TRAVERSE CITY — The great Mitten State turned 176 on Saturday. What better way to celebrate than with a Michigan craft beer and a “Brewed in Michigan” t-shirt?

7 Monks Taproom in Traverse City partnered with High Five Threads to celebrate the occasion. 7 Monks has been open for less than two years, but has become well-known for its large selection of beer, wine and local food. High Five Threads has also become a local success with their merchandise that boasts Michigan pride.

High Five Threads was there to sell their mitten-inspired merchandise including Michigan bottle openers and a variety of t-shirts.

7 Monks had 26 Michigan brews on tap including beers from Bell’s, Founders and Short’s breweries. I chose to enjoy Bell’s Hell Hath No Fury, which was a nice rich stout with hints of chocolate and coffee. It was the perfect way to celebrate a state that has become known for its food, beer and wine.

In addition to the party at 7 Monks, The Awesome Mitten held TweetUps at various breweries and bars throughout the state to celebrate the occasion. Taking part in the TweetUp were Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City), The Mitten Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids), Kalamazoo Beer Exchange, Ashley’s (Ann Arbor), MBC (Lansing), Ore Dock Brewing Company (Marquette) and the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room (Detroit).

Tashmoo.

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.

The Lansing beer scene is about to get a massive makeover with the addition of two craft beer establishments.

Barfly Ventures LLC, owner of three bars and the Grand Rapids Brewing Co., announced Thursday it would open two new businesses in Lansing.

The company will open a second location of its world-reknowned HopCat in downtown East Lansing, offering more than 100 craft beer taps, the largest selection in the state. HopCat in Grand Rapids has been named the No. 2 and No. 3 beer bar in the world on various lists.

Lansing Brewing Co. will open in the Stadium District Apartments in downtown Lansing, across from Cooley Law Stadium, the Lansing Lugnuts’ home field. A brewery operated under the name from 1898 to 1914.

“Lansing and East Lansing have thousands of resident who are passionate about good food and good beer, but the market seems under-served,” Barfly owner Mark Sellers said in a release. “I’m excited to revive the historic Lansing Brewing Co. name downtown and bring HopCat’s unmatched selection of craft beers and high-quality food to downtown East Lansing.”

Sellers is a graduate of Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business.

Barfly project coordinator Sam Short lives in East Lansing with his wife, who works at the Michigan State College of Law. He’ll manage the two new projects.

Both projects are slated to create about 50 jobs and slated to open in late summer 2013.

Day two of Detroit Beer Week Happy Hours continued at Slows Bar BQ on Tuesday in Downtown Detroit.

Bell’s Brewery was the featured happy hour guest at the Michigan Avenue barbecue staple.

Tara Garrity, Manager at Slows Bar BQ, said this is the fourth year the restaurant has done all Michigan beers for Detroit Beer Week.

“We really like to highlight it and bring it into town and bring people out,” she said. “It’s fun to have that energy.”

The Bell’s brews were first tapped around 4 p.m. starting with Hopsoulution, Rye Stout, Bell’s Firkin Porter and the experimental Jazz Series.

“I’m a big fan of the La Batteur and the whole Jazz Series,” Garrity said. “That’s how it kind of started, asking to get those. Bell’s has been one of our favorites.”

Le Batteur, Le Pianiste and Le Contrebassiste are a three-part series of interpretations on the French Biere de Garden style by Bell’s. With a shelf life of six months, availability is typically limited and draft only.

At 5 p.m., two more taps were added: The Oracle and Hell Hath No Fury. And at 6 p.m., This One Goes to 11 and Batch 10,000 were added for consumption.

“Batch 10,000 has been in our cellar for over a year,” Garrity said. “The owners here really let me build a cellar. So, we have some beers down there that allow me to plan events like this to highlight and celebrate how awesome they are.”

The happy hour events during Detroit Beer Week fall directly in line with the overall aim of Slows to keep it Michigan.

“Out of our 20 drafts, we made the conscious decision to always have more than 50 to 60 percent Michigan breweries,” Garrity said. “This week, they’re 100 percent Michigan.”

Garrity also spoke about Slows ownership and doing things the right way.

“They believe in having good products and that means beer,” she said. “Barbecue and beer go hand in hand.”

Michigan is also always top of mind.

“We’ve been building relationships,” Garrity said. “We’ve been to the breweries, we know how awesome they are and we want to keep the money in the mitten.”

Grand Rapids and Asheville, N.C., are at it again in the chase for beer supremacy.

HopCat in Grand Rapids was voted the No. 2 American Beer Bar, followed by The Thirsty Monk in Asheville, according to a poll by CraftBeer.com. There were nearly 30,000 votes cast Sept. 13-20.

The two were named BeerCity USA this summer.

“It feels awesome and gratifying,” HopCat owner Mark Sellers said. Sellers also owns Stella’s Lounge, McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon and the soon-to-be opened Grand Rapids Brewing Company under the Barfly Ventures name.

This time, however, they both were passed by Mekong Restaurant in Richmond, Va.

It’s the fourth list, that Sellers knows of, that honors HopCat as a top beer bar. The bar was voted the third Best Beer Bar in the world by BeerAdvocate, 24th on RateBeer.com and in DRAFT Magazine’s top-50 beer bars.

DRAFT’s list is unranked.

“I’m glad we didn’t get number one, then we’d have nothing to shoot for,” Seller’s joked. “But just maintaining it, if we can stay at that level, that’s a huge accomplishment.

“It’s harder than it used to be, because there are so many new beer bars opening up.”

HopCat will hold a party on Oct. 8, following the conclusion of ArtPrize. The deal will be the same as its BeerCity party — $1.50 Michigan pints. And the bar carries between 20-25 Michigan brews at any given time.

Founders Brewing Co.’s taproom came in second place in the North Central Region, behind HopCat.

Sellers had good things to say about The Thirsty Monk in Asheville.

“It’s a great town, great bar, they definitely deserve it,” he said.

GRAND RAPIDS — Not even a sprained ankle can slow down Mark Sellers on this Monday morning because an expanded beer festival and new organic brewery are at stake.

Treating his noticeable limp as an afterthought, Sellers enters through the backdoor of HopCat, one of the many downtown Grand Rapids establishments he owns, and strolls past the bar while greeting the employees he passes.

He has just minutes to squeeze in a lunch and prepare his thoughts for an important meeting about his new endeavors. A quesadilla and water will have to do.

But Sellers, 44, a former investment fund manager in Chicago, would have it no other way. Instead of stressing out about other people’s money, these days he is investing his own money to improve the Grand Rapids arena district neighborhood one beer at a time.

“I came back to get away from the rat race,” the West Michigan native said, noting he was semi-retired at the time. “I never had a master plan. I just really liked this neighborhood. It just kind of happened.”

First he opened HopCat, a beer-focused bar that serves brews from all over the world. Soon other neighborhood establishments like Stella’s Lounge and McFadden’s were developed or joined his company, BarFly Ventures.

Sellers’ latest project and most immediate concern is Hoptoberfest. In 2011, its inaugural year, the one-day October festival featured about nine Grand Rapids-area breweries and attracted about 4,000 people, he said.

However, this year Sellers hopes to double the crowd to 8,000 people by moving up the event to Sept. 15-16 and expanding the beer lineup to 40 breweries from across Michigan.

“All the big names — Founders, (Brewery) Vivant and Bell’s — will be there,” Sellers said.

Sellers also enhanced the festival by adding higher energy bands, New Orleans-based Dumpstaphunk and Los Angeles-based Fishbone, who will provide funk and reggae music that attendees can dance to.

The final upgrade to Hoptoberfest is the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Beer Brunch” the next day. The first 2,000 festival attendees who return with their ticket can receive a free brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. thanks to sponsors and purchase more beer.

“We wanted something that was crazy, but would resonate with people,” Sellers said.

Hoptoberfest tickets cost $10. Samples, which are 2 1/2 ounces, cost $3 per sample.

“The $10 is for nationally-known bands, free breakfast the day after, and the ability to drink outside on a city street with thousands of other fun people,” Sellers said. “It’s the cheapest Fishbone/Dumpstaphunk concert of all time.”

Just weeks after Hoptoberfest concludes, Sellers has another ambitious project to reveal: the new Grand Rapids Brewing Company, the Midwest’s first organic brewery, which is scheduled to open in late October.

He had daydreamed about the Grand Rapids Brewing Company name for years because he felt it was so underutilized. When the brewery folded last fall, Sellers said he “instantly jumped” to purchase the assets of the brewery.

For months he searched for a location before he was asked to be the anchor tenant at 1 Ionia SW, a historic building being redeveloped just down the street from HopCat. As a nod to the city’s history, all of the furniture in the restaurant will be made in Grand Rapids, Sellers said.

Then he researched an angle to make Grand Rapids Brewing Company stand out. Sellers discovered one during a beer trip to Asheville, N.C., when he stopped at Pisgah Brewing and enjoyed a quality beer.  He was astounded to find out the brewery was certified organic.

“The beer was great,” he said. “I didn’t even know.”

Sellers said “organic” means no chemicals are used to grow the ingredients. He found that only 30 organic breweries exist in the U.S., with most residing along the West Coast or East Coast.

After meeting with many vendors and hops growers, Sellers confirmed an organic brewery was possible and he is thrilled about the challenge.

“It’s hard to do,” he said. “We had a really hard time lining up suppliers.”

When he isn’t revitalizing a neighborhood, Sellers finds time for a few of his favorite craft beers. His new pick is the Perrin Brewing Company IPA, which he expects will be hugely popular.

However, his all-time favorite craft beer is Short’s Huma Lupa Licious, the company’s best-selling IPA.

“My wife jokes they are going to bury me in it,” Sellers said.

GRAND RAPIDS — Not even a sprained ankle can slow down Mark Sellers on this Monday morning because an expanded beer festival and new organic brewery are at stake.
Treating his noticeable limp as an afterthought, Sellers enters through the backdoor of HopCat, one of the many downtown Grand Rapids establishments he owns, and strolls past the bar while greeting the employees he passes.
He has just minutes to squeeze in a lunch and prepare his thoughts for an important meeting about his new endeavors. A quesadilla and water will have to do.
But Sellers, 44, a former investment fund manager in Chicago, would have it no other way. Instead of stressing out about other people’s money, these days he is investing his own money to improve the Grand Rapids arena district neighborhood one beer at a time.
“I came back to get away from the rat race,” the West Michigan native said, noting he was semi-retired at the time. “I never had a master plan. I just really liked this neighborhood. It just kind of happened.”
First he opened HopCat, a beer-focused bar that serves brews from all over the world. Soon other neighborhood establishments like Stella’s Lounge and McFadden’s were developed or joined his company, BarFly Ventures.
Sellers’ latest project and most immediate concern is Hoptoberfest. In 2011, its inaugural year, the one-day October festival featured about nine Grand Rapids-area breweries and attracted about 4,000 people, he said.
However, this year Sellers hopes to double the crowd to 8,000 people by moving up the event to Sept. 15-16 and expanding the beer lineup to 40 breweries from across Michigan.
“All the big names — Founders, (Brewery) Vivant and Bell’s — will be there,” Sellers said.
Sellers also enhanced the festival by adding higher energy bands, New Orleans-based Dumpstaphunk and Los Angeles-based Fishbone, who will provide funk and reggae music that attendees can dance to.
The final upgrade to Hoptoberfest is the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Beer Brunch” the next day. The first 2,000 festival attendees who return with their ticket can receive a free brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. thanks to sponsors and purchase more beer.
“We wanted something that was crazy, but would resonate with people,” Sellers said.
Hoptoberfest tickets cost $10. Samples, which are 2 1/2 ounces, cost $3 per sample.
“The $10 is for nationally-known bands, free breakfast the day after, and the ability to drink outside on a city street with thousands of other fun people,” Sellers said. “It’s the cheapest Fishbone/Dumpstaphunk concert of all time.”
Just weeks after Hoptoberfest concludes, Sellers has another ambitious project to reveal: the new Grand Rapids Brewing Company, the Midwest’s first organic brewery, which is scheduled to open in late October.
He had daydreamed about the Grand Rapids Brewing Company name for years because he felt it was so underutilized. When the brewery folded last fall, Sellers said he “instantly jumped” to purchase the assets of the brewery.
For months he searched for a location before he was asked to be the anchor tenant at 1 Ionia SW, a historic building being redeveloped just down the street from HopCat. As a nod to the city’s history, all of the furniture in the restaurant will be made in Grand Rapids, Sellers said.
Then he researched an angle to make Grand Rapids Brewing Company stand out. Sellers discovered one during a beer trip to Asheville, N.C., when he stopped at Pisgah Brewing and enjoyed a quality beer.  He was astounded to find out the brewery was certified organic.
“The beer was great,” he said. “I didn’t even know.”
Sellers said “organic” means no chemicals are used to grow the ingredients. He found that only 30 organic breweries exist in the U.S., with most residing along the West Coast or East Coast.
After meeting with many vendors and hops growers, Sellers confirmed an organic brewery was possible and he is thrilled about the challenge.
“It’s hard to do,” he said. “We had a really hard time lining up suppliers.”
When he isn’t revitalizing a neighborhood, Sellers finds time for a few of his favorite craft beers. His new pick is the Perrin Brewing Company IPA, which he expects will be hugely popular.
However, his all-time favorite craft beer is Short’s Huma Lupa Licious, the company’s best-selling IPA.
“My wife jokes they are going to bury me in it,” Sellers said.

July is a month of celebration for the Michigan beer industry, and no one seems to celebrate like Crunchy’s in East Lansing.

The restaurant and bar currently plays home to Michigan Month, where all 27 taps and a majority of the food is purely Michigan-made.

General Manager Mike Kruger said they don’t do it for attention, but to celebrate the great state of Michigan.

“We don’t think of it as a, ‘Look at us, we’re doing Michigan,'” Kruger said. “In general people know Crunchy’s as being supportive of Michigan breweries and companies, so it draws them here anyway.”

MIchigan Month isn’t a huge stretch from where the company normally takes its business ideals. Instead of just 15-20 taps, Crunchy’s dedicates all 27 taps to Michigan brews, and pull off items of purely Michigan ingredients to a special menu.

“It’s a chance to have a good reason to pull off all the domestics and just do Michigan beers and blow it out — stuff i’ve saved over the last year, and just highlight all the fun stuff michigan brewers do,” he said.

Kruger even finds a way to keep specials around and make sure customers feel like they can still find value in quality brews.

“To honor our prices, we price two of the beers — Atwater D-Light and Shorts Locals Light — we keep that the same price, so we can keep all of our specials and it gets a lot of the guys and girls that just drink Miller Light. They don’t have that choice, but if they’re still trying to drink cheap, they’re getting onto these other craft lagers. We take a little hit, but it’s worth it to expose people to the beer.”

From there, those customers often find themselves exploring other, craftier Michigan beers they might not otherwise try, Kruger said.

For food, Kruger said Crunchy’s tries to use as much local ingredients as possible, and it’s fairly easy to do with Michigan State University right next door.

“We use as much Michigan products as we can,” he said. “It’s not too cost prohibitive anyway. We pull off a few of the items that are exclusively Michigan products and just highlight it. Burgers, burger toppings, salads. We do a lot work with the (MSU) Dairy Store, so we highlight that fact also. We just try to highlight it because Michigan is great, and so are the things it produces.”


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