What’s Brewing: Tashmoo Biergarten

A pop-up biergarten in West Village gets things hopping
Photographs by Paul Hitz

Pop-up retail — trendy, temporary selling spaces — sprouted in metro Detroit throughout last summer. The crop included clothes, art, and food in locations as ephemeral as summer wildflowers and as solid as skyscrapers and the ground beneath our feet.

CityLoft swept into downtown, backed by Troy’s retail powerhouse Somerset Collection, with the swanky style afforded by such clothiers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, and Neiman Marcus. In a more grass-roots uprising, Midtown’s 71 Pop opened a permanent space that will give a revolving roster of emerging artists a month-long run to deal their creations. And while some might argue that Eastern Market was the original food-based pop-up (long before it was a trend), Detroit Brunch added vegan food to the mix with a take-out stand followed by a weekend run at Cliff Bell’s.

On the site of the demolished Lafayette Building downtown, the Lafayette Greens community garden took root, courtesy of Compuware.

Fast-forward to harvest season, when Tashmoo, a German-style biergarten, took up residence for five Sundays at the corner of Van Dyke and Agnes, in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood. The project was led by a couple, Aaron Wagner and Suzanne Vier (of Simply Suzanne Granola), and an all-volunteer task force dedicated to building the tables, benches, and fences from reclaimed materials. Tashmoo neighbors hoped that the new “garten” would grow over the site’s sordid past (it’s adjacent to a tear-down that once housed crime and drugs). On the bright side, they were able to salvage some building materials from the demolition to create the new hot spot.

For many city neighborhoods, a classic watering hole within walking distance is rare. Resident Jim Boyle says Tashmoo was long overdue. Honest John’s move to Midtown left him without a place he could access as a pedestrian without having to cross six lanes of Jefferson Avenue. As the biergarten plan was still coming together with workers anticipating autumn drinking and cornhole playing, the team was already thinking about growth in 2012. They envision three seasons of beer drinking housed under a permanent structure. Until then, the garteners hoped to quench a thirst for local brew — and lore. The brew, served legally through a temporary license, included lagers, IPAs, and porters — from such breweries as Jolly Pumpkin, Bell’s, and MillKing It.

As for the lore, the name Tashmoo came from a steamer that once plied the Detroit River; its engineer lived in the now-demolished house adjacent to the site, which, like many other city plots, is proving to be newly fertile ground — soil where the 2011 crop of pop-ups may already have cast seeds for next year’s growing season.

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