Here at Michigan Beer Blog, we talk a lot about Short’s Beer. A disproportionate number of the Bottled Michigan posts reference Short’s Beer. I regularly use them as a poster child for a Michigan brewery not afraid of experimenting and occasionally making a beer that few will enjoy. When talking of Michigan beer, Short’s is one of the “Big Names” in the industry, well known throughout the footprint (mitten print?) and beyond.
So what’s it like to go there?
A few weeks ago, my wife and I, flush from our successful outing in Traverse City (which included stops at Right Brain brewery, North peak Brewery, and Mackinaw Brewing Company), made the relatively simple trip up and over from Traverse City to Bellaire to sample wares from Short’s directly from the brewpub itself.
(Those with sharp eyes will note that the city we visited differs from the city printed on the label on your favorite bottle of Short’s beer. Their brewpub is in Bellaire, while their larger bottling facility is located in Elk Rapids, Michigan. We did not visit the bottling facility. Yet.)
Short's Brewing is exactly how I pictured it; a warm, rustic atmosphere filled with hastily thrown together tables and chairs, none of which match. The second room is devoted to live music and spillover from their always-bustling taproom. Laura and I sat down and made the same mistake most people not versed in Joe Short's (or, more accurately, his wife Leah's) concept of how a fast highly streamlined food and beer joint should run; there is no waitstaff. Luckily a friendly patron directed us to the food ordering station.
I should note, too, that by claiming Short's has no wait staff, I am painting with a brush possibly more harsh than is necessary. Short's requests that you order your food at the food ordering station, which is at the bar near the taps. A smarter person would've noted this on the menu.This style is identical to a few other restaurants I've patronized, including one specific chain restaurant that specializes in buffalo wings. The food was still brought to my table, and if anything the steamlined ordering system caused the food to be delivered more quickly than I expected, and freed up the staff to keep the fast moving floor clean of leftover dishes.
Short's Brewing may cater to the sandwich and pizza crowd, but despite making some of the best beer in the country, the food was possibly the high point of the evening. Bear in mind, I'm stealing the descriptions of the two sandwiches we ordered directly from their menu. I had the Chocolate Town: Shaved pit ham, bacon, lettuce, red onion, tomato and Swiss cheese with a creamy blue cheese spread and spicy BBQ sauce. Often in my own experiments, I make the mistake of slamming so many different tastes together that I cannot differentiate one from the other when I'm done. Short's does not have this problem, and I appreciate them for it. Laura ate the Tender Situation: Roast beef with avocado, portabella mushrooms, roasted peppers, white cheddar and roasted shallot mayonnaise. These were two of the most delicious sandwiches either of us have eaten in a long time. That Short's Brewing has food to match its beer is truly a frustrating thing; damn the 3 hour drive to get up there!
Between the two of us, Laura and I managed to sample most of the beer they had on tap. Their samplers are generous and decently priced; not as bargain friendly as North Peak, but not as expensive as Right Brain. High points included the Chocolate Wheat, the Funkin' Punkin, and the Autumn Ale, and while I've found the Autumn Ale in bottles, I've yet to luck upon a pack of the other two. Short's Funkin Punkin, specifically, is the best Pumpkin ale I've had in the state, comparable in complexity and boldness to Dogfish Head, but with a light quality reminiscent of Brooklyn Brewery's Post Road.
Short's offered us a "hippie friendly," hastily thrown together ambiance that exuded understated charm and warmth with a clear focus on local entertainment and flair. Short's offered some of the best session beers (their Bellaire Brown and Sustenance Stout, specifically) as well as some of the most surprisingly delicious experimental ales, like the Pistachio Crème and Key Lime Pie ale. Short's offered some of the absolute best beer food in Michigan. Clearly, there is very little that Short's can't offer. . . except perhaps a location closer to my home. Congratulations, Joe Short; you've got one hell of a brewery. A thousand mile brewery.
|It says balls on your mug.|