Michigan Brewery Series – Shorts Brewing Company

Shorts Brewing Company is located in the Village of Bellaire Michigan.  It sits East of both Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Bellaire and  Torch Lake, which is one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes (stretching 19 miles long). Part of the adventure of visiting Shorts is navigating the drive there around these lakes.  Well worth it!  I kept Shorts for the end of my Michigan Brewery Series because it is one of my favorites.

The Brewer and his Team

First of all, a special thanks to Emily for arranging our recent visit and Andrew for making it awesome.  We had the best time learning all about the Brewery, trying different beer styles and having a tasty lunch.  Great People.

The Brewery  has literally been a labor of love for Owner/Brewer Joe Short since starting the project in 2002 (at the ripe old age of 22). He used skills he honed while training to be a Shop Teacher to transform an old Hardware Store into the Brewery.  Joe used repurposed wood for the floors, helped to create the mosaic floor tile in the entry and put in a lot of stonework by hand. You can appreciate the love and sweat equity that were put into the place when you take a minute to really look at the details.

Joe says he taught himself how to brew.  It began as a way for him to have complete control over the way he wanted to create beer. He just looks like a brewer to me with his hipster glasses, handlebar mustache and that mischievous grin.

Joe definitely takes making great beer very seriously, but most everything else captures his zany sense of humor. Be sure to watch this video they sent me to introduce people to Joe’s Alter Ego (this is one of  the funniest things I have ever seen!)

Video Link:  Meet Joe’s Alter Ego!

Shorts comes up with some of the most unique and interesting beers I’ve had.    I asked how they come up with all the crazy new beer recipes and Joe attributed it to working with a bunch of awesome and creative people.  Sometimes they collaborate with other Brewers to “Layer” combined ideas into an inventive new Beer.  From what I have seen, they have a lot of fun doing what they love.  Watch this exciting video they sent me illustrating how wacky things can get with The Shorts Brewery Team.

Video Link:  The Shandy Squad Water Ski on Ice

The Business

Shorts is a self proclaimed Mom and Pop operation. Joe’s wife Leah came on board in 2005 and runs the food side of things which allows Joe to focus on production and creating amazing beer.  Like most businesses, with success comes growing pains and change (almost sounds like a line from Spiderman).  The facility has grown a lot over the years beginning with the original Pub (2002), a Pub renovation (2010) then a Pub expansion (2016).  They added the Elk Rapids Production Facility (2009) which allowed them to distribute their beer all across the state of Michigan.  As space allowed, they continued their expansion with The Merchandise Store or Brewtique (2014) for selling bottled beer, t-shirts and logo merchandise.

In addition to a lot of hard work and making great products, adding a “Magician” to the staff as CFO (2006)  has helped steer their success.  They have navigated a lot of growth and development and came out as a booming business that is well respected in the state of Michigan.  It’s great to see a business thrive and grow like Shorts has.

When I asked Joe what was next for the Brewery, his reply was Community Development and Product Innovation. 

Surrounded by orchards in Northern Michigan, it only made sense for one of their latest adventures to be expanding into the Hard Cider business.  They now have their own line, Starcut Ciders, made with fruit from local farms.  It’s always great when local businesses can support one another.

Have you heard of Cask Beer?  I had not, but I learned all about them and sampled my first one during my latest visit to the Pub.

Cask conditioned beer is unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure.

Shorts had 3 Cask Beers on Tap during my visit:

  • Juicy Brut with Dragon Fruit
  • The Magician with Coffee and Vanilla
  • Spiced Snow Wheat

I had the Juicy Brut with Dragon Fruit.  I watched them as they slowly pulled the tap handle (looked like it took a bit of effort) adding the co2 to the beer as they filled the glass.  My beer was dry, a little fruity and had a layer of delicious creamy foam on top.  Joe is hoping to get Cask Beers trending in the future.  I hope he does, because they are quite delicious.

The Pub

I have had the opportunity to visit the Pub on several occasions and find it a fun and inviting atmosphere.  The food is always AMAZING with a great  Menu to choose from.

The Pub decor, and menu give you a clue as to Joe’s obsession with the Experimental Rock Band Ween. You find the bands quirky influence in the building Decor, the Beer Names, the Menu Item Names, and even the Menu cover. Dean Ween has even played at the Pub for a few of their big events.

Explore the Band Ween

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Shrine to Ween Wall near the Pub Stage

Fun Fact: The Image on the food Menu is the Ween Logo. If you flip the menu over, there is a hand written note from Dean Ween threatening to sue the Brewery for using it.

All in good fun, of course!

Pub Menu, Beers on Tap, My Favorite Appetizer (Set it on Fire), and The Daily Specials 

There are so many beers to choose from (some that you can only get in house) that I find it difficult to choose just one.  That is why I usually order a flight so that I can taste several of their different varieties. I don’t want to miss anything!

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Don’t Judge Me Man – It was all for Research!

Events are a must for Craft Breweries.  Not only are they super fun they are also key elements to survival in business because they get people in the door.  Events keep your product fresh in the public’s eye, give you a platform to introduce your new products and allow people to form a positive bond with your business.

An Assortment of Upcoming Events posted at the Pub

Shorts does not disappoint and offers a wide range of Free Live Entertainment, and Awesome Parties celebrating everything from Holidays to New Beer Releases (or maybe just that it’s Wednesday.)  Plus you will find Trendy happenings like Yoga at the Pub, Trivia Night and some Pub only Beer Releases.  Seriously, can you even imagine how fun it is partying with these people!

The Beer

I follow Shorts on social media (Twitter and Instagram) so that  I can always be in the know when a new release is about to drop, when/if it will hit the stores or if there are any nearby events.  They are really good about keeping us Beer Groupies informed. Plus you never know when they will post one of their hilarious videos to the site.  The good news is they ship their beer throughout Michigan (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin too), so you can get a variety of their beers in stores or on tap in your favorite local watering hole.

On the Short’s Brew Tap List, you will find several German style beers.  I was told that Joe really likes producing this type of beer.  Additionally, you will find Flagship beers, Starcut Ciders and some Limited Release and Seasonals.

Beer I tried in my Flight:

  • Mule Beer – Absolutely love this Ginger Lime “Mule style” beer.
  • Bloody Beer – Not as rich and heavy, but just as tasty as a Bloody Mary.
  • Pumpkin Crusha – Best pumpkin seasonal I have tried.  They get the spice just right.
  • Chocolate Wheat – I have had this before, but NEEDED to have it again. Rich, delicious and full of chocolate flavor.  Yum-sational!
  • Starcut Ciders Erraticus – This is made with some funky wild yeast.  Bold flavors with a bit of a bite.
  • Hellacious Rock – Tart citrus and pine flavors in this Double IPA.

Shorts makes my husband’s favorite beer,  Huma-lupa-licious.  The name is fun to say and a play on the hop plant humulus lupulus.  It is considered one of their Flagship beers, rocks a 7.7% ABV and blends 5 different hop varieties for maximum flavor impact.  Even though he has had it a billion times, it was still the first pint he ordered when we arrived.  He got a Huma t-shirt when we were there a few years ago and has literally worn it to death.

The Merch Shop

While we were seeking out a replacement for Mark’s favorite ratty Huma t-shirt, we found that The Merch Shop has a few Taps for Samples only of beer sold in Bottles. The Lovely Lass working there was very helpful and friendly.  I tried both the Juicy Tree and she talked me into trying the Exterior Illuminations.  Juicy Tree is Gin style made with blue spruce tips while Exterior Illuminations is a Sour with Cranberry and Currant flavors.  If you have been reading my Brewery Series, you know Sours are not normally my thing.  This sour, however, hit the mark.  The tart blend of fruits with the sour beer really works.  Since I adore an herbacious gin, the Juicy tree was right up my ally.

Some beers are Special Release Only and are available in the Merch Shop in Larger sized bottles.  I was excited to grab a bottle of Carrot Cake that was being released the day we were there.  Looks like dessert for Thanksgiving to me.

Can we talk about the labels now?

Their labels are wild and comical caricatures (like Ween & Joe) illustrated with vibrant colors and some tongue in cheek humor.  I think that the labels are as interesting as the beer and the people who make them.  They convey an idea and get your attention!  They are both fun and creative. This one looks a lot like Joe.  Seriously these people are marketing geniuses.

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Joe has real Stache Power!

In Shorts (ha ha), take a trip North to do some beer exploration.  Make sure you take the drive to Shorts Brewing to sample some of Michigan’s best craft beer.  You wont be disappointed.  I guarantee you will have a lot of fun and you just might find your new favorite Beer.  As you can see, I found a few new favorites.

Cheers!