Luckily for craft beer lovers in Livingston County and beyond, the creative notion that is Aberrant Ales in Howell is one that panned out just fine.
The “creative notions” Gill was referring to were his early explorations of craft brewing — in his kitchen, then his garage, then his basement. An unknown number of buckets of brew were tossed, victims of mistakes more in execution than flavor.
Gill explained: “Some recipes sound good on paper, but are not so good in reality. That said, I like pretty traditional stuff and have not pushed the envelope in flavor profiles.”
When Gill and his family moved to Howell from Brighton 12 years ago, the dining and nightlife scene was, well, there wasn’t one really. Gill noted that has changed drastically in the past few years. After brewing in his basement for many years, and wishing for a brewery in downtown Howell, Gill and his partners decided that if no one else was going to do it, they should.
The timing apparently was right. Aberrant opened in November 2017 and after making it through the holiday rush and the boost that comes from being a new venture in town, it has yet to experience a lull.
“We’re doing better than expected,” Gill said. “It’s saying a lot that business has been really good through what is typically a slow time of year.”
Best sellers are the IPA, cream ale and Blonde ale. Brewer Adam Stout (yes, that’s his real name) rattles off figures: “Twenty-two percent of our sales are our IPA, but the Blonde is catching up at about 19 percent of sales.”
The IPA is a West Coast-style, meaning lots of piney hops and fruit. The Blonde is lightly hopped, clean and refreshing. The cream ale is also a lighter style, with an emphasis on flavor, unlike those light-beers-that-shall-not-be-named.
Gill struggles to categorize the food — “gastropub fare” seems a little too high-falutin’ — but like the beer, everything is made from scratch. Pizzas, sandwiches and their popular homemade chicken tenders — hand-cut and hand-battered — are enough for snacking or a meal. In fact, next to the pizzas, the chicken-and-waffle sliders are a best seller.
“It’s a stout-flavored waffle, with the hand-battered chicken tenders and a spicy bourbon honey glaze,” Gill said.
Gill is especially proud to be part of the downtown Howell community and has been thrilled with the excitement Aberrant has been greeted with from the start.
“We are a community-focused business. Family owned,” Gill said. “We took what we wanted — and what the community wanted — and created a place to enjoy family and friends,” Gill said.
“Come here, have a beer, chill out. Forget about the outside world shenanigans for a while,” he said.
This community vibe shows in everything they do. Open mic nights have started on Thursdays; Aberrant will be at the food truck rallies and the rock-the-block events in Howell this summer. Live music schedules can be found on Aberrant social media and its website. And some county tap-takeovers are in the works to spread the word, well, the beer. And after Howell won the 2018 Great American Main Street award, Aberrant put out a call to the community: what kind of beer should be brewed to commemorate the occasion? The top vote-getter was a cream ale, which they dry-hopped to create a brew unique to Howell. Want to know what Howell tastes like? ”Howell Mainstreet Cream Ale” is available now.