Jesse Ho-on & Devin Drowley


Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest)


Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty @ EMBC


John Downey, Jesse Ho-on, Dan Downey

This is where the magic happens.

I’m here in Detroit’s Eastern Market District at Eastern Market Brewing Company with our Bookfest beer vendors, Downey Brewing Company and EMBC brew crews.

Present are Downey brothers Dan & John and EMBC brewers Jesse Ho-On and Alex Sebastian.

In addition to the several great beers they’re bringing to Bookfest, the Downey-EMBC team is co-brewing a special, exclusive beer for Detroit Bookfest called Et Tu Brute, which is a Brut IPA, a dry champagne-like beer.

Et Tu, Brute?” is the line “Even you, Brutus?” from Shakespeare’s 1599 play, ‘Julius Caesar’.

Brut IPA is a new beer style which started in San Francisco a few months ago. Nicknamed “Hop Champagne,” the Brut IPA has a ‘pale color, light body, highly carbonated, champagne taste.’

Jesse Ho-on, head brewer @ Eastern Market Brewing Company in Detroit

Jesse Ho-On, the head brewer at Eastern Market Brewing Company, says “We’re using Galaxy hops and an enzyme that will dry it out even more, for a nice dry, champagne-like taste. It’s really interesting!”

In between being a hanger-on’er and vulture observing the brewing process, I’m drinking a delicious Detroit Black IPA (6.5%) and a nifty Blueberry Hefeweizen, where the beer color itself is blue.

EMBC Blueberry Hefeweizen,

Jesse tells me his path to EMBC, “I’m from Chicago, then started brewing in Traverse City at Right Brain, then Terra Firma, then did some baking at 9 Bean Rows Bakery where they have some killer croissants. I moved down to Detroit and was working at Avalon Bakery as a baker, then I transferred here to the Eastern Market Brewery.”

Meanwhile, the Downey Brothers are keenly observing and inquiring.

Downey is a family brewery located in their grandfather’s old warehouse in East Dearborn. Father Dean and sons Dan (marketing) and John (head brewer) crank out some tasty brews.

Dan and John

I’m really excited for Bookfest,” says Dan who is looking at the beer and smiling, “it’s going to be a great day and we’re gonna have some great beers there.”

Jesse, our beer guide for the day, explains more about the Brut IPA, “this dry champagne IPA has an enzyme that’ll drop it lower, but it’s hopped up on the backside with floral tones from the Galaxy Hops and very carbonated. By adding an enzyme, it takes the sweetness out, so it’s dry and tastes like champagne.”

Galaxy Hops from New Zealand

“For this Brut IPA, we’re using Southern Hemisphere hops and wine. The Galaxy Hops are from New Zealand. The wine is in the form of grape must flavors Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Grape must just means crushed grapes.”

John tells us about his path to the beer kettles, “My dad Dean started homebrewing in the 1990’s. I picked it up in college when I worked in a homebrew store. For the most part, I’m self-taught, like most brewers, although several aspiring brewers will typically shadow a Master Brewer as an apprentice until they learn the ropes.”

Alex, the assistant brewer, is carrying massive 55-lb. bags of grain up a ladder and pouring them into the mash tun, which is a large stainless-steel vat. Alex explains, “We got pre-milled grain from Germany and we’re pouring it in here to mix it with hot water in order to pull out the enzymes.”

“It converts the starches into sugars for fermentation,” adds Jesse, who is now holding a clear plastic pitcher and mixing around salts and water with a silver ladle.

Alex Sebastian & Jesse Ho-On

He sees me looking weirdly at it and elaborates, “I’m stirring the calcium chloride and gypsum. Detroit water is ‘soft’, which means it’s low in minerals. Every type of water has its own profile and might need to be treated depending on the beer. Water chemistry is critical.”

Both Downey and EMBC brew about two times per week.

EMBC has a 5-barrel system and Downey has a 3-barrel system. Conversely, John says “MillerCoors in Milwaukee has a 3,000-barrel system. They brew more in one day than we do in five years! In terms of craft breweries, Sierra Nevada has a 300-barrel system, which is a huge system for craft beer.”

We’re all staring intensely at the Brew Home Controls box Jesse just opened. This is a wall-mounted box from Brewmation in Memphis, it’s full of circuitry and gizmos, and includes a touchscreen panel for temperature control, timers, all types of monitoring and adjusting.

Mash temperature and the length of mashing determines the sweetness or bitterness of beer,” says Dan.

After 60-90 minutes in the mash tun, we’ll transfer the wort to the boil kettle,” exclaims Jesse, “That’s where we start to balance it with hops. Hops give beer aroma and Galaxy is ‘high alpha’ which means it has some bitterness. Hops are like the spice of beer, they help balance the sweetness.”

In 3-4 weeks, we’ll have a finished product. There’s 31 gallons in a barrel. We’ll have 4 barrels of finished product, so 124 gallons of Et Tu Brute, the Brut IPA Detroit style.”

Definitely be sure to try this amazing new beer at Detroit Bookfest! Thank you Downey and EMBC for the brew-a-thon.

Cheers! Drink up.

Detroit Festival of Books (aka: Detroit Bookfest)


Official Detroit Bookfest Afterparty @ EMBC



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