How History Shaped the Pub (and Vice Versa)

Within my first week of working at Short’s, Joe handed me a book to read.  It was titled Beer In America: The Early Years (1587-1840). Joe wanted my early beer education to be focused on the history of the American Colonial tavern and how it shaped American culture.  More importantly, Joe wanted me to truly understand how the public house or tavern, as they are most notably referred to, were key to the economic growth of early colonial settlements. Without beer, and the common meeting place where it was consumed, the world as we know it would be considerably different. Joe used this foundation to shape what the Short’s Pub would look and feel like.

Early American pub history begins with the European settlers. They were wary of water due to the unsanitary conditions of the time in Europe. This caution traveled with them to the New World, despite the perfectly pristine condition of the rivers and streams. Therefore, they brewed a lot of beer, in a wide array of styles that originated from their native homelands.  Beer was their potable source of hydration and it provided some essential nourishment.

PUBBlogThe need and interest in beer grew and led to a surge of pubs and taverns. These establishments served as a place to hear the latest news and socialize with neighbors. They also provided drink, food, shelter, and a space to conduct business.

When Joe Short decided to open Short’s Brewing Company he acknowledged that beer was a key driving factor to keeping a brewery open, but he also understood the importance of putting time and effort into the atmosphere where people consume the beer. He decided to use the historical pub as an inspiration for what his pub would look like and how he knew it would be successful in a small Northern Michigan town.

pubblog2To this point, the placement of the pub was more calculated than most people thought.  It became a destination, similar to the taverns of old, and instilled the same types of feelings in our patrons today as it would have early colonists. It is a place of sanctuary and common ground for all. He created an aesthetic that would get people to stay, come back, and bring friends and family. This is why people say the beer “always tastes better at the pub”. (Which it does)

Joe also removed many of the modern technologies that have been commonly used in recent decades to fill our spare time and attempt to keep our minds busy. He replaced the TV’s with good old fashioned conversation, artistically crafted beer as the common talking point, and tossed in some traditional forms of entertainment like live music performed by local musicians.

cadseatsHowever, the pub did not always look like it does today. Many folks may remember the early interior of the pub and fondly think back to the days of the famous “Cadillac seats” and the random assortment of couches, tables, and folding chairs. It wasn’t until the first round of remodels back in early December of 2011, that Joe was able to implement even more of his “perfect design” for the pub, building upon these historical “blueprints” from the past, and positioning us for our future growth.

From the stone mason work, to the beautiful tile mosaic on the pub floor, to the compass rose wood detail placed in the North Bar’s center, Joe did it all himself with the help of a few close friends. When the decision was made to build a second bar in barMarch of 2013, no expense was spared, and the “feel” of the pub was not lost.

As we sit on the verge of another extensive remodel, and the first official pub expansion, there are inevitably people who worry about the future of the pub and what will possibly be lost through this next series of changes.  All I can assure you is that there is no person who the pub means more to than Joe Short, and if anything, these substantial changes that we have made to the pub over the course of 10 years have finally allowed Joe to see his ultimate vision become a reality. That is, a place where even more weary travelers and those looking for a place to assemble can do so in the same comfy confines as our forefathers.  But why take my word for it, when you can read for yourself Joe’s original vision for the pub conceived over 10 years ago when Short’s was a mere dream in the shell of a building newly acquired by a young aspiring 24 year old student of beer and history.

joeblog“Unlike the common misconception of the word “bar” pertaining to all smoky establishments which serve alcoholic beverages to inebriated consumers sitting on stools who slouch over elevated countertops, pub life is nothing related to the sort. Pubs are not dark and scary, but are actually quite vibrant in many respects. They accommodate a patronage of lively guests of all walks of life. At Short’s our pub is built for those who appreciate quality goods and services. The pub has a “feeling” about it. Something of an “instant comfort” extracted from the atmosphere and the warm smiles that greet you. Bright sunlight shines through the windows encouraging growth from the abundance of plant life. Traditional games are being played over pints of beer and baskets of food. Commerce is lively and happy. Life is good in the pub. The happy and energized pubtender facilitates to the consumer, and conveys the theory of our craft beer fermentations. The quality of healthful deli fare parallels that of the beer. No fryers or grills, everything from our kitchen is of choice ingredients composing of specialty dips, soups, toasted sandwiches, and pizzas. The pub showcases culture through art and music. The staff is equally complementary to our firm handle on excellence. They have a firm grasp on our core values and are able to convey them to curious consumers.”  –Joe Short 2004


WOJ2Jon, or “Woj,” was originally from the suburbs of Chicago and first started coming to Michigan with his family for summer vacations.  After graduation Jon decided he wanted to live in Northern Michigan and already had some friends there who happened to be opening a brewery. Getting established in northern Michigan was not easy, jobs were few and far between, with the most readily available ones being in the hospitality industry.  Over the next few years, Jon honed his skills in all aspects of the restaurant industry particularly as a chef. Then in the winter of 2007, Jon was approached by his now good friend Joe about coming to work for him at his brewery.