Cellarmen’s: Beards, Bees, and Booze in Hazel Park

Ian Radogost-Givens, Jason Petrocik, Dominic Calzetta, Andrew Zalewski are the Cellardudes, the four bearded beauties behind the soon-to-open Cellarmen’s in Hazel Park.
The roughly 26,000 total square foot facility in Hazel Park – yes, the Hazel Park buzz is real – was previously Bolyard Lumber, and was most recently slated to become a distillery. Petrocik, who lives just 10 doors down, had had his eye on the building for a while, thinking that it would be an ideal location for the meadery of his dreams. He had even started talking with Hazel Park Assistant City Manager Jeff Campbell about his idea.
He wasn’t the only one with the idea, and when Thumb Knuckle Distillery snatched it up the building was lost to him forever. Or so he thought.
But…things happen, as things are wont to do, and the building came back on the market. Petrocik and Radogost-Givens – who looks like Yukon Cornelius and laughs like Chewbacca (this is important because…it is) – called on it the very next morning and have been moving forward with Cellarmen’s ever since.
“This place is just magical,” Zalewski gushes with absolute earnestness – the kind of earnestness only a man with such a majestic beard can get away with. The others all agree.
There is an uncanny serendipity to the story of Cellarmen’s that begs to be shared. At one point, all four of the guys were working at B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale, with Radogost-Givens and Petrocik on mead making duty. Between the two of them, you probably can’t find two mead makers with more collective international medals, scooping up awards from highly-respected juried competitions like the Mazer Cup, the Michigan Mead Cup, and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, in addition to receiving national recognition from the likes of Esquire, Thrillist, and RateBeer.com.
But over the last year, the stars happened to align in just such a way so that, when the time came for Petrocik and Radogost-Givens to start pursuing their microbrewery/meadery/cidery concept in earnest, all four of them were available to focus their time and effort on giving birth to their big bearded boozy baby. 
Cellarmen’s is entirely an independent venture; this is all a blood, sweat, and tears effort, with Radogost-Givens and Petrocik as the business partners and Calzetta and Zalewsk volunteering their time to help get it open. Pretty much everything in the facility was a DIY effort, right down to the tables and benches they built themselves with wood reclaimed from the lumberyard – the result of ingenuity and necessity.
As B. Nektar continues to expand and Schramm’s Mead recently announced the acquisition of a new facility that will allow them to increase production by a factor of 10, Ferndale is no doubt still Meaddale, but right over here on the other side of I-75 in Hazel Park, the guys at Cellarmen’s promise to continue elevating metro Detroit’s mead scene on a national level.
Cellarmen’s can lay claim to being not only the first meadery (or brewery or cidery) in Hazel Park, but actually the first-ever alcohol-producing business in the city. And they’re getting a very warm welcome – it turns out half the Hazel Park police force are homebrewers, and they’re even producing a double IPA at the request of a Hazel Park firefighter.
Cellarmen’s will make mead, ciders, and beer, with the emphasis being on mead and cider initially. If you’re familiar at all with B. Nektar, then you know all about their weird and funky meads – many of them born out of the Radogost-Givens/Petrocik brain trust, including Eye Ball, made with fresh peeled ginger and aged in rye whiskey barrels, and Scurvey Shyster Bastard, a dry-hopped grapefruit pyment with elderflower and Gewürztraminer grapes. Already they have major plans: expect to see things like a limited-release wet-hopped “estate” peach mead and ice mead, but also an easy-drinking low-ABV cream ale for $3. “Oh, we’ve got ideas,” says Radogost-Givens. “We’ve got a wish list upon a wish list upon a wish list.”
So far all of their ingredients are sourced from Michigan – Michigan wildflower honey for the mead, Michigan apples for the cider, and every adjunct Michigan-grown (like the peaches and the hops), but they’ll also get Jasmine rice from Thailand and other things at the nearby 168 Asian Mart in Madison Heights. “We have all of these crazy ingredients right at our disposal,” Petrocik says. “Why wouldn’t we use them?”
The biggest challenge that these mad mead scientists have to face is making meads that are financially sustainable for a self-funded startup – like, there can be no “You know what would be cool? Taking these barrels down to the Louisiana swamp and aging them there!” à la the aged-at-sea Jefferson’s Ocean small batch bourbon.
Calzetta jokes, “The hardest part is, how do we keep ourselves from doing these stupid things?”
Stupid or not, they’ll definitely continue the Ferndale meaderies’ trend of being ahead of the mead making curve. They will be the first meadery in Michigan to can meads, working with Michigan Mobile Canning to package16-ounce cans of lightly carbonated meads and ciders, for which the taproom will be the testing ground – whatever meads and ciders turn out to be the most popular are the ones they will distribute. Still meads in 375mL bottles will come down the pike after that, once they are able to acquire and store barrels for aging.
Their brewing systems are pretty small to start – eight barrels for mead and cider, and just one for beer, making it fully a nanobrewery. Beer will only be available in-house initially, though they plan on expanding to a 7- to 10-barrel system to increase production and start distributing beers as well. There is, however, plenty of room for them to grow.
The space itself is 26,000 square feet total: 2,600 of it up front in the tasting room, and another 12,000 in the back that is theirs to use. The rest is still under the owner’s control, with opportunity to grow into it later.
“I see these going to the ceiling,” Radogost-Givens says with a glint in his eyes and a Wookie in his laugh, gesturing to the current tanks that barely go up to his chest. He’s talking about some massive Founders-style operations; but first things first: one barrel at a time. Lucky for them, they have the space to accommodate that kind of growth, and while they say they don’t have aspirations of being the next Founders…well, Founders didn’t think it was going to be Founders either, and Cellarmen’s is fortunate that their current space allows for some significant scaling up before space becomes an issue.
They’ll self distribute to start, thanks to the loosening up of Michigan’s three-tier distribution laws over the last few years. They’ve already got 10 barrels committed for sale – now they just need to get their final license approvals and get to brewing.
This magical space also has more than just mead (and cider and beer) making capabilities: they have plans to add a patio out front, and in the back there is a clean, paved parking lot, where they plan to hold their own festivals and have food trucks posted up. The 26-foot-tall back wall of the building will eventually be covered in murals from local graffiti artists (the wall is divided into sections, allowing for multiple murals), while Radogost-Givens would like to emblazon the street-facing sidewall with the Cellarmen’s logo. “We just want to spruce up the town a touch,” he says, “Like at the Phoenix Café.” Phoenix Café is, btw, a pretty cool music venue and art gallery well known by Hazel Parkians, but not so much by outsiders.
Inside will be equally artsy: they’ll have works from local artists on the wall – Cellarmen’s takes no commission fee – and custom glass mugs will be made by local glassblowers like Drew Kups of the Michigan Glass Project and the Juicebox, among others. There is also a stage in the corner for (eventual) live music.
Other future plans include collaborations with metro Detroit breweries and distilleries like Black Lotus Brewery and Valentine Distilling, Fermenta, and classes with Annette May of Know Beer. “We want to have people in here to learn,” says Radogost-Givens. “We want to offer classes, [host] a craft beer club, even have [home mead and cider making] classes.”
They even have designs of starting their own Hazel Park beer festival in one of the city’s many lovely little parcels of green space, like, perhaps, Green Acres Park. But all in due time.
“This place is going to be so weird in five years,” Radogost-Givens chuckles, but we beg to differ: it’s already weird – in a good way! – it’s just that people are just now taking notice.
Cellarmen’s will open for business the weekend of October 17, just in time for the Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival the following weekend, with 13 taps on timed release throughout the day. After that, there will be three meads, three ciders, and three beers on tap at a time.