What is it? What does it mean?

Some may recall the early 20th century Great Lakes steam ship.

Perhaps it evokes memories of the former amusement park on Harsen’s Island.

Or maybe it’s your favorite biergarten located in the West Village of Detroit.

Since fall 2011, Michiganders have more than likely referred to the latter when the word ‘Tashmoo’ comes up.

Tashmoo Biergarten is described as a “family friendly” atmosphere “featuring communal tables and benches, as found in traditional European beer gardens.”


How it started

Founders and owners Aaron Wanger and Suzanne Vier selected the location for the venue about a year ago to start their venture.

“We own a house in West Village,” Vier said. “We’re residents and we’re actively involved. From that perspective, it made sense.”

But before the location was ready for residents to partake in food and libations, much work was needed.

“When we approached it, it was just an overgrown lot to get to a liquor store,” Wanger said. “It was a blight area.”

In addition to being an ideal spot after cleaning up, there was also some history included that inspired Tashmoo Biergarten.

A house stood in the now biergarten when the couple first started. The inhabitant of the house was a former engineer on the Tashmoo, an old sidewheeler steamboat on Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron that ran from 1899 to 1936.


Community atmosphere

After a successful kickoff in 2011, Wanger said 2012 has also been a success.

“It was a good year. We tried some different things,” he said. “Last year we did five Sundays in a row. This year, we did three weekends.”

And despite some inclement weather, turnout has been positive.

“People have come as far as Europe when they were in town,” Vier said. “It certainly has become a destination.”

Wanger said the setting has become a unique melting pot for patrons to come and have a good time.

“It’s a gathering place,” he said. “You have spectrums of young and old. You have people from Lansing, the west side of the state and people who live a block away. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you’re from.”

In addition to a rustic, community oriented atmosphere, Tashmoo features rotating local food vendors and games like Cornhole, a Detroit favorite.


Don’t forget about the beer

What else are you supposed to drink at a biergarten besides, well, beer? Or is it bier?

“We focus on session beers whenever possible,” Vier said. “They’ve ranged from ales to stouts. This year, some of the breweries we featured are Atwater, Dragonmead, Founders, Short’s, Bell’s, North Peak and Jolly Pumpkin, to name a few.”

Vier also said that they’ve gotten “really great response” from all of the breweries Tashmoo has worked with.

“They’re all really excited and they’ve been very open and supportive,” she said.

Wanger said they have formed close relationships and partnerships with the breweries they’ve worked with.

“Working with guys like Atwater and Jolly Pumpkin, they’ve been great when making suggestions or helping out with supplies,” he said.

Tashmoo recently hooked up with Atwater brewery for the brewery’s Blocktoberfest.

“It was so awesome to see all of the tables filled and wall to wall people,” Wanger said.


Future plans

The past two years have undoubtedly been a success for Tashmoo. But they’re not stopping there.

“We’re open to what’s next,” Vier said. “We have some ideas cooking.”

Wanger said after the biergarten’s final weekend coming up, there should be more time to plan for the future.

“We’re trying to lock down a permanent location for a four season facility,” he said. “We’re looking in the village areas of Detroit.”

According to Wanger, the original plan of Tashmoo was to a two-part phase, starting with a pop up biergarten to feel it out.

“Now that we’ve done that part, we’re now working on how we can make it a permanent fixture,” he said. “I love the concept of pop ups, but we’re to the point where we should be committing resources to make it permanent.”

While the biergarten has brought joy to many beer lovers and Tashmoo regulars, the feeling is mutual with the founders.

“It fills me with a sense of satisfaction. I’m doing this for these people,” Wanger said. “They’re having the time of their lives. It’s one of the greatest feelings.”

Wanger also sang the praises of all those involved.

“If it wasn’t for all of the volunteers, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are right now,” he said.

Even though Tashmoo may move on to a bigger and better establishment, the plan won’t change, according to Wanger.

“I want to stick with the model of we only serve Michigan beer,” he said.