After years of being “Michigan First, Michigan Forever”, the sought-after and award-winning beers from Short’s Brewing Company are coming to Illinois, Pennsylvania and probably other states down the road.
We’ve not been shy about our adoration of the insanely creative beers crafted by Joe Short and his team of magicians in Bellaire, Michigan. You can find all of our coverage of their brews here — all four pages worth of it — right here.
We’re such fans that we tried our damndest to bring the beers of Short’s to Chicago for last year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week, be it at a festival, a tap takeover, my backyard, anything. Even though they only ever wanted to be a Michigan beer, they were interested in showcasing their beers to a Chicago audience — but only for the purpose of impelling people to Bellaire to drink them. We hit a few speedbumps along the way, but mostly the main reason why it didn’t happen is because the brewery (at the time) had one guiding focus:
Michigan First, Michigan Forever.
But that’s changed.
Short’s announced Thursday it would expand distribution beyond Michigan to, well, survive. In a letter posted to Short’s website Joe Short noted the glut of new breweries opening in the state and beer coming in to Michigan from other states as the driver behind expanding distribution beyond the Mitten state.
“While our Michigan craft beer is thriving, my observation is that there is simply too much awesome beer on the shelves for everyone to enjoy sustainable growth in the near term,” Short said.
We could lament Short’s walking back their “New Glarus of Michigan” status and reversing on its “Michigan First, Michigan Forever” credo, but if shipping beer off to other states is what it takes for the brewery to continue to grow and remain locally owned in northern Michigan — then so be it.
In fact, the only reason that Short’s is heading to Chicago is because the brewing scene is so explosively great in Michigan that competition for shelf and tap space is just so damn fierce. Per the Tribune:
[Short’s CFO Brian] Beckwith said the craft beer industry has grown so dramatically in Michigan that restricting Short’s distribution to its home state — as New Glarus has done in Wisconsin — was no longer viable. The brewery had 24 percent growth in 2015, but the figure was about 40 percent at the beginning of the year and down to about 15 percent by the end of the year. “When it slowed, we started to analyze the Michigan market and ask ourselves about saturation,” Beckwith said.
So with that in mind, we wanted to give those of you in Illinois, Pennsylvania and any other future states where Short’s will send its wares what you have to look forward to.
You see, we fancy ourselves quite the Short’s aficionados. Ryan’s been trucking Short’s beer back to Chicago since they first began distributing their beer in Michigan — and since he actually lives in Michigan now he has plenty of access to their beers. And Karl and his wife spend more than enough time in northern Michigan to sample the full breadth of their portfolio. (Allow us to briefly plug one of our favorite destinations for Short’s beers — Traverse City’s 7 Monks.)
Most of you probably know of Short’s because of their experimental beers; namely Key Lime Pie and Strawberry Short’s Cake. While those two beers are phenomenal in their own right there is so much more to Short’s lineup, from flagships, to seasonals to specialty releases.
Now, there’s no guarantee all of these beers will be hitting shelves in Illinois or Pennsylvania in the next month or so. And its worth noting these aren’t all of the beers Short’s is releasing this year, they’re just the ones we’re most familiar with. But it doesn’t hurt to learn a little about your new favorite brewer before their beers arrive.Huma-Lupa-Licious: An American IPA that strikes balance with a distinct breadiness and variations of piney, citrusy and earthy hop flavors depending on the sip. A top-tier IPA and probably their best wide-release beer. One of the initial beers coming to Chicago.
Soft Parade: A sweet and somewhat deceiving high-ish ABV (7.5%) fruit beer, Soft Parade carries unmistakable rich berry flavors accented by some nice carbonation. It’s also worth noting this isn’t a sour, so if you’re looking for something to make you pucker this isn’t going to do it. It blends fantastically with peanut butter beers to create a sort of PB&J beer. One of the initial beers coming to Chicago.
Space Rock: A newer addition to Short’s everyday lineup, Space Rock is certified gluten-free — if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s a Pale Ale that’s heavy on the hops but still has a touch of malty sweetness. For those of you in Chicago, think Daisy Cutter but with a brighter hoppiness. One of the initial beers coming to Chicago.
Locals Light: This one has been in regular rotation for Ryan ever since its release. Short’s version of a macro carries a slightly heftier body than a run-of-the-mill light American adjunct lager and has some nice, sweet undertones. Think New Glarus Spotted Cow, but a shade lighter.
Bellaire Brown: This roasty brown ale hits all the high notes of a fall sipper; toasted malts, a touch of coffee and a bit of caramel. Floral hops linger in the periphery to provide some balance.
ControversiALE: It used to be called Hangin’ Frank, but the label took a lot of heat for being controversial, hence the name, so Short’s changed it. Simcoe hops star in this American IPA, which features toasted bread qualities alongside bitter grapefruit hops.
Nicie Spicie: This summer into early fall release blends the likes of citrus zest, coriander and peppercorns to make for an easy drinking beer (5% ABV) that is equal parts crisp and complex.
Autumn Ale: A longtime favorite, Short’s Autumn Ale conjures all things fall flavors of freshly picked apples steeped in pear juice, followed by a slight maple syrup sweetness and a warm smokiness — all with an undertone of unsweetened tea. We crossed the border for it here.
Goodnight Bodacious: Falling somewhere between a Barlewyine and a black Double IPA, Goodnight Bodacious is rich and boozy with menacing, piney hop undertones.
Anniversary Ale: A velvety smooth wheatwine, Short’s Anniversary Ale is chalk full of blood oranges, orange zest and peppercorns. The latter makes this more than a one-note wonder. We pulled it from the cellar here.
Short’s Cake: It’s shortcake, in beer form. We love this one — when we can find it. (See our coverage here and here.) The strawberries are very sweet and very pronounced but they don’t make this beer undrinkable. Think of it like eating a spoonful of strawberry jam. Complete with the gritty seeds. Cake and cream finish it off.
Key Lime Pie: Lime juice, creamy marshmallows and bread-y graham cracker flavors all blended together seamlessly – one no more overpowering than the other. It took us a while to get the appeal of this one — see our coverage here, here and here.
Kind Ale: A wet hopped beer that leans more towards earthy and sweet than overpoweringly hoppy.
Black Cherry Porter: Cherries take center stage in the aroma but a backseat on the palate of this porter. You’ll find coffee, dark chocolate, roasted malts and a little peanut butter with a splash of cherry creating a slightly tart finish.
Sticky Icky Icky: Look for nectarines and apricots in this American IPA that can best be described by both the brewer and us as ‘juicy.’
Cup a Joe: A coffee stout, Short’s Cup a Joe is creamy, sweet, and coffee-laden but not overly so. The creme-ness of the stout backs down the bitterness
The Liberator: Citrus hops in the front, led by oranges and lemons, and piney, resinous hops in the back The Liberator checks all the boxes for the hopheads among us.