Thursday, September 19, 2013


It is nice to see that some things never change.  Three years after visiting Short’s to film our pilot episode, I get to return with the crew from Mlive. The pub is pretty much the same, with a new bar in the stage room, and the same crowds of fans around it as before.

The lure of Short’s beer is legendary.  Owner Joe Short has always had a Michigan Stimulas plan in action.  Short’s beers are incredibly popular, and Joe gets “about 100” messages a day about bringing their beer to places all over the country.  Joe always responds, if you want to get my beer, why don’t you come here ?  And come here they do, with block buster crowds all through the summer, and now the locals have come back in throngs, all to try their unique beers.

And the beers....the beers....the beers!  As a total beer geek, this place is
your wet dream.  Over 20 different taps are all focused on great solid beer styles, some of them with a crazy twist.  And that is what makes Short’s a special place.  Joe Short is an abnormal genius, in all the best sense of the word.  He takes a true brewer’s knowledge, honed after years of brewing all over the state.  And takes that knowledge and brews inspired beers that can surprise and amaze with every sip.

The team at Short's has hand crafted a truly unique bar, with seats from a school bus up front, communal tables to eat at, a stage for local bands, and 20 different taps of some of the most unique beers in Michigan. Noisy, lively, friendly, this pub is THE place to be in Bellaire.

Short's beers are creative, interesting and definately different.  With crazy names like Alien Einstien for a gluten free lager, to OMGWTFBBQ for an insane smoky BBQ beer, there are beers here that are going to blow your mind.  Flagship beers that you can get around the state, like the intensely hoppy Humalupalicious, or the malty Bellaire Brown are just as stellar as always.

This is a place that you can't help but have fun at.  The food was traditional pub grub with a twist, just enough to keep it interesting.  The signature White Pepper sandwich would have been pedestrian if not for the smoky chipotle mayo they added.  Solid choices all around.  Between the different beers, lively atmosphere, and great food, Short's is popular for good reasons.

Short's Beers
-Huma, Shorts flagship IPA, it's even better at the pub
-Gone Commando, only available at the pub, is a Vienna style lager brewed with black currants.  Great color, amazing crisp taste with just a hint of fruit at the end.
-Alien Einstein a low gluten option (they can't say gluten free) that had a greatflavor.  Joe said they use a special enzyme in the brewing process that pulls the gluten out.  And it actually tasted great!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First impression is where is this place?  One small sign next to a Chico’s downtown Petoskey, it’s a place you will have to look for.  Down a long hallway, you will find a hidden gem.  Owners Peter Manthei and Ben Slocum have hand built a bar that is full of personality.
Of course, they started as homebrewers.  But only two of their recipes date from their homebrewing days.  These two are fresh out of college.  In fact, Ben worked his whole last semester building Beards.  That is dedication.  I spent my last semester in college at the Intersection.
Their passion shows.  Talking to the two of them, I could see it on their faces, the way they lit up when talking about their beers.  It shows when you look around the pub and see all the unique touches they have come up with.  No TV’s, instead a vinyl record player.  They took one look at Gonzo and I and put on Flock of Seagulls.  Should I be insulted?

A cool idea the Beard’s had is to have a coaster club instead of a mug club.  Hand stamped coasters are given to members, in exchange they get 10% off merchandise and beers.  No need to store tons of mugs, and totally unique too.  Dealing with a small space, they’ve developed many unique ideas to save it.
No food here, but some local bar snacks are available.  You can also order in from any of the local restaurants.  Ben said that “I make great beer, they make great food”.  A smart idea for such a small place.  Some of their regulars have their favorite pairings, calling Thai Orchid if they are drinking the IPA, or the local Polish takeout to have with the brown ale.  Potlucks are also frequent at the pub, but you have to share with Ben and Peter..    

The beer is well brewed and complex.  Owner's Ben and Peter said they have over 50 types of grains and a ton of different hops to work with, and they are using them all. This variety creates a lot of flavor in their beers.  The Saison is a very light intro beer, drinking like a standard American lager. This one didn't really say Belgian style to me, but the Luna sure did.  A caramel wheat, with a gorgeous orange color, it drinks the way Oberon used to.  Something Something IPA had great aroma and a big kick of hops at the end. My favorite was the very complex Breakfast Brown.  Brewed with maple syrup and RAISINS, it was a malty mouthful of flavor.

Overall, Beards is a great community addition. The beard logo is everywhere, even on a pair of hot pink women's underpants.  Gotta lovve cheek!  

 I loved their coaster club, a cool take on the mug club.  And although they don't offer food, they do have some locally produced bar snacks.  They also encourage you to order in, and will help you with beer pairing ideas (the IPA with food from Orchid Thai sounded good to me).  They also have quite a few potlucks at the pub as well, which I think is awesome.  Great beer in a personable place, with very friendly and knowledgable owner, Beards Brewing in Petoskey is a hidden gem.

If you head out on the beer trail don't miss:
-Luna -a kick ass wheat beer, this one tastes the way Oberon used to, back when it was Solsun

-Breakfast Brown-absolutely delicious, brewed with maple syrup and RAISINS, complex

-Serendipity Porter -this was pulled off the tank for us but it wasn't carbonated yet, but it's going to be a great porter


Day 1, Saturday, GR to Petoskey, Bellaire

Here we go!  An absolutely perfect Michigan fall day....cruising in our sweet Grand Marquis, flying up 131 to Petoskey, we are on the start of our beer journey.  Gonzo is at the wheel, our photographer Tom is riding shotgun, and in the way back Fritz Klug is on my side. Seriously, I feel like a little kid back here with my brother and sister..this is the exact same car we had!  It’s a plush ride, and Gonzo can drive with one finger if he wants to.  As we float down the highway, we all talk about breweries we’ve been to, beers we like, places we are excited to see.

We are quite a grab bag of peeps.  Tom is our photographer, and unfortunately for him, our designated driver.  But we raise our glasses to you, Tom!  Thank you!  Fritz is the baby of our trip, the youngest of the bunch.  An employee of MLIVE, he covers the Lansing area.  John Gonzalez has literally eaten his way across the state while doing the Michigan’s Best tour for burgers, breakfast, coney dogs, and BBQ.  I am wondering if Gonzo will be as talented a drinker as he was an eater.

-This is Fritz eating these Larry the Cable Guy chips, potato salad flavor.  Not a smart move.

And of course, myself.  Pretty much, I’m a professional beer drinker. So that part won’t be a problem.  The fact that I’m considered an expert is rather funny....and pretty cool.   I was lucky enough to get to visit 26 different breweries when we taped the Great American Brew Trail, and I considered all of these guys my friends.  Even though it might seem like each of these places are just another brewery, I found that every single place is unique.  All of them have a unique story, every place had a beer that I loved, or was surprised by, or couldn’t get enough of.  Each brewery had incredibly interesting owners, brewers and staff...almost all of who were just as passionate about beer as I am.

So as we head out, I’m thinking about what we are looking for at these breweries.  To me, the beer is the most important thing, of course.  As my friends at West Side Beer said to me one time, it all comes down to the liquid.  If the liquid is good, the brewery will succeed.  So my first thing I’ll be looking at is, duh, the beer.  I want a decent variety, with several styles represented.  From light to dark, and I always am interested to hear what is the brewers favorite, versus what is the most popular.  Good color, aroma, mouthfeel.  Nice carbonation, different depending on the style.  At least one beer that surprises me, either by breaking with style, or blowing my mind.  No off flavors.  Clean glasses.  Great finish.  A desire to have another one.

You know, tasting beer is a rather subjective experience.  However, there are certain things to look for in each style.  But in reality, it comes down to “do you like it?” and this is where everyone's taste is different.  But generally you can tell if the beer is a good brew right away, and then you can decide if it’s to your taste style.

Beyond the beer, I want to get the feeling of place.  I mean that when I walk into a brewery, I want to feel like I’m in a place that is unique and that speaks of the area that it’s in.  I love bars that have been handcrafted by the owners, or that has personal touches through out  that really tell you about the owners.  I love places that capture the urban feel of the city, or the laid back vibe of up north.  As a beer GIRL, I want to walk in and feel welcomed, never intimidated.  Cozy, quirky, friendly, open.

Important also is that the staff is knowledgable about the beer.  I don't mean beer geek/snob status, I mean pretty basic knowledge about the beer they are serving.  Please be able to answer general questions about the beer.  Also bring it to me in the right glass.  I am totally fine with just two kinds, pints and a tulip for those high alcohol pours.  But please don't bring me a pint of a barrel aged ass kicker.   And NO frosted glasses either!

So as we roll down the highway, in a Grandma car that now smells like something I can't describe (what did they do to make those chips potato salad flavor?), we are all excited about what this week will bring.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yes, I have one of these!

Yep, it's true.  I own the pro pot.

My insane sister got it for me a few years ago, because my son and husband are insane football fans.  I have to say, I use this little beauty quite a lot.  It's much smaller than my big time crock pot, which makes it perfect for dips for parties.  Plus, just look at it.  It is hilarious.

So my buddy K from high school is heading on down to the U of M game this weekend with some friends and needed some tail gate ideas.  As a former season ticket holder, I say "HAIL"!  Most of the games that I attended I ate absolutely no food at the tailgate, which is probably why I don't remember most of the second halves.  I always recommend laying down a good base before consuming large quantities of Michigan craft beer.  So serving up some tasty snacks is a good idea.  We are kind of still in that in between weather here in in the morning, like fall, then heading into summer by afternoon.  So maybe not quite time for chili yet, save that recipe for the October games.  Plus it needs to transport well, and be good before, and after the game.  Here are two ideas.

This one I'm sure you have had, and if you haven't, get it together and go out more!  My friend C used to make this for work parties years ago, and would never tell us what was in it.  The name says it all, it will disappear.  I would make this the night before, refrigerate, then put in the crock pot first things in the morning and crank it up to high.  Make sure it gets smoking hot.  If you are short on time, microwave it until totally hot.  When you are ready to go, wrap the whole crock pot in a big beach towel and take it to the game.  That should keep it hot until you get there.  This is good cold too.

Disappearing Chicken Dip

1 8oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1 tsp garlic salt
4 green onions, sliced
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup hot sauce/wing sauce
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

corn chips and celery for serving

Mix the cream cheese, dressing, salt and onions together until smooth.  Toss the chicken with the hot sauce.  Fold together the cream cheese, chicken and one cup of the cheese.  Pour into a baking dish and top with more cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly and starting to brown.  Serve with the chips for dipping.

I like to make huge sandwiches on baguettes, wrap em up tight in plastic wrap, and transport in a cooler, under everything else.  The pressure will help the bread absorb the dressing, and everything just sticks together good.  Obviously you can make these with whatever ingredients you want, but I love all things Italian, so we head to the boot.  And this is not a puss sandwich, load that thing up with cured meats and feel like

Pressed Sandwiches

1 baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
fresh mozzarella, sliced
fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers, sliced and drained
1 cup pesto
coppa ham, serrano ham or proscuitto

Spread both sides of the bread with the pesto.  Layer up the rest of the ingredients, I like to coat each layer with salt and pepper so the whole thing is seasoned well.  Wrap up the whole sandwich in plastic wrap tight and store in the fridge until you are ready to go.  Place in the cooler, then I usually place a sheet pan on top, and load the rest of the stuff on top.  Slice when you get to the game, so don't forget to bring a serrated knife!