In the first part of this report, I wrote about our stops on the way down to Ann Arbor on the day before the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival, and left off with our visit to the Bello Vino Marketplace where we did some serious bottle shopping. From there, we returned to our hotel for a quick rest and some freshening up before hitting downtown Ann Arbor for some bar and brewpub hopping.
Or that was the plan, at least. Our intentions were to get a quick cab ride into town, have dinner and beer at Arbor Brewing, make a quick stop at Grizzly Peak Brewing for a taste or two, and then head over to Ashley’s to finish off the evening. However, we didn’t account for two factors:
1) The concept of a “quick cab ride” does not seem to exist in Ann Arbor. Instead, when you call a cab, it will take roughly 45 minutes to arrive, and will end up being a dilapilated wreck driven by a guy who looks like he should be living in the mountains with a stockpile of guns & ammo plotting to take over the government.
2) The weekend of the MBG fest corresponded with the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, a group of four concurrent outdoor art exhibitions which close down most of the downtown core to traffic and draw a reported 500,000 people into a city that has a population of only 114,000.
As a result, once we finally got downtown, we found that both Arbor Brewing and Grizzly Peak were packed to the gills. So we slogged our way through the crowds and headed to Ashley’s, which was – of course – packed to the gills. However, the door girl assured us that there would soon be some space available as they were going to be opening up the downstairs, so we hit the sub shop on the corner for a quick bite, and got back in time to score some seats in the downstairs bar (The Underground), a dark, cave-like space that reminded me a lot of the sort of places I used to hang out in when I was younger and wore black all the time – except with a better beer list. While the selection in the basement was limited, it still boasted several taps from Bell’s as well as a couple of other local breweries and some well chosen imports.
However, being a bunch of old fogeys – well, except for Jeremy, but we’re working on him! – the loud music and cigarette smoke started to get to us, so we made our escape to the less claustrophobic main floor where we things had started to clear out a bit. While the beer selection downstairs had been nice, the upstairs bar had a tap and bottle list that I believe more than one of us described rather enthusiatically as “fucking awesome!”. The tap selection features 70 brews with a good balance of locals and imports, including some that we could only dream of ever seeing on tap in Ontario (Young’s Oatmeal Stout, Spaten Optimator, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Gulden Draak…). Not to mention the three handpumps (including Dogfish Head 90 Minute!) and the rotating, often exclusive selections from Jolly Pumpkin, Kuhnhenn, New Holland, Rogue, Victory and Short’s. And let’s not forget the 70+ bottles…
Needless to say, we were all feeling pretty good by the time we left Ashley’s. But we felt a little less good when we remembered the problems we had getting a cab down there, and even worse when a local informed us that even if we saw a cab driving by, trying to hail it would be futile since people just don’t hail cabs in Ann Arbor. Our waitress had given us the number of one of the cab companies, but their estimate to get a cab sent to pick us up was “around 20 minutes”. Considering that our earlier pick-up had been promised to be “around 10 minutes” but had taken over 45, we eventually decided that it might be better to walk the 2.5 miles back to the hotel rather than wait around for a taxi that might never show up.
Somehow, at least one of us managed to retain some semblance of direction in our beer addled brain, and we actually made it back to the hotel unharmed. And thanks to the brisk walk and copious sweating, relatively sober as well. And as indicated by the photo to the right, our trek seemed to take us through the liberal part of town, which allowed my buddy Jeff to make a fine political statement…
To Be Continued