I just love that new bar smell.
Frankly, I don’t particularly object to that old bar smell either—the ones where the stale beer mingles with wet cardboard and overflowing toilets from a septic backup and indelible redolence of generations of barflies, mostly because I cut my alcoholic teeth in those kinds of dives.
It just so happens that 8° Plato doesn’t look, smell, or feel anything like that. Know what does? The Old Miami, which is just down the street on Cass in Midtown Detroit.
On the other hand, at 8° Plato, the smell of new paint and fresh beer along with an overall bouquet of sweet Cass Corridor renaissance is most invigorating. Of course, along with the re-animated storefronts, we’re now supposed to call it ‘Midtown Detroit’ instead of the Cass Corridor, so I suppose, for the sake of supporting this neat little spot, I shall. The Old Miami is totemically Cass Corridor, just as 8° Plato is solidly Midtown, and happens to be the best gin join to open its doors in a long, long time.
Not that 8° Plato sells gin. Or wine, unless you count mead, which I don’t. It sells craft beer and craft cider, hundreds of varieties if each. Like it’s mothership in Ferndale (which opened in 2011), it is by far the most complete collection of small-batch, under-the-radar artisan beers and ciders to be found in Michigan, and potentially, in the Midwest. The Ferndale outlet sells 8000 cases of craft beer a year, and hundreds of kegs of the same; the 8° Plato Detroit lists nearly a thousand labels.
They take this stuff very seriously; mash and cider is no joke, even though the owner’s name is Costello and was a stand-up comic for 25 years.
Scott Costello Ain’t Your Granddad’s Lou
Scott’s partner in business and life is Bridgid Beaubien, who has a Ph.D. and is not Scott’s straight man, although she’s straight. She’s a professor at Eastern Michigan University and shares Scott’s love for the obscure sorts of malt beverages they traffic in. Beers like Belgoo Looper from Belgoober and Strutter from Bitter Old Fecker—stuff that you don’t have to be a stand-up comic to love, although it helps.
Speaking of which, throughout Tim’s quarter century of sucking up guffaws and facing down heckles, I assumed he met many yucksters, and I asked him to toss out the name of a real unknown comic—one without a paper bag over his/her head—that he rates as far funnier than most of the top names in the biz.
He came up with Tim Cavanaugh without missing a beat, so I YouTubled him and you should too.
But, Back to Brew…
So, I knew Tim from years back when I stopped into the original 8° Plato in Ferndale, and I think at the time I tried to write a story about him then, but too many Dana Plato jokes kept surfacing in my prose, and even a former comedian doesn’t need that kind of press.
Not this time, promise: Although the store is at the far end of the Cass Corridor hip strip that suddenly includes such ‘it’ destinations as La Feria Tapas and Jack White’s vinyl-pressing studio, it’s a skip and a jump from the under-construction hockey stadium. Although Costello looked at a number of other Downtown spots before settling on this one, I believe he’s hit pay dirt, because if there’s one thing Wingnuts love even more than hockey, it’s beer.
What Does 8° Plato Detroit Have That 8° Plato Ferndale Doesn’t?
Taps and more taps, and although bugle taps may be a good way to finalize the day, the sixteen draft beers at 8° Plato should get you there in style. The selection changes regularly, so the five I tried may not even be available by the time you get there, but here goes anyway:
(I warn you in advance, though, some of these brews are upwards of eleven percent ABV, so they are not for the faint of liver.)
Jolly Pumpkin Pincha-Diskos: A Saison from Dexter, MI, the nose is rich with tropical fruit, mango especially, and—as suits a Saison pale ale—strikingly sour.
Blake’s Wayward Winter: A vanilla-and-elderberry-infused cider from Armada, MI, the bevvie is suitably fruity with the apple tones still loud beneath the berry and a lingering vanilla. It is, in short, precisely what it purports to be.
Kuhnenn DRIPA: The word ‘Dripa’ is an acronym for ‘double rice IPA’, which is itself an acronym for India Pale Ale, which is not from India at all, but from the intersection of Chicago and Mound in Warren. A strikingly deep, sun-yellow, papaya-scented ale, the brew has remarkable length ending in distinct notes of pink grapefruit.
Perrin Lil’ Griz: Charcoal and brown sugar dominate the bouquet, and for good reason: This malty American brown ale was aged in bourbon barrels. Strong, dark and handsome, this is a beer than will loosen the tongue as it rolls over it.
Sierra Nevada Narwhal: A hoppy, blackish Imperial Stout loaded with espresso and licorice notes; the right beer to end with, the wrong beer to begin with if you’re doing a tasting. The palate length alone is worth writing a ballad about—it will follow you home and stick in your memory like an earworm.
I have no idea why 8° Plato is called 8° Plato; I didn’t ask, and if the web site explains it, it isn’t on the ‘About Us’ page. As for simply asking, I’d rather ask a stand-up comic if he knows any good knock-knock jokes.
It’s Christmas week, and all the requisites are in place if you visit over the next few days—the wreathes, the Christmas music loop, the obligatory hipsterjack stereotypical craft-beer lovers in their plaid shirts, buzz-cuts and bushy beards—guys who look like they should be knocking down forests but still cross their legs when they sit.
For them—and like any modern metropolis, Detroit has plenty, no question about it—finding a hangout like this is as rare as finding a Bud Lite at 8° Plato.
In my opinion, it’s guys like Tim Costello and women like Brigid Beaubien who will be Detroit’s ultimate salvation—building tiny oases like 8° Plato amid the urban desert, small pockets of cool that are far more appealing than the deepest pockets of Mike Ilitch or Dan Gilbert.