8 Degrees Plato Beer Co. is serving up great beer in the heart of the city.
MT sat down with the store's manager, Scottie Kearns, who discussed the Cass Corridor store and what makes it special.
Tim Costello and Brigid Beaubien "are the brains behind the operation," Kearns says.
They weren't in when I visited, but they sum up how 8 Degrees Plato Beer came to be on their website. "Many people wonder how 'we' became 'us.' Sometimes, we wonder as well," it reads.
Costello toured the country as a stand-up comedian, while Beaubien worked as a Detroit Public Schools teacher before earning her doctorate's degree and becoming a professor at Eastern Michigan University.
After a tour, Costello often brought home regional craft beers, which he shared with friends and family at their home in Dearborn. "Within a short amount of time, the same friends started to bring their own treasures to be tasted," Costello says. "Sundays on Tenny Street. Good start to the week."
Costello "was liberated" from his job at a major cable company in 2008 and spent the following year finishing his degree at Eastern. The couple had a plan: "Tim would finish the last year of his degree in the entrepreneurship program at EMU and write our business plan, then after graduation we would cash in Tim's 401(k) and open the store."
Before the couple opened a Ferndale location, they knew the store would be dog friendly and "each kid that came into the store would receive a pretzel rod."
Almost five years later, that original dream now has two locations.
The Ferndale location is a bottle retail shop, and it calls 611 W. Nine Mile home. The Detroit location has taps and a bar area, complete with tables and seating.
"In a nutshell, it's all this," Kearns says, pointing to the hundreds of beers, ciders, and meads.
8 Degrees Plato's Detroit location opened in September. "This store has the advantage of having beer on premise and off-premise, so people can drink here while they shop for their bottles," Kearns says. "It's the best of both worlds, because you can drink and shop, and nothing beats that."
In addition to all of the bottled and on-tap beer, the store allows customers to bring in food to enjoy while they drink.
Oftentimes people get carry-out or bring dinner from home and then come to the store to drink beer, Kearns says. 8 Degrees Plato also carries a variety of snacks, like cheese, crackers, and jams.
Customers are often surprised at the selection.
"We have a lot of specialty Belgian beers," Kearns says. "People come in and say, 'I can't believe you have this bottle, it's from this tiny brewery in Belgium and you guys have it on your shelf just sitting here.'"
People also come in for the staff, and it's easy to see why.
"We have more regulars here in nine months than I know of places that have been open for 20-plus years," Kearns says. "Everybody knows each other's name."
The store is dog and family friendly, as Costello and Beaubien originally intended. There are games and treats to make it a fun evening out.
If you go for the beer, stay for the incredible interior. The floors and ceilings are original to the building, and everything else is reclaimed from around the city.
The back shelf of the bar and a bookshelf in the store are from the original Cass Technical High School; the mounted shelves that hold the bottles are football bleachers from a local high school; the doors are from an old judge's chambers; and there are windows from an old Cadillac factory.
"A lot of people worked really hard on this," Kearns says. "This (the interior) was all Brigid's vision. She knows what she likes and she made it."
If you're not sure where to start, Kearns has three favorite beers on tap right now.
The first is New Holland Incorrigible, which is a white sour ale. "Sours are fantastic for summer," he says. "When it's hot, it's just like drinking lemonade in a way." He also said he can't stop drinking Sietsema lemon grass cider.
His final favorite is the Prairie Bomb. "It's the best Imperial style I've ever had."
8 Degrees Plato hosts a variety of different events throughout the month. Coming up on July 30 is an adult coloring book night in partnership with New Belgium. They'll supply all the materials, and there will be special beers on tap. Best of all, prizes are awarded for the best creations.
Follow 8 Degrees Plato's events on Facebook (8 Degrees Plato Detroit) and Instagram (@8DegreesPlato). View the full inventory of both locations online at 8degreesplato.com.