Sep 28, 2015

Tavern 101: A record-breaking Delirium Tremens and a tall, cold Sock Monkey. But no luck with a Dead Guy

Tavern 101: Indoor and out
The hairy guy's report:

Back in the summer, about a week after Tavern 101 opened on the ground floor of the new Mill End Lofts building downtown, the hairy guy went in with his wife and some friends. A menu listed the available 50-some drafts but had no prices.

Well, he figured, this isn't the kind of place to go for cheap beers. But how much can a beer cost, anyway? So for lack of any other criteria and aiming to try something new, he chose one for its name: Delirium Tremens, from Belgium. Harry was prepared for a case of the shakes, perhaps a view of Wenonah Park across the street in paisley.

What he got instead was something less than a pint, in a sort of brandy snifter glass. The beer was fine (owing perhaps in part to its 8.5% alcohol content). He experienced no delirium, which was good, and was thinking he could drink one again sometime, until the bill showed up. It weighed in at $9.95.

Of course, if the hairy guy was worried about it, he should have asked before ordering. On the other hand, he never thought a draft could cost that much. Welcome to 2015, eh?

No serious harm was done. It did raise a question, though: If he picked one beer at random and
Row of taps at Tavern 101
it was $9.95, were others on the menu even more expensive?

The answer came a week later, when Tavern 101's beer menu was posted online, complete with prices. And wouldn't you know it: He'd managed, at random, to pick the most expensive draft available. Maybe you pay for the name, though a lower-case case of delirium tremens isn't much of a status thing.

Fast forward to September, and a couple more visits for a closer look.

Tavern 101 (named for its address on Center Avenue, not as an intro college course in beer) is run by the same people who operate the nearby Old City Hall and American Kitchen. The interior has spiffy wood walls. The outside walls are lots of glass. Big-screen TVs show sports. The men's room has an interesting concrete counter. Except for a couple of artifacts (like an old elevator door), the place has nothing in common with the Mill End Store that long stood on the site.

There are some oddities. For instance, the logo says "Established 2014," even though it didn't
Kyle, a server, at Tavern 101
open until this summer. Kyle, a friendly server, explained that the place got its license and plans began back in 2014. But years from now, somebody will wonder about that.

And then there are the beers.

We usually list the brews on tap, but we're not even going to try this time. The prices range from the still-$9.95 Delirium Tremens down to a 16-oz. Bud Light for $3.29. A half-dozen bottles are also listed -- including, strangely, a 12-oz. bottle of the same Bud Light for $3.49 (pay more, get less), as well as Flying Monkeys Acadian Maple Groove and Flying Monkeys Chocolate Manifesto, each with 10% alcohol, in big 25-oz. bottles at $15 each. There's also a long wine list.

Harry tried a Sock Monkey Returns (6.2% alcohol, $5.45), from a brewery in Lake Orion. It was fine, but who comes up with these names? Was there a Sock Monkey Departs? And why did he return? And are the flying monkeys somehow linked to the sock monkeys? Apparently all the good beer names -- Blatz, for instance -- were already taken.

On yet another visit, Mrs. Hairy Guy got a lavender berry lemon martini and loved it. Harry asked for a Manhattan and was given a lot of options for whiskeys. He settled on Jack Daniel's
Door from the old Mill End Store
(which turned out to cost an extra $2) and got a good-sized and strong drink.

And after surviving the earlier Delirium Tremens, he wanted to go for broke and try something called Dead Guy Ale. He was looking forward to telling people that he swallowed a whole dead guy. But some of the tap lines, including that one, were being cleaned (which made the bar area smell like bleach, but somebody has to clean them sometime) and it was out of service. So now Harry can tell people he tried to taste a dead guy but there was a bad smell and he just couldn't do it.

Despite all the beer, Tavern 101 bills itself as a restaurant, and it does have plenty of food -- flatbread pizzas, appetizers such as fried calimari ("Tubes and tentacles," the menu says, helpfully), salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches and some dinner dishes. The name, however, is Tavern 101, not Restaurant 101, so we declare it a bar. You won't find other typical bar stuff, though -- no pool table or other games, no lottery machines, no bags of potato chips.

Bottom line: If you worry about the prices of drinks, this might not be your regular place to go (though the beer menus now include the prices, so you know what you're getting into). But if you don't much worry about it, and/or if you like beer, you'll find a world of stuff here.

Tavern 101 is open till midnight (or later if people stick around, or maybe earlier on weekdays if nobody is). The kitchen is open till 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Sundays). We're told plans are to start having live acoustic music some nights starting in October.

See Doc's report on Tavern 101: An anchor of Bay City’s renaissance

  The particulars:
  Tavern 101
  101 Center

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