Serious Eats: Drinks

A Pint With: Joe Short and Tony Hansen, Short's Brewing Company, Michigan

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[Photographs: Brian Confer]

Of the many excellent IPAs of the Midwest that we've tasted, the Huma Lupa Licious from Short's Brewing Company stands out as an underhyped gem. So today we're checking in with Joe Short and Tony Hansen who head up the brewing at Short's.

Names: Joe Short and Tony Hansen
Location: Bellaire, Michigan

How did you get into brewing? When did each of you realize you wanted to brew professionally?
Joe: I originally tried brewing at home to circumvent the age barrier at 19. Fell in love with brewing, knew right away I wanted to make beer for a living.

Tony: I actually started making wine with fruit from my Dad's garden every fall. Soon I realized a lot of my "equipment" for winemaking could be used to brew beer year round. After brewing my first few batches of beer, I felt like I was pretty good at it and really enjoyed doing it. Around that time, I met Joe and saw what he was doing and how he was doing it at Short's, and I felt compelled to be a part of it.

How did Short's come about? What have been some of the challenges along the way?
Joe: While brewing at home I always called my creations "Short's Brew" so I guess it stuck. There are challenges everyday, which I now call job security. Everything from bad beer, to financial stresses, to staffing, quality control, growth management, systems integrations, field issues, exhaustion, etc.

What is the most important lesson you've learned over the course of your brewing career?
Tony: Anything in life worth doing is not easy; and to make sure all of the pressure has been bled from the fermentor before you try to dryhop it.

What's the Michigan beer scene like? Has it changed since you've been in business?
Joe: The Michigan beer scene is awesome! It's like a brotherhood of artists and craftsmen. It's only getting better, and so are the beers and beer production. Go Michigan!

Can you recommend a few favorite Michigan breweries?
Joe: Founders, Kuhnehenn Brothers, Dragon Mead

How would you describe your brewing style—is there something that ties all Short's beers together?
Tony: Blind ambition and fearlessness.

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[Photograph: Short's Brewing Company]

You've brewed some pretty wacky stuff—Strawberry Short's Cake, S'mores Stout—how do you come up with the recipes?
Tony: Most of the time it starts with hanging out and drinking a few beers or eating something delicious. We have a pretty creative and attention deficient group, so it doesn't take long for someone to start talking about the next concept beer. After the initial idea is laid out, I think formulating the recipe and engineering the brew are a matter of small scale experiments, trial and error, past experience, and maybe a little luck.

We're major fans of your Huma Lupa Licious IPA. Can you tell us a little about how you pack so much flavor into that beer?
Joe: I think the label says it all: "a complex malt and hop theme park in your mouth." For something as hoppy as Huma, the malt backbone is sophisticated and delicate, but enough to compliment the hop overdose. We use a shit-ton of hops in this beer. Our floor near the brew house is permanently stained green from cleaning out the kettle after brewing Huma because we use so much hop.

Have you had any disasters in the brewhouse? Do beers tend to come out the way that you pictured them?
Tony: We have had a few disappointments and heartaches-normally caused by trying to do too much too fast. But for the most part, our beers turn out eerily like we picture them.

What are you working on now? What upcoming releases can Michigan folks look forward to?
Joe: We're working on lots of stuff this year, so much we've even dialed it back a few notches.So far Michiganders can look forward to Black Licorice Lager, Anniversary Ale, Imperial Spruce India Pilsner, Nicie Spicie, Key Lime Pie, Hangin Frank, and maybe Strawberry short's cake and S'more Stout!

Tony: Plus a batch of Agave Peach Wheat at the pub. Also, we have been toying with the idea of making a sour beer.

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[Photograph: Short's Brewing Company]

You're a small brewery—will we ever see your beers on the East coast? What are the benefits of staying small?
Joe: Probably not. The power of the smallness will keep us happily employed here in Michigan. Staying small allows us to keep quality under control as well as being able to diversify the menu. Staying small will also allow me to control volume and growth at a pace I'm comfortable with. It's also hopefully going to bring people to Michigan. We call it the Short's Brewing Company Michigan Stimulus package.

What's your favorite Short's beer and food pairing? Are there any unusual pairings that you love?
Tony: We had an Imperial beer series release in 2007 at the pub that featured some of the most amazing pairings I've ever experienced. My favorites were Imperial Peaches & Creme with prosciutto wrapped melon, Imperial Black Licorice Lager with chocolate covered orange segments, and Imperial Spruce India Pilsner with smoked trout and crème fraiche.

More Pints with Beer Folks

Doug Odell, Odell Brewing Company »
Tomme Arthur, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey »
Greg Hall, Goose Island Beer Company »
Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company »
Dan Carey, New Glarus »
Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River »
Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery »

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