Beer batter and beans

Jun 30, 1999 at 12:00 am

It’s not often I’d advise a restaurateur to be less ambitious, but a more standard menu, with no pretensions at more than top-end bar food, might be the prescription for the Copper Canyon Brewery. Forget the yuppified and stick to the classics.

Management admits it’s had some problems with items unfamiliar to the clientele, such as calamari and portabella mushrooms. A line on the menu reads, "Before ordering, please ask how a certain item is prepared ... be prepared to pay for all menu items ordered."

On the other hand, the brewmeister might want to branch out from the standards a little more, not less. Just about all the house-brewed beers offered are decidedly on the mild side; something darker and richer, for those who want to explore beyond Bud Light, would be the ticket here.

Copper Canyon is good to look at, with huge copper vats on display and a huger one outside as a signpost. That’s the origin of the name, not the Copper Canyon in Mexico. The servings of Scope in the restrooms hint of aspirations to be a singles meeting place; there are pool tables and there is jazz on Fridays.

The brewery opened in May 1998. Best bet for a first visit: Order the CCB Sampler of six 5-ounce beers and a root beer dubbed Root 696. Our party unanimously judged Devil’s Peak Ale the best; it’s an India Pale Ale, with hops added during the aging process, and it has a pronounced citrus flavor (but it’s still beer, not OJ).

A united thumbs down, however, to coffee-flavored Buffalo Jump Start. The Pale Bock, said one taster, "is like military intelligence – it’s an oxymoron."

The Alt is maltier than your average Bud, and Northwestern Gold is mostly bland. Hefe-Weisen is a wheat beer that’s a bit citrusy, to my buds, although the advertised flavors are clove and banana (!).

As I said, nothing hearty here, though perhaps one of the changing seasonal varieties will take up that challenge.

The menu encompasses everything from the cheese sticks/onion rings/wings type of fare through pizza and burgers to filet mignon and angel hair pasta.

We found our cold beer-boiled dozen shrimp, served with a red horseradish sauce, different and piquant – cloves and capers cling.

The boursin-and-spinach-stuffed portabella, on the other hand, was on the bland side.

All portions are gigantic. Each salad is a lot for two people, and two out of four I tried can’t be recommended. The Cobb is on boring lettuce, and the Michigan Bounty comes with raspberry dressing that is an alarming shade of pink and tastes of mayonnaise.

Over the protests of my companions, I ordered angel hair with shrimp and other fixings ("This is a bar," they said), and I was not vindicated by the overcooked pasta.

Beer-battered whitefish had little taste except for the faint beer flavor in the coating. Ribs, on the other hand, were meaty and tender, and the baked beans with them were barbecue-style and firm.

Sandwiches (also enormous) are a better choice, with the Reuben and club winning good marks, and the Philly steak "underseasoned."

Fries are hand-cut and spicy. A side of sweet potatoes is whipped and swirled within an inch of its life and very mapley. I liked both soups, especially the buttery whitefish chowder.

You can sit outside (with a more limited menu) and watch the traffic. Movie-bound patrons are offered a deal: $35 pays for two tickets to the nearby Star Southfield megaplex and $25 worth of brew and food.