Wednesday, May 13, 2009

National Craft Beer Week

You'd think we would be the first people to know, but the first 3 days of National Craft Beer Week have already passed us by, and we didn't discover it until today.

In the Ann Arbor area, that probably necessitates visits to some of the microbreweries/brewpubs in town:
Grizzly Peak
Blue Tractor
Arbor Brewing Company
The Corner Brewery

The "official" celebration ends the 17th, so have a few craft beers before Monday rolls around.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

East Lansing - A Comparison

As (approximately) college-aged guys who did the majority of our growing up in Michigan, Nate and I both are pretty familiar with multiple colleges in the state, and even some around the country. We've all heard the stereotypes, and have a pretty good idea of which are true, and which are false.

It is with this in mind that we ventured to East Lansing on a Friday night to take in the nightlife. As a caveat, this trip occurred in the break between classes and exams, which may slightly change the atmosphere. Nate and I have also each been to East Lansing several times, so in the interest of a fair review, I'll sprinkle in a bit of my prior knowledge as well.


The first thing I'll note is that State is famous for charging cover at parties ($5 to buy a solo cup). This is standard issue there, so while it sucks (yes, people who go to State, parties are just free in Ann Arbor), I won't criticize it too much. It is what it is. However, nearly every single bar in East Lansing was charging cover on this particular night as well. We started the night at Woody's, which isn't so much a bar as a Mediterranean restaurant that serves alcohol, and stays open a little later than usual. Definitely not a bar-like atmosphere, and no cover there. However, upon progressing from Woody's, we found that every other bar along Grand River and in the entire area was charging a $5 cover. This, quite obviously, is not the case in Ann Arbor. The only place I know that EVER has such an expensive cover charge is Necto, and even that is only on certain nights. Some places in Ann Arbor will have a $2-3 cover charge, especially on a night that they have a special. However, you'll never wander for more than a few minutes before finding a bar with free entry. In EL, even the bars that were mostly empty were trying to charge $5 cover (and those that were full, like Rick's or __, were probably making a killing). The bars that I've been to on other trips to East Lansing include Rick's (a hybrid between Scorekeeper's and Rick's in Ann Arbor) and the Landshark. Nate loves him some Landshark, so I'll keep that one to him.

Our bar attempt rebuffed, we decided to hit the party scene. It is here where the caveat about academic calendar comes into play, because there were next to zero house parties going on in East Lansing. Sure, it isn't the house party-heavy environment that Ann Arbor is, but not a single one? Really? Eventually, we settled on a party that Nate's friends knew about at a housing co-op. This, predictably, was filled with Hippies, Hipsters, and lots of other things that start with "hip." It was not, however, filled with Solo Cups. Even though we were clutching our $5 bills, ready to take the hit to be able to drink, there were none available. We settled on a beer can that Nate had brought with him (full at the time), refilling it from the keg. Another thing to note at this party was that a huge proportion of the house was non-navigable due to weed smoke. Yes, it was a co-op, so this is probably expected, but it was certainly overwhelming.

The final note on East Lansing is that, for a school allegedly filled with hot girls, I saw maybe 2 of them the whole night, and it certainly wasn't because I saw very few girls. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive because State students love to brag about their girls while simultaneously ripping on those in Ann Arbor, but over the course of my many, many visits, the girls in Ann Arbor are probably more attractive, but dead even at worst.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Writer - Tim Sullivan

As I said earlier I was trying to get someone to assist me with content.

Hurray! It's happened.

Tim, my ex-college roommate has volunteered to write a little. He's a UofM grad in the process of moving back to AA to work as a writer. He's currently working on an East Lansing review vs. Ann Arbor, similar to the State College comparison.

The End.

Babs' Underground Lounge

The Location: 213 S. Ashley St. (a block west of Main St., just south of Grizzly Peak)

The Facts:
Babs' opened in 1997. It's located, as the name would suggest, underground. Slightly hard to find, you must first enter a foyer to the building, then go down a series of stairs. It features two levels. The upper level has large leather chairs, a handful of tables, and two pool tables, the lower level features more tables, and the bar. There is also a photobooth on the lower level. Free WiFi. Open Tuesday through Saturday.

The Specials:
Babs' is a fairly expensive lounge. Bottles are generally around $4, Drafts are around $5. Martini's, the bar's specialty, are generally around $7.
Tuesday: Movie night, $4 40oz bottles of PBR, Olde English, and Miller High Life, Free Pool
Wednesday: Pitchers (4 drinks) of various mixed drinks for $12. Live DJ.
Thursday: $2 PBR and High Life bottles. $3 Vodka Red Bulls.

I first must admit I've only been to Babs' twice. Once on a Thursday, once on a Saturday, so I don't know the place that well. However, in those two times I've been, I've loved it. So relaxed. While some might call it a 'college' bar, it certainly isn't a bar populated by the average college student. While it's not 'quiet' you can certainly hear the people near you without yelling. You also avoid a lot of the patrons showing up to 'get drunk'. It's a very relaxed social bar.

It also is billed as a cigar bar. While there aren't a large amount of cigar smoker, there certainly are a lot of cigarette smokers. As someone who loves the former and, at best, puts up with the latter, this isn't ideal (for me) and a non-smoking section would be nice, but the amount of smoke is going to depend on who you're sitting near.

As I said, I haven't been to very many nights at Babs' and I haven't been able to develop a baseline for its average 'fullness', however, I have been there when it was 'at capacity' and was let in after a few minute wait. Coming down, I saw that it was far from crowded (though certainly not empty). I'm pretty sure the owner elected to have the 'capacity' much smaller than the fire marshal would have allowed to facilitate the atmosphere. This is an indication that the owner would rather cater to people looking for a certain atmosphere than make as much money as possible. A plus in my book.

As a side effect to this, I've noticed that you rarely have to wait to get a drink up at the bar. At that night of full capacity, I was asked what I wanted by the bartending staff almost immediately after laying a hand on the bar. Also, even on a busy night, the waitstaff is making rounds asking for drink orders.

On non-free days, pool is quite expensive. $15 an hour. However, the tables are immaculate. No where in Ann Arbor, other than perhaps Monkey Bar have I seen as nice of tables.

I really like Babs'. I think I'm getting older and that might be a sign, but I'm becoming more intune with the quiet(er) place with nice atmosphere than the place with cheap beer with loud underage drunks. I really think Babs will become one of my main haunts now. I really like it, dispite it's expense. I give it four stars.

Friday, April 24, 2009

(The Real) Cinco de Mayo

Well, Mexican Independence is coming up, so BTB's normal deal on the 5th of the month gets extended.

As I hear it, the festivities will be starting at 3pm, instead of 5pm, $.50 shots of Cuervo and $1 bottles to start. Given that school will be out and significant number of the students who stay in town over the summer are the ones who go out to the bar, this event will again be packed.

If you plan on sitting down, I would show up around 2pm. If you plan on getting a seat at the bar (recommended) I'd show up before 1:30.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mitch's Place

The Location: 1220 S. University (at the corner of S. Forest), Upstairs

The Facts: Mitch's Place relocated a few years ago to it's current location from down the street. The bar features two pool tables, booth and table seating, and several televisions around the room generally with various sporting event on. Supposedly, they have a kitchen that serves various barfood type items, though I have seen one person ever eat there. Mitch's is generally open fairly early in the day, (I've walked in at noon on a weekday) but I don't know their exact hours. They are generally closed Sunday

The Specials:
Monday: $3 60oz pitchers of High Life
Tuesday: Well drinks starting at $1.50 at 9pm and escalating a dollar an hour after that.
Wednesday: $2 pitchers of High Life, $3 long island iced teas, Cover starts at 10pm and is $2.
Thursday: $2 bottles, $3 well drinks
Friday: Various shot specials throughout the night, $3 bottles of Amstel Light and Heiniken.
Saturday: $3 Bottles

Other Info:
Karaoke is on friday nights apparently supplied by some chick name Lori.

What is there to say about Mitch's? Well, it's a bar... That's about it. The nights when it's financially viable to go there, i.e. Mondays and Wednesday, it can get pretty packed, especially on Wednesday. It isn't terrible for meeting new people, but it is a bit loud so you'll have to deal with that when conversing with people. There is generally enough seating, though often the high tables are taken up by people who go to play beer pong. I honestly don't get the 'let's go to the bar and play beer pong' people. It seems strange to me, but I guess it's one of the draws for some people.

Other nights, Mitch's is pretty quiet, especially Tuesdays and Saturdays. Personally, if I plan on going, to Mitch's I show up just before cover starts on a Wednesday. Any time else, it seems like a lame way to go. However, if you do go on that Wednesday, you can drink (terrible) beer for very cheap, and still have a decent time. On Wednesday Mitch's has the same advantage as GTC's, you can run into a bunch of people you know. It also has the problem in that it's pretty generic.

The atmosphere is dull, to be blunt. I'm not a huge fan of the 2nd story bar. To me, a bar should be at least on the first floor, if not the basement, but I guess that's just my preference.

Oh, and the pool isn't free.

I give Mitch's two stars. I'd give it 3 on a Wednesday, but I just can't bring myself to uprate it that much for one really crowed day where there is rarely enough waiters/waitresses on to service the entire crowed. Sorry Jodi.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To me, it look like a Ann Arbor, to me

I've been very privileged in my life. I've been able to visit places all over the world. I've spent time in hundreds of very interesting cities, both foreign and domestic. I've lived in many places as well. However, none has felt more inviting, livable, relaxed and exciting as the one I've lived in for the last 5 years.

The Ace Deuce.

For those reading this, you've at least been here, if not lived here. The plurality, if not the majority of Ann Arborites are what I would describe as Neo-Beatnik Bohemian Hippite Yuppies. It's a strange amalgamation of counter-culture and upper-middle class. The status quo of Ann Arbor and the status quo of the rest of the world seem diametrically opposed. 

While there are the occasional breaches in traditional Ann Arbor style (Jimmy John's/Espresso Royale's replication) the uniqueness of almost all Ann Arbor businesses speaks to Ann Arbor's desire to 'do it's own thing'. Ann Arborites have been able to keep the chain resturants, like McDonald's and Bennigan's out away from this center of progressive culture in the midwest.

Ann Arbor strives to be independant. No where have I lived has a place been so focused on contructing itself as an Ivory Tower (I personally don't find that to be a negative thing, call me pretentious). It features UofM's library system, the 9th largest in the U.S., the Ann Arbor Film Festival, one of the premier festivals for showcasing Avant Garde films, and also happens to be the 2nd oldest film festival in the nation.

If you were to spend more than an hour in the city, and not notice the passion for the arts in Ann Arbor, you would be either Tommy Walker or a pre-Anne Sullivan Helen Keller (well, maybe a post-Anne Sullivan too...).

There are more than 10 small art galleries around town where local artists showcase their work. Most of these are located at the Main Street area. Various arts festivals take place throughout the year, including the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, about to celebrate it's 50th anniversary this July.

I wouldn't say that 'Ann Arbor has something for everyone' because, as much as I enjoy a good cliche, it just isn't true. 'Tree City' is offputting to some, simply because of it's athetics. While it has more trees in an urban area than any place in the world, it also has quite a bit of concete, to offset the 147 parks that populate the city. Some have difficulty settling this fact in their minds. While it can be a beautiful place(Nichols Arboretum, UofM's North Campus, etc.) it certainly is a city, and as such, you have to live like it's a city (lack of parking, heavy traffic, especially at rush hour, etc.).

This post seems like it has little or no point, but I say it all to try point out why I think AA is such a unique place, and, in part, to display what I like about it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Upcoming posts

Just a small post to let you know what's coming up.

I'm currently working on reviews for Babb's, Ashley's, and Mitch's Place.

I'm also in the process of adding another writer to the blog, to assist in content.

Also, I found this link from 10 years ago, but it's still pretty apt, and I found it humorous.

Updated Event: Euchre Tourney


BTB's euchre league is now held on Tuesdays.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dominick's is Open!

Huzzah! Constant Buzz is back!

Dominick's opened earlier this week. I stopped in this afternoon, and all is well.

Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival

While I want to focus this blog on Ann Arbor area specific content, I feel like I could shoehorn this in with enough B.S., so here goes, and try to stick with me.

Last weekend, I went to the MBG's winter beer festival in Grand Rapids. As at least an amatuer beer snob, I have to say, this was heaven for me. Dispite it taking place in the cold parking lot of the Whitecap's stadium, and my lack of appropriate clothing (I forgot to bring my jacket and shoes without holes in them), I have to say I had an absolute blast.

In the parking lot, they had 3 tents set up, with booths for each brewery. Each of the over 35 breweries brought anywere from 3 to 12 of their beers with them. When you arrive you are given 10 tokens to exchange for about half of a small cup of beer (~4-6 oz). Additional tokens could be purchased 20 for $10. However, often you could simply not give the people serving you a token and they wouldn't care. Tickets for entry were $35 if purchased beforehand and $40 if purchased at the gate, but the event sold out several days beforehand anyway.

Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing company showed up to offer up some of their beers, but Blue Tractor did not (not a huge loss, in my opinion). Both seemed fairly busy from the look of it, which I suppose is good for motivating people to come to AA and stimulate our alcohol driven economy...

But actually relating this to the Ann Arbor area is as follows: The MBG Summer Festival will be in Ypsilanti July 24-25, which is, as most of you know, just a hop, skip, and dodging-of-gunfire away. Tickets go on sale May 1st. I'm guessing this will be a bigger event so I'd make an effort to get tickets early. Get out there and support Michigan breweries!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cinco de Montho at Cantina

BTB Cantina, once a month, has a night of extreme specials. Starting at 5pm on the 5th of every month, all bottles of beer are $1 and shots of Cuervo are only $.50. Every hour the price of each of these goes up by $.50 and settles at $2.50.

While I have a love-hate relationship with tequila, as I believe we all do, this is a rockin' deal for that first hour. I do believe this is actually in violation of the law (selling alcohol under the cost to purchase - Handle of JCE ~ $34/40 shots), but hey, who needs the law?

The first time I went was in January (coinciding with a friend's birthday) and it wasn't crowded at all. However, I also stopped in for Febuary 5th at around 5:15pm and it took 30 minutes in line to get a drink (I promptly left after said drink).

Next month's Cinco de Montho will probably be equally or more crowded, as student's will be concluding their first week back from Spring Break, and needing to unwind.