The great beer tour
In which our tasters and wasters hit 8 great beer bars and dozens of beers in 11 hours
Published: October 20, 2010
Abrams knows the bar well. "I used to take my daughter to dance class down the street, and I'd come in here and have a hand-pull." It sounds so unseemly the group starts laughing. I say, "Hey, after that hand-pull, I'm going to have to blow myself."
3:30 p.m. We're on our sandwiches. Two groups are talking. Cadariu and the gals are talking about urban planning, but Abrams and Pelot are discussing shotguns.
4:30 p.m. Fortified with food and a pleasant hour of conversation, we're ready to head off to Motor City Brewing Works. We're down to two vehicles, but I notice that Cadariu and Abrams have decided to go with the girls, probably because their car is smoke-free. As I drive down to Detroit, Pelot commandeers both breathalyzer and micro-cassette recorder, smoking a Marlboro while blowing a still-respectable .17 and clutching his (thankfully, resealed) bottle of wine.
5 p.m. We arrive at Motor City Brewing Works (470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700), taking a table in front, as two more ladies have joined the crawl, including a visitor from Chicago. I pick the Bohemian lager, our Hamtramck friend Colleen Burke chooses the honey porter, and my writer friend McMillan orders a pumpkin-spiced brew. We also get a few judicious samples of cider and Octoberfest, thanks to the bar. Glasses start crowding the table, so I wisely order a cutting board of salami, bread and mustard, and the rest of the crew orders a few pizzas.
Apparently, Motor City is the place to spot new-fooders in Midtown. Detroit Zymology Guild mover Holly White drops in with husband Jason to refill some growlers, and even Molly O'Meara of Beau Bien Fine Foods joins the group for a moment. A gang breaks away to smoke in the new "green alley" behind the brewery, a pedestrian-friendly link to Second Avenue, and finds Motor City honcho John Linardos there, either growing a beard or just not shaving. Pelot urges us to go proceed down the alley to the Bronx Bar for shots, but we refuse.
7 p.m. After eating and taking a break, we start to pass around the AlcoHAWK. McMillan blows a .09. Pelot huffs out a drunk-as-fuck .39, but he just quaffed a sip of cider, corrupting the data. He'd have to be drinking hand sanitizer to be that loaded. (Abrams tweets: "We're all blowing into the breathalyzer but Pelot broke it.") Abrams blows a respectably illegal .09. Amazingly, after several beers, Burke is not at all intoxicated. She's been drinking all day and is only blowing .00, each time astonished that she isn't registering anything. We theorize that Burke is using yogic powers to outgas the alcohol through her pores. With the exception of a few, we're all "over the limit." Luckily we only have to cross the street to the next bar.
7:15 p.m. We troop across the street to Traffic Jam and Snug (511 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-831-9470), into the small bar in the front left of the building. The front is mostly full tonight of an older crowd, so we pile into the back of the place and fill it with laughter, with a few ordering Weizenfest and Doppelbock, and a round of Festivus ("for the rest of us" somebody jokes). Among the seven of us, small emergencies begin to crop up. Abrams needs a Motorola car adapter to keep up his Twitter feed, and Pelot has to meet a friend and catch up with us later for some reason. Steady groups start tromping outside to smoke on the street, back and forth through the bar. Maybe we're too rowdy, because the crowd clears out in front. Abrams blows a .17 and Cadariu a .19. I take pictures of them holding up the tester and looking resigned to it.
8:15 p.m. I get a call from Pelot while we're leaving for Slows-Bar-B-Q, with its extensive beer menu. He says he's getting a ride from Timmy's Organism bassist Jeff Fournier. I'm a little nervous hopping on the rain-slicked Lodge Freeway, but all is well. I'm sober, and Abrams is a calming influence in the passenger seat. I keep under speed as I light a smoke, roll down the window, and start to think that everything is under control.
All of a sudden, there's this loud engine noise on my left. A huge, black truck has sped up and is now right next to me, massive, hulking and honking at us. I almost veer off the road in surprise. There are people in it screaming at us. In an instant, I recognize Pelot and Fournier blasting the horn and waving. They tear off ahead, leaving my heart palpitating.
8:30 p.m. Remarkably, we find two parking spots right on the corner by Slows Bar-B-Q (2138 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-962-9828) and roll up, ready for some serious beers from around the world. Their menu is simply loaded to the gills with amazing choices, full of everything from dollar PBRs to Old Engine Oil. Unfortunately, tonight, Slows is just as full as its beer menu. We press through a crowd of people, stare around at the full tables, the three-deep bar crowd, the people standing against walls gutting out a two-hour wait. On the eve of its fifth anniversary, we've probably picked the wrong time to try to belly up to its bar. We trickle out and decide to head straight to Detroit Beer Co. We tried.
8:45 p.m. Cadariu says we have to pick up his friend at Griswold and Grand River. "Is he going to be out on the street ready to go?" I ask. Cadariu nods seriously. We arrive at a coffee shop and I look through the glass to see our new passenger. He doesn't even have a shirt on yet. (Abrams tweets: "Picking up a coffee dude. Get your shirt on ... it's the #beertour, goddammit!") Car by car, the convoy pulls up to my window, where I tell them to continue on. Then McMillan and Burke call and I bum out that we left Slows without telling them. They accept it graciously and head on to DBC. We sit there for five minutes while the guy gets dressed and ready to join us. They hop in the back and start chewing tobacco, spitting it into paper coffee cups. At least it's smoke-free.
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