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Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Beer Geek Interview with Joe Short

Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, MI is constantly pushing the envelope. Bringing us cutting edge flavors and variations on classic styles, Shorts is always quick to the conversation when talking about people’s favorite beers and breweries from the state. This summer they took a step further towards being one of the of the first suggestion towards the some of the countries favorite names as they hook up with Sam Calagione and the gang from Dogfish in Delaware and Three Floyds of Indiana to make a tri-state collaboration that celebrated three unique flavors from each region.

The beer they came up with “Cornholio”, a dark lager reminiscent of a Baltic Porter with the Beach Plums of Delaware, Red Popcorn of Indiana and Horehound of Michigan.  I personally tried the Cornholio collaboration at the Brew Pub and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The very faint tartness of the Beach Plum coupled with the unique herbal characteristics of the Horehound compliment the already rich maltiness of the Baltic Porter and its inherent notes of stone fruits, molasses and anise. The 10% abv is present but not overpowering and definitely warmed my cheeks as my first beer of the day. This is a truly delicious brew worthy of the Shorts, Dogfish and Three Floyds name.

I got the opportunity to travel up to Acme, MI and meet up with Joe Short and Sam at their public reception for the collaboration at the Grand Traverse Resort Hotel and Spa. Eager to get their beer into the hands of some of their biggest fans, Joe and Sam happily shook hands, signed autographs, posed for photos and mingled with everyone who came. The event was fantastic and proved once again that the icons of the brewing industry are some of the most passionate, approachable and enjoyable people in the public eye.

It was too busy to take up too much of his time but Joe agreed to answer a few questions by email and here is that correspondence.

Besides what was mentioned in the article posted on your website, what else can you tell me about how this collaboration came about, how you chose a Baltic Porter and what inspired you to use those particular local ingredients?
This was a midwest collaboration and we wanted to use an ingredient from each breweries state. We chose the dark lager base as it seemed to fit the beach plum and horehound components. the popcorn we just had to make work

Sam Calagione has been an inspiration in the brewing industry. With his TV shows, books, seminars and his success as a brewer and entrepreneur, how did he inspire not only you as a start up, but to this day? What do you think you and your people will take away from this experience and what impact do you think, if any, it had or will have on your business?
When I met Sam he inspired Leah and I to keep going. We we're in a place in our life when we wanted to know whether or not it would be worth continuing the brewery. Sam's story was very much like our own as we were just getting going. He told us we were on the right track, so we stuck with it. I think that a collaboration with DFH has a lot of marketing potential for us as DFH essentially endorsed us and made us more of a credible brewery. 

This collaboration was just as delicious as the one with Half Acre. What other brewers are you planning to work with and if you could pick a dream collaboration besides what you have already done, who would it be with?
I'm thinking we're going to tone down the collaborations. We'll probably continue our relationship with Half Acre and work with them again in the future. Our most recent one with H.A. is a Hopped up saison with Pear
(The latest collaboration with Half-Acre was called Captain Fantasy and was tart and hoppy, a must try if you can get some! I was lucky to grab a few samples at the MBG Summer Beer Festival.)

Your passion for Michigan is inspiring. It may or may not be common knowledge but you only sell your brews in Michigan. I have heard it called "Joe's Michigan Stimulus Plan". Can you explain what your philosophy is in regards to this?
Basically we want to distribute our beer in Michigan only. We want to retain the mom and pop ideology with our business model and that means keeping it small and manageable and meaningful. When people come to Michigan just to get our beer it means something to them and to us. So yeah, it's kind of a stimulus. We want you to come to us and experience our beer and the great state of Michigan.   

With Michigan relaxing its ban on "vulgar" labels and beer names such as Flying Dog's Raging Bitch and Dogfish Head's Bitches Brew, does Shorts have any plans to add some "explicit" beer to the market?
Not at all. We do our best to avoid such headaches. 

You shared a story with me about an Imperial Stout that you had made before founding Shorts and called it, to this day, the best Stout you have ever made. I would love for you to share that with me again if you don't mind so I can share it with the other enthusiasts.
The short story is I had made one of the best imperial stouts I have ever tasted during my final months at Jackson Brewing/Zigs Kettle and Brew. It was hand bottled in fancy 1/2 liter and 1 liter flip top bottles. My goal was to show the establishment we could make some money on the beer. Before we could really launch the bottle sales, Zigs decided they we're going to close. They left all of that beer behind and sold it for ridiculously cheap. We'll some of the regulars knew about this and bought it all up. The day after our first anniversary party in 2005 I was in the pub that morning cleaning up and readying the pub for another day. A gentleman who I knew from Jackson stopped in and told me he had a bottle of that stout I had made. He brought one in and gave it to me. I shared it with 4 or 5 people at the bar and we all agreed, not only was it an appropriate way to close out our first year at Short's, but the beer was amazing. 

(what a great testament to the passion and reverence the enthusiasts of this industry show for the beer our brewers sweat to make and share with us.)

I had a fantastic trip on my 20 hour road trip from Ann Arbor and Back and though it was only a brief moment spent at the collaboration party, getting to interact with guys like Joe and Sam was worth every moment in that car. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade and a memory that will stay with me through the years.

Jonathan Cole
Supreme Beer Geek

Here is a link to the Flicker Page where you can find more photos!