Repeal Day, Monroe and Prohibition

A state convention gathered in Utah on this date in 1933 to ratify the 21st Amendment. A three quarter majority was needed to make it official and Utah became the 36th state to do so. Making December 5 the official day the 21st Amendment was ratified. Now this date will be known as Repeal Day.
Of course history is more complicated than that and I plan on covering some of those stories in the next few months. During my research I discovered a great blog post by Kathy Warnes. It is about Monroe during the beginning of prohibition. I will share the first paragraph then link it below. It’s fun and informative.

Rumrunner Muskrat La Framboise preferred to move his bootleg whiskey stored in jute bags tied together at the tops like ears in his boat equipped with a stopper resembling a bathtub plug. He rowed along the Detroit River Highway from Ecorse to its mouth near Monroe taking orders and delivering his liquid refreshment. When a government agent or policeman spotted him and gave chase, he pulled the plug and the boat would sink. After the drama of the chase and capture died down, he’d return to his boat and dive for his liquor, or if he had a large shipment, he would bring a few friends along to help. Muskrat became as skilled as a loon diving for fish at this method of River recycling.

Bootlegging Down The Avenue de Booze

Featured Brewery Site: 1121 S. Monroe St.

1121 S Monroe

Welcome to our first Featured Brewery Site. Today we are taking a look at the old Wm. Noland & Sons building. It was once used to store excavating equipment. At 5 thousand square feet, it is large and open space with high ceilings. The location is less than a mile south of town on the edge of the city line.
The large space would give it an Original Gravity feel. The openness means you can create any design you wish. The property itself is around 2.5 acres which leaves plenty of space for parking. You will need it because there is no street parking.
The best feature of this property is the back section which runs along Plum Creek near Lake Monroe. That has unlimited potential. It can be used as a patio, a small hop garden, an area for games(volleyball, cornhole etc.) or even a sitting area similar to the Hoplot where you could have a BBQ pit and maybe a fire place which would take special permit.
The biggest problem with this property is the cost. It’s over 400k and in the end may cost around a million to make into a brewery. That is a huge investment. But if this property was done correctly it has the potential to be unique enough to make it worth the drive to our corner Michigan.

Beer Won’t Make You Bilious

I was doing some research today and found this Green Seal beer ad from 1915. It was brewed by the Buckeye Beer Company out of Toledo, Oh.
I love the health benefits that Green Seal claimed. It’s really hard to read some of the print but I did see that “good beer makes good blood”. It was probably true that beer was healthier than milk and water. I feel they implied that a government official bestowed a green seal of approval to their beer. I picture C. Everett Koop.

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The Remains of a Brewery?

Wahl Brewery stood on the banks of the River Raisin in Monroe, MI for about 50 years. Most of the pictures I have found in the public record are drawings. Two of these drawings contradict the location and layout of the brewery.
I’ve walked around the site where the brewery stood and it hit me what a strange piece of property it is. There is a big wall that runs along side the river, steps that walk down to a lower level of the site and an old foundation that separates the lower land from upper. I plan on looking into it more when there isn’t a foot and a half of snow on the ground. But for now I am sharing these pictures with you.

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This is the wall that could be the foundation of the brewery. If this is the case then the first of two brewery pictures must be the more accurate one.

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Monroe – Birthplace of the Michigan Wine Industry

By Kevin and Sarah Nash

The 2nd annual Monroe Wine Crawl is next Friday, July 18. Although the event is already sold out I thought it would be a good excuse to do a post on Monroe’s wine history. Have you ever wondered why a town founded by the French on the River Raisin seems to have little to no wine industry? Would you be surprised to find out Monroe in fact did have a wine industry and that it was the Traverse City of it’s day. I know you feel puzzled, what you thought was reality has been turned on it’s head. I feel like I did when I found out that Frank Sinatra was married to Harpo Marx’s ex-wife (which is true). So what happened Monroe?! You used to be cool.

I came across a book a few months ago called, “The History of Michigan Wines” By Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis which detailed the startling facts.

When Michigan became a state in 1837,  Monroe was one of the largest cities.  According to the book, Within a few decades Monroe became the birthplace of Michigan’s commercial wine industry.

It started with Joseph Sterling  who arrived in Monroe from New York in 1835 and built several private homes and public buildings in Monroe including the original city hall.  He served as mayor from 1862-1863. The authors write, “Perhaps as Joseph traveled on Lake Erie the combination of the sight of the grape vines on Kelleys Island and the wild grape vines flourishing along the Detroit River and the River Raisin influenced his future profession as wine maker.”

In 1863 Joseph planted the state’s first vineyard for the purposes of commercial winemaking in Monroe County, although the first vineyard in Monroe  was planted in 1854 by J.C.W. Greening, owner of the RiverRaisin Valley Nursery. Joseph’s vineyard was two and a half acres and was planted along with an apple orchard near the docks in Monroe.  Successful vineyards on nearby islands inspired him to plant a vineyard.  He planted 2, 050 vines on twelve acres of property….A few years later, in 1868,  commercial winemaking in Michigan began when he established  Pointe Aux Peaux Wine Company. The winery was named for the point of land that jut out into Lake Erie.  In 1871, Pointe Aux Peaux Winery made five thousand gallons of wine.

The winery’s reputation grew when they received a gold medal and recognition for presenting the best collection of wines at the Michigan State Fair. The following year, Pointe Aux Peaux was awarded a gold medal for perfect vineyard. The judges noted they, “had never seen any vineyard better laden with fruit or in better condition in any respect.”

Success breeds imitation and by 1873 there were more than 20 vineyards on nearly 200 acres producing over a half a million pounds of grapes. By 1873, the Monroe wine industry was booming and had earned a reputation for quality. There were 309 acres of vines; 184,673 pounds of grapes were sold, and 12,355 gallons of wines were made. (25)

So what happened? There is no real satisfying answer here. Upon Joseph Sterling’s death in 1891, the prohibitionist wife of his partner, Samuel P. Williams’, closed the winery. In the late 1800s a fungal disease known as “grape rot” hit Monroe. This combined with the growing strength of the temperance movement and the deaths of the wine making pioneers doomed Monroe’s wine industry. After the repeal of prohibition, several new wineries reopened, but   relocated to southwest Michigan where vineyards established prior had survived by supplying grapes to Welch’s grape juice company.

Monroe  is a farming community that takes a lot  of pride in it’s history. Perhaps a glance at  its past could help move the city toward a better future. I’d like to think that all we need is a few pioneering spirits like Joseph Sterling who can see Monroe for it’s potential. People with a passion for their craft and an uncompromising commitment to quality.  There are signs that it is  happening right now in the county through the efforts of Jon Trelor owner of J. Trees Wine Cellars who cultivates grapes and apples to make  fantastic wine  and cider right here in Petersburg and Brad Sancho at Original Gravity who set up shop in Milan on the Monroe side of the county line and is turning out consistently top notch craft beer. Now if a winery or microbrewery would just open within walking distance of our house.

 

 

4th Annual March of Dimes Michigan Beer & Wine Tasting

2014 beer tastingA week that includes the first day of spring and St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty damn good week. But when it ends with The 4th Annual March of Dimes Michigan Beer & Wine Tasting, you just turned it up to eleven.

This fantastic event held on the Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day has become the biggest craft beer event in Monroe. It has great food, fabulous Michigan craft beer and wine and the money goes to a worthy cause, The March of Dimes.

Below are the event details and vendor list…

4th Annual Michigan Beer & Wine Tasting.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 1-4pm

Tickets are $35.00 in advance, $40.00 at the door.

Price includes 12 3-ounce pours, lunch buffet and door prizes. You’ll also have an opportunity to bid on silent auction baskets & 50/50 raffles. Tickets are available at Harbor Inn & Ale, by calling Darcy Merritt @ (734) 968-7991, (734) 457-4445 or by calling Mac Merritt @ (734) 552-6410 or at Keybank North Telegraph office. In order to make sure we have enough beer, wine & food we only sell a small amount of tickets at the door.  Advance tickets are recommended.

Vendors include…

Arbor Brewing Co.
Arcadia
Bell’s
Bonafide Winery
Brewery Vivant
Chelsea Alehouse
Dark Horse Brewery
Fenton Winery and Brewing
Founders
Motor City Brewing Works
Mt. Pleasant Brewing
North Peak Brewing Co.
Tabor Hill Winery
Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery

129 Lounge, Jake’s Liquor & Atwater Hop-A-Peel Launch Party

Is everyone ready for spring? I know I am! Good news everyone! The first day of spring is only 2 weeksHop-A-Peel away. The end of this winter deserves a good party and 129 Lounge, Jake’s Liquor and Atwater are throwing one.

This is a cool event. The premiere craft beer store is getting together with one of the best and first good beer bars in Monroe to put on a launch party. I am hoping it’s a nice enough night to walk down and enjoy some Hop-A-Peel. Let’s think positive.

129 Lounge, Jake’s Liquor & Atwater Hop-A-Peel Launch Party

Thursday, March 20 7:00pm until 10:00pm

Come join us at The 129 Lounge in conjunction with Atwater Detroit Brewery and Jake’s Liquor for Atwater’s 2014 launch of Hop-A-Peel!!! It’s the first time Hop-A-Peel will be available in bottles, Jake’s Liquor will be taking care of that, and we’ll have pints and samplings on tap of this wonderful I.P.A. from Detroit’s Atwater Brewery!!! We’ll have MI Craft Beer specials, stuff to give to you, Atwater Beer, more stuff, drinks, and fun. Come out and show your support for Atwater Detroit, Jake’s Liquor, and 129 Lounge…Say YES to Michigan!!!