit. Now he’s trying to revive it but has no clue what clientele he’s after as far a beer people go. He seems more interested in Rockwell’s. Give him the steak house and let somebody else run the brewpub.

    The basement was a crappy place to drink.

  9. I agree with your feelings on the basement so I’m glad they moved the drinking area back upstairs. I’m real interested in seeing how this turns out. Thank you for updating us.

    I like the idea of a Moroccan restraurant.

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