Thursday, April 6, 2017

Raising a Farewell Glass in Honor of a Beloved Cat

Max, 2004-2017.

I know this is a beer blog, and over the years I feel like I've done a good job sticking to beer. But if readers will allow this indulgence, there is something I need to say about the loss of one of my best friends, my cat Max. He frequently contributed to this blog, though no one would know it because I usually deleted what he typed.

Below is a farewell which I read to him during his final time with me. I'm publishing it for a few reasons. One, because grief makes you do strange things. Two, because I wanted more people to know about this very special cat and what he meant to me. And finally, because, I don't know, maybe others who have gone through this same miserable experience can take something from it.

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.”

I love you, Max, with my whole heart. And I will not ever forget you, no matter how many more days beyond yours that our Maker apportions to me. You’ve been a loyal and loving “child,” friend, companion, and confidant from the moment you and your brother, Sam, chose to adopt me in 2005, on that stressful day when I was moving into a new apartment and Hurricane Katrina was devastating my favorite city. How the two of you decided on a 34-year-old bachelor who had never lived with cats – and knew not a damn thing about how to care for them – is an enduring mystery, as is the identity of the soulless villain who put convenience ahead of consideration when he discarded you like so much refuse by the side of the road.

I remember it took me almost three weeks to name you boys. Initially I wanted to give you literary names (I was working for Borders at the time, after all). If comic books count as literature, then I can say mission accomplished. But even if they don’t, I knew, as soon as the idea popped into my head to name you after Steve Purcell’s quirky, anthropomorphic animal detectives, that this was exactly right. And there wasn’t a moment’s doubt as to which one you would be: Max, the more fearless, energetic, and adventuresome of the pair. The name has always suited you, and while I’ve heard “Max” is actually a common name given to cats, there is no chance a single one of the others could have ever out-Maxed you. You are the archetype, the Platonic ideal, the embodiment of all that is Max.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Schedule for 2017 Downtown Ann Arbor Oberon Pub Crawl Announced

One of these years I need to take a new picture.

Oberon Day is Monday, March 27, and once again Downtown Ann Arbor will be the biggest scene – outside of the Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo – for celebrating Bell's beloved spring seasonal, Oberon Ale. This should give you ample warning to plan your "sick day" from work so you can join the day-long revelry. Here is the schedule:

You don't have to dress in your finest Bell's or Oberon regalia, but if you do, someone from Bell's might buy you a glass or two. And if you just can't wait that long, there are Sunday midnight Oberon tapping events planned at Ashley's and Sidetrack in Ypsilanti.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

North Peak Collaborates with Busch's to Release Exclusive New Beer in March

Northern United Brewing Co. in Dexter, brewers of the distributed North Peak beers, have announced a collaboration with local supermarket chain Busch's. Read the official press release all about it:
Busch’s Fresh Food Markets and North Peak Brewing Co. have partnered to release their first-ever craft beer collaboration. Newfangled Pale Ale is a beer that celebrates the two brands' commitment to the craft industry and local business. With a shared emphasis on freshness, consistency, and quality of their products, these two brands have created a top-notch beer specifically crafted for our local region. With its Michigan-grown ingredients, Newfangled delivers a fresh, exceptional taste to our community, from our community.

“At Busch’s Fresh Food Markets, we strive to promote and sell locally produced food and beverages,” says Marty Phelan, category manager for Busch’s. “Our ‘Brewed for Busch’s’ program allows us to partner with high-quality local breweries, like North Peak, to create unique beers for our guests to enjoy.”

Beginning in March, Busch’s Fresh Food Markets will exclusively offer this 5.5% ABV Newfangled Pale Ale, brimming with Citra, Cascade, and Michigan Cascade/Chinook hops at its 16 stores throughout Michigan in Ann Arbor, Clinton, Carleton, Dexter, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Pinckney, Plymouth-Northville, Rochester Hills, Saline, South Lyon, Tecumseh, West Bloomfield, and now in Canton.

North Peak is part of Northern United Brewing Co. NUBC’s philosophy focuses on a dedication to conservation, inspiration and locally sustainable practices. Find NUBC products at stores, restaurants and bars all throughout Michigan, including: North Peak Brewing Co., Mission Table, and Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City; Jolly Pumpkin and Grizzly Peak Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor; and Jolly Pumpkin in Detroit. North Peak can also be found outside of Michigan, in select markets.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Former Wine Seller Reopens As 48-Tap Beer Bar on Ann Arbor's North Side

After about eight months of renovation, former beer and wine retailer The Wine Seller, located at 2721 Plymouth Rd. on Ann Arbor's north side, officially re-emerged today as Rappourt Brew & Chew, a 48-tap beer bar and eatery. It looks to be a welcome addition to this part of town, particularly as it's in my neck of the woods.

The new bar features a wide variety of drafts from around the country, like Prairie Artisan Bomb! Imperial Stout and Standard Saison from Oklahoma, and around the corner, like Witch's Hat Train Hopper IPA and Edward's Portly Brown Ale from South Lyon. A couple taps are also devoted to wine.

The food menu, developed by Chef Dennis Kennedy, formerly of Ale Mary's Beer Hall in Royal Oak, is smallish but diverse. Dishes include a Fried Tomatillo BLT, Coconut Curry Mahi Mahi, Citrus Crab Cakes, and Chicken Enchilada Verde. There are also creative takes on old favorites; for example, the Watermelon Caprese Salad, with feta cheese, nicoise olives, and dried cherries, and the Rappourt Burger, with a chophouse blend of brisket and sirloin topped with gruyere cheese, mixed greens, roasted tomato, onion jam, and minted berry relish.

A grand opening is planned for the spring, but for now things remain in a little bit of an experimental phase, according to Hardik Patel, one of the owners. Coming in the future will be a happy hour and beer and wine dinners. Speaking of wine, there's a substantial retail area, and you can select any bottle to open for a $12 corkage fee. Beer will be added to the retail area, though the focus will be mostly on draft, with growler fills being available eventually. Look for a menu of cocktails to be added in the future as well.

The hours, also subject to tweaking, are as follows: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Follow Rappourt on Twitter and Facebook for the latest. I'll have a more informative update sometime in the near future.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weird Beers and Ancient Aliens: A Conversation with Joe Short

Ashley's co-owner Roy More, Joe Short, and yours truly.

Interview with Joe Short, founder and CEO of Short's Brewing, conducted December 8, 2016, on behalf of Ashley's.

Like many in the brewing business today you started out as a homebrewer, but unlike many, you were really young when you got into beer. Can you talk a little bit about your early years?

I started construction on the old hardware store that would become the Short’s brewpub when I was 23 years old. I made my first batch of beer when I was 19. A lot of it stemmed from growing up as a poor kid in Rapid City and watching my parents fight over money or the stress of being gone for work and I decided, “This isn’t gonna be my life.” And so I was adamant about getting ahead – I wanted to be a working man at 10 years old. I’d walk up and down the road and try to get old ladies to pay me to shovel their driveways or rake their lawns.

Finally, when I turned 14 I was able to get a job legally – and that was working in a bar and restaurant on Torch Lake. I learned a lot about the hospitality trade and as a shy kid, I was able to blossom in the social environment of a bar. As I turned 18, I was able to wait tables and also as a late teenager I began to experiment with beer, hanging out and drinking with the older kids who worked at the bar. This was 1996, 1997, when I was in high school.

It was interesting as a waiter because we’d have all these people who were vacationing up north, and they would bring their tastes from their regular life downstate in more sophisticated areas. I remember the day when I decided to write down every time someone asked me for a craft beer. By the end of that day I’d filled up two sides of a page in a legal notepad. They’d ask, “Do you have any craft beer?” and back then it was like, “We have St. Pauli Girl Light, St. Pauli Girl Dark…”

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Another Successful Rat Fest in the Books

It’s no secret that Arbor Brewing’s founders Matt and Rene Greff came out of Michigan’s thriving homebrewing scene. And today, with more than two decades in the commercial brewing industry, they still pay homage to their roots with Rat Fest, an annual event featuring dozens of beers created by area homebrewing clubs.

This year’s fest – the seventh – took place February 4 and again drew hundreds of drinkers in search of something different to the Arbor Brewing Microbrewery to sample 28 unique beers brewed by seven different clubs. This year’s participating brewers included the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild Hop Heads, Ann Arbor Brewers Guild Maltsters, Brighton Brew Club, Burns Park Brewing, Hyperion Brewers, Pontiac Brewing Tribe, and the Sons of Liberty Homebrew Club.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pileated Brewing Aims to Play with Beer Styles

Jay Howe and Andrew Collins taught together at Huron High School, then homebrewed together for years as members of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, and now they are partners in yet another brewery coming to our fair city: Pileated Brewing Co.

Originally founded under the name Divergent Brewing, the future brewery is located in the rear of the same building that houses the PTO Thrift Store on South Industrial Hwy. The name change came about due to a trademark dispute with a brewery in Ohio, they explain. "We may have taken some slack from the state of Ohio, but growing up in Ann Arbor means that you don’t allow Ohio to get to you."

The new name refers to the pileated woodpecker, which has a striking red crest – not unlike the red beards sported by both of the brewery's founders.

I reached out to Jay and Andrew to find out more about their plans.