The bald guy's report:
If you're the kind of
snob who likes to complain that everything is better in Midland (or Traverse
City or Mt. Pleasant, pick a place, nobody but you cares anyway), then the
third annual Apps and Ales on May 22 in downtown Bay City was the place for you.
Not that there was anything to complain about -- quite the opposite -- but
there was a lot, period. A lot of food, a lot of beer, a lot of people, a
lot of fun and excitement.
Or if, like me, you've noticed there's about 2 or 6 million beers out there and
wish you could try a few without buying the whole bottle or glass in case you
don't like it, or if you like ale and/or dark beers and good food and are
searching for just the right one or the right combination or if, again like me,
you like beer and good eats and good value for your buck, then Apps and Ales was
the place for you. In short, there was something for everyone.
$20 for advance tix, $25 on the day -- a definite bargain either way because
you pays yer money, you get a free souvenir glass and a pack of tickets.
Then you walk into a participating venue, give 'em their ticket and you get two
samples of their fine cuisine and two samples of one of their ales or darks or
two of the same. It's like Trick or Treat for adults. Anyone who
didn't get their fill of food or beer wasn't trying. (Note to self:
Next time, pace yourself better; you were full before you were two-thirds through
Apps and Ale (the apps means appetizers, in case you haven’t figured it out
already, instead of iPhone widgets) is organized by Downtown Bay City, a
business association whose purpose is to show off the best side of its namesake.
In this endeavor, they hit it out of the park. Fifteen establishments participated,
which was just about all the places downtown that serve both food and
drink. You can Google Apps and Ales to see them all. And not all of
them were stationary: We sampled an excellent salmon appetizer on the
sea-going (actually, bay-going) Princess Wenona, docked at Wenonah Park.
(Don't ask why they're spelled different -- they just are.)
Some impressions: I'm not much of one for dark beers. Too
bitter. But at World Café, the pleasant young server gave me a sample of
their chocolate torte and said the dark and the torte go well together.
Psha! Right, I thought. Beer and a brownie; not likely.
Nonetheless, I tried it and -- surprise, surprise -- she was right. It
was excellent. Synergistic. The whole was greater than the sum of
parts. Maybe I've given darks short shrift. That's where an event
like this is beneficial. Broadens one's scope.
The placards on the tables describing the proffered beverages were full of
fancy language describing what went into the result. It was like wine
experts describing a fine cabernet, mentioning the hint of blackberry and the
insouciance of oak, whether smooth or hot, the "nose," the finish,
whether or not it puts a party in your mouth, etc. Well, at G's Pizzeria
(which had a boss meat lover's pizza as one of their apps -- so good I ordered
one at home later in the week) the placard describing the dark -- which had the
highest alcohol content of any beverage that night, 8% -- ended with the claim
that it had "the finish of an assassin." I love it.
Shuttle buses were running all night but, at least when I was there (we left
probably a half-hour before it was officially over), few people were taking
them, preferring to walk, which was probably good. Gave one a chance to get a
little air and perhaps calm down a buzz.
The demographic: Middle of the week, Wednesday night, next day you gotta
get up early and work, you might expect it to be heavily young. Not
so. In terms of age, I'd say the distribution of attendees was
representative of the general population. There were young people, sure,
but there were even geezers older'n me. One person of note, not older'n
me but probably close to my age, was the most excellent piano player at the
Atrium. Played some pretty intricate pieces and needed no sheet
music. I didn't catch his name (wish I had) and he wore white silk
gloves. Why? I asked. Makes it easier to slide his hands over the
keys. You learn something every day.
At one point, Harry and my wife and I were at a place -- Jake's, I think --
that offered as one sample Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, a beer with a tinge of
lemon I find most agreeable in warm weather. I tried to talk Harry into
trying it, citing my sainted mother, God rest her soul, who at 95 discovered
Tiger baseball and beer, Summer Shandy. One beer per game and I had to
take the bottles back (she didn't want her neighbors thinking she was a lush).
Harry refused, and a philosophic discussion on the nature of foods
ensued. Some things are sacrosanct. My wife won't eat fish
tacos. To her, fish has no place in tacos. Tacos should have one
meat, not fish, nor chicken, nor even shredded beef: Ground beef.
That's it. Harry likes fish tacos. But Harry says there's no room
in beer for fruit. Beer should taste like beer. Fruity beer is an
abomination. My wife likes Summer Shandy. What can I say?
Purists. But that's OK. Freedom of choice. It’s what makes
One final note: Mixing crowds and alcohol is a crapshoot. You hope for
the best but never know what's gonna roll. But for the time I was there,
I saw no drunkenness or rowdiness or unseemly behavior. No grousing about
having to wait in a line, no pushing or shoving, everyone just waiting their
turn, more times than not striking up a pleasant conversation with the stranger
next in line. The whole affair was well-organized and well-run.
What I saw was a lot of people enjoying themselves.
Maybe that's why Apps
and Ales only runs 3 hours, so no one over-indulges. Or maybe the people
of Bay City and the people who come to Bay City and the people who promote Bay
City are just real, normal, cool people who know how to have a good time.
A couple days later, Harry and I were discussing the event and how much we
enjoyed it and his words in summation were: "It was simply a delightful
time." Indeed. That's the perfect word. Delightful.
And Downtown Bay City's next party like this is in September, only this time it
will be a Wine Walk. I can't wait.