Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Panic on the Streets of Ann Arbor

Yesterday I was heading out from Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, having picked up my allotment of Los Vivos y Los Muertos Saison, when I couldn't help but notice a smashed up car on the sidewalk in front of Lena and lots of state and local police cruisers blocking off the intersection of Liberty and Main. As everyone not living in a cave now knows, this was the aftermath of a police chase that ended in the arrest of some alleged heroin dealers from Detroit.

This isn't the first time cops chased purveyors of controlled substances through the streets of our fair city, as I discovered while researching my book Ann Arbor Beer: A History of Tree Town Brewing. Under the headline "Rum Runners Taken After Wild Chase," the June 2, 1919 edition of Ann Arbor's Daily Times News reported:
One man driving a car containing 180 quarts of whiskey and 108 quarts of gin was arrested, and another car believed to have contained whiskey, escaped police and sheriff's force yesterday after a wild chase through Ann Arbor's streets.

Clayton Placeway, a Detroiter, formerly of Pinckney, was the man arrested by police when the car in which he was speeding across the city broke down. It had been crippled by shot from the gun of Deputy George Gillespie who fired when the car sped ahead of him at the forks of the Dexter and Jackson roads at the city limits shortly after eight o'clock. The other car coming east on Huron street turned at Main and drove out Packard street and escaped.
Placeway, a former cop with a history of criminal behavior, was apprehended in the area of State and Huron when he abandoned his vehicle and attempted to flee on foot.

Scary police chases are among the many potential unpleasant effects of prohibition, whether of alcohol or other drugs that people willingly consume. I would never recommend anyone do heroin — quite the opposite! — but prohibition is always an even larger social disaster. Mark Thornton in The Economics of Prohibition does a good job showing why this is inevitably so.

As for the Los Vivos y Los Muertos Saison, it's delicious. The bottles are likely all sold out by now, but you still may be able to try some on draft.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Every Two Weeks in Beer: Hops Aren't Just for Easter

Image: "Hops" by Paul Miller CC By 2.0.

Shed those winter clothes, stretch your arms and legs, and get outside to feel some of that warm sun on your skin (when it’s not raining or snowing, anyway). Everywhere you look, patios are opening, deck furniture is getting dusted off, and beers are being poured in the great outdoors. Be a part of it all this holiday weekend and beyond. After all, hops aren't just for Easter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coming Soon: Tecumseh Brewing Co.

Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery bartender Kyle DeWitt and head brewer Tim Schmidt are seeking investors for their Tecumseh Brewing Co., to open later this year.

I recently sat down with Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery bartender Kyle DeWitt who, with head brewer Tim Schmidt, is working on a plan to open a new brewery in downtown Tecumseh, where both have roots. The brewery will be the only one in the town of about 8,500, which is 25 miles southwest of Ann Arbor in Lenawee County. We talked brewery crowdfunding, beer, and more.

You've said the Tecumseh Brewing Co. is the first startup to take advantage of a recent change in Michigan law that allows for "crowdfunding," aka community investment, something that only four or five states currently allow. How is your crowdfunding platform, Localstake.com, different from, say, Kickstarter.com?

Localstake is more like an E-Trade or Scottrade, but instead of stocks it's for local investing. And we are talking investment, not donations, so it's immediately different from Kickstarter that way. Instead of getting a hat or a shirt for your donation, you get a return on your investment. There are different ways to structure that, but the way we've set it up is we're doing revenue sharing. So 7% of our sales every month will get distributed to all the investors who signed up through Localstake until each one of them makes one-and-a-half times their investment. So if we crush it, in two years they'll be paid back; if it's more conservative like we're estimating, it may be more like five years.

Included in each investment is a Mug Club membership, because we're obviously targeting more toward people in the local area, but crowdfunding is open to anyone in the state. We've had six investors so far [editor's note: as of April 4], and five of them are people we don't even know. So we believe this thing can work, but it's so new a lot of people don't quite understand it yet. The biggest thing we want to emphasize is it's not a donation. You're investing in a brewery and you'll make your money back and then some, really fast.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The (Very) Short Pour: KBS On Tap

 A quick public service announcement.

Earlier this week I reported via the Twitters that the Alley Bar in Ann Arbor would be tapping the ridiculously sought-after Founders KBS Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout tonight (Thursday). It's confirmed, via Facebook, that this is happening at 9 p.m.

In case you miss out or can't make it, then you may want to amble down to Bar Louie, 401 E. Liberty, Monday night at 7 p.m., when they will be tapping their keg of KBS. They'll also have a number of other Founders beers available as well, though the tap list as of now is unknown.

That is all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Whither Beer Journalism?

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” G.K. Chesterton famously wrote in defense of hobbyists and amateurs. He wasn’t talking about beer writing, but “badly” does describe how a lot of the contributions to this relatively new and growing field are being done these days.

For years I’ve been saying to anyone sober enough to listen that one of my aims was to help make modern beer writing live up to the quality of all the great beers actually being brewed. That’s still what I try to do, but part of me also thinks the easily accessible arena of beer writing is actually part of its charm.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Every Two Weeks in Beer: Skip the Clichés and Go for the Brew


It’s April, and I’m fresh out of clichés about warm weather, new life and new beginnings, spring cleaning, college basketball, taxes, and, oh yeah, beer. But despite my lazy — I mean ironic and “meta” — effort here, there is nevertheless a solid schedule of good fun and delicious brew to partake of as spring advances. Here we go.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Big News from Liberty Street Brewing

Big news from the big guy.

There's some big news out of Plymouth's Liberty Street Brewing today — and it's no joke. Owner/brewer Joe Walters emails:
[We are announcing] our new production facility in Livonia, on Levan at Plymouth Rd. We plan to name it Liberty Street Brewery, and it will have a brand new 15 barrel brewery with 30 and 60 barrel tanks. LSBC will remain in the Plymouth brewery, which will gradually take on a new responsibility and character because the main 6 (and 2-3 seasonal) beers will now be brewed in Livonia. The Plymouth brewery will now be brewing specialty beer exclusively, including a nitro version of Starkweather Stout and barrel aged styles for our newly expanded cellar. This will also allow multiple batches of specialty brands for distribution and even bottling. Very exciting indeed!
And tapping today at the pub is Territorial Baltic Porter, a collaboration with Witch's Hat Brewing, which is also tapping it today. Enjoy this brew made with molasses and cacao nibs now, then try it again in the fall when a barrel-aged version will be released.

For all the latest and greatest Liberty Street news, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Update: Here's where lots of beer will soon be made: