Oct 3, 2018

Tri-City Brewing: Beer, more beer, popcorn (usually), crayons (!), well-behaved dogs and canning on the fly

Tri-City Brewing: Beer made here
The hairy guy's report:

Fashioning himself a reverse beer snob in minor protest of all the strange beers flooding the market, the hairy guy often asks for Bud Light.

But he's been rethinking that since reading a book he found at the library downtown. It's the story of Big Beer (Anheuser-Busch and Miller, themselves part of even bigger corporations which have since merged) vs. craft brewers, of mass-produced cheap beers vs. pricier brews that are described like fine wines. The big players eventually bought up some craft brewers -- forcing beer aficionados to declare loyalty either to still-independent brewers or to the beer itself, regardless of ownership.

And during a week when a Supreme Court nominee's longtime love of cold beer played an undisputed role in an otherwise heated and disputed Senate hearing, we sensed a visit was in order to Tri-City Brewing Co., the local craft brewer.

To be clear: This is a brewery. Tri-City serves its own assorted beers, and that's about it. Also on tap are three wines ($4.50, described as a "collaboration" with Cascade Winery of Grand Rapids), hard cider (also $4.50, with apples from Lehman's in Freeland) and nonalcoholic root beer ($2); the cider and root beer are made in house. For a shot of whiskey, you'll have to go elsewhere.

Tri-City moved almost two years ago to a new building on the winding Shrestha Drive near Euclid and Wilder, amid a bunch of medical offices and the Bay County Civic Arena, after a decade renting an old place on Water
Inside the tasting room at Tri-City
near the city wastewater plant and next door to Hooligan's. The old place had a side room with a good display of local beer memorabilia that didn't make the move; Sharon, one of the bartenders, said the stuff went back to its owner.

And in keeping with the sensibilities of craft brewing, the barroom isn't called a bar; it's a "tasting room."

Tri-City's best-known brand is Hell's Half Mile (sometimes mistakenly ordered as "Hell's Half Acre," a reference either to an odd place in Wyoming, a red light district of old in Ft. Worth, Texas or a mostly forgotten movie). Hell's Half Mile was the section of downtown Bay City once known for saloons, brothels and the like.

We tried a "flight" -- four beers of our choosing, each in a small glass. In keeping with the "drink local" theme, we picked four dark-to-light beers with local-sounding names: Brownhoist (described as "medium bodied with a rich mahogany-brown color"), Water Street Ale ("rich toasty malt focused ale with caramel undertones"), Edson Pilsner ("dense head provides floral and herbal aromas") and Bay City Light ("an easy drinking ale with a light malt aroma and flavor").

We'd happily drink any of them again, though we can't recall noticing any caramel undertone or floral and herbal aromas. No doubt they were there somewhere. Surely, though, "easy drinking" is an apt description for Bay City.

For food, you're welcome to bring in whatever you want. Also welcome are well-behaved dogs.

There is good self-serve free popcorn. (A sign politely notes that beer is the priority and if the popcorn machine empties, you might have to wait. It also asks not to feed popcorn to
Sharon behind the bar at Tri-City Brewery
animals.) The menu lists a cheese and crackers plate, but they were out of it when we showed up. A food truck sometimes shows up.

For non-beer amusement, TVs in the room show sports (which, when we were in, included an extended poker tournament that vied for attention). No pool, shuffleboard or any of that. But assorted board games, decks of cards, crayons and coloring books are stashed under the popcorn machine. (We've never seen crayons and coloring books in a bar, but of course this is called a tasting room, not a bar, and maybe that's the difference.) There is occasional live music.

Beer soap, some clothing items (including socks) and other brewery logo items are for sale, along with six- or four-packs of beer. There's also a machine that fills a can of beer on the spot ("We can can on the fly," says Sharon); it's $4.50 for a 12-ounce can of higher-alcohol beers or 16-
Games, cards, crayons, coloring books
ouncers for the others. This at first seems silly, since cans or bottles of beer cost less than $4.50, but some of Tri-City's beers are available only on tap.

Membership in the Beer Club ($25 a year) provides various discounts on glasses of beer, growlers and six-packs, and special events. A side room is available for parties, meetings, etc.

Hours are 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-midnight Friday and Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday. (Last call is a half-hour before closing, they note.)

This is an actual brewery, of course, and you can catch a glimpse of the operation through double doors next to the bar. The location is a bit off a main drag, but then so was the old place. (The owner noted in an interview before the move that a location was needed to accommodate trucks.)

We're inclined to like this place -- and its beer -- if only for sticking with the "Tri-City" name -- ignoring the "Great Lakes Bay Region" moniker that the local PR types keep pushing.

But out for dinner the other night, we instinctively asked again for a Bud Light. Habits are hard to break.

See Doc’s report on Tri-City Brewery: One of the cleanest places in town

  The particulars:
  Tri-City Brewing Co.
  4170 Shrestha Drive

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