Building community in Detroit's West Village — by the glass
Published: October 19, 2011
On this Sunday afternoon, the lot on Van Dyke is undeniably "repurposed as a place where people are coming together as a community." Vier is on hand, saying, "Last week, we had more than 1,300 people come through, including kids and nondrinkers."
She admits the previous week wasn't perfect, that high temperatures, technical problems and crowds — likely from that Sunday's Detroit football holiday — contributed to long lines. Today's operation, by comparison, seems to be running smoothly.
On tap today is their widest array of beer yet, including Motor City's Oktoberfest, Atwater's Purple Gang Pilsener, Milking It's Brik Red Ale and, for three tickets, Jolly Pumpkin's Calabaza Blanca — with a wheat nose and a bitter aftertaste that leaves your tongue crackling like Pop Rocks.
Off to one side, providing food, are local vendors People's Pierogi and Porktown Sausage. Porktown is selling fall sausage, with such rich ingredients as curried squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and apple cider reduction, cooked right there over a hardwood coal fire. The company's Brian Merkel says they've switched off selling at Tashmoo with Corridor Sausage Co. for a few weeks. "It's a great space," Merkel says. "All the beer they've chosen is good, and as far as vacant lots go, this is a pretty nice one." He adds, "We've been selling out every week."
In terms of attendance and sales, the project is clearly a success. On the community-building front, it's a good mix of all ages and cliques — or at least those who'll pay a few bucks for a fancy beer. Indeed, more than one pedestrian walks by warily, considering the beer garden a curiosity best enjoyed from a distance. But the beer garden is only getting started. Vier says, "One volunteer bartender told me that lots of people who came to Tashmoo were really excited about West Village, and said, 'Expect a lot of people looking for someplace to live here this spring.'"
Beer as a community development tool? In Detroit, it just might work.
There's still one last chance to experience the Tashmoo Beer Garden, this Sunday, Oct. 23, on Van Dyke between Agnes and Coe streets, Detroit. Expect them to return with more fun next year.
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