May 5, 2014 at 10:05 am

Michigan's poor roads inspire brewer's 'Pothole Stout'

On tap here: A brewpub's timely stout, a new pudu at the Detroit Zoo and the best Google entry in Michigan

Sometimes they start with a name and brew a beer to go with it. This time, Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant had the beer first — and then Jason Spaulding had a rough commute.

A very rough commute. A Michigan commute, in this pitted and pockmarked semi-spring. Again.

“I came in so angry,” Spaulding says, that he crashed his mighty fist upon the metaphorical bar — they have a real one, of course, but this was metaphorical — and announced the name for their new concoction:

Pothole Stout.

We in Southeast Michigan, it turns out, do not have the exclusive franchise on ravaged roads. Nor do we have a monopoly on craft breweries, though there aren’t many like Brewery Vivant, which specializes in beers of French and Belgian inspiration.

Pothole Stout comes from the Belgian side. It’s described as having “aromas of Belgian yeast followed by sweetness of malt and a touch of roast,” along with hints of “raisin, ripe plum and mild chocolate.”

Most important, the beer is “black as pitch, or perhaps asphalt.”

Spaulding, 42, owns the 4-year-old Brewery Vivant with his wife, Kris. It’s the second time he has waded into beer vats; fresh from Hope College almost 20 years ago, he helped launch New Holland Brewing in Holland.

“Naivete helped us,” he says. “With entrepreneurs in general, if you know too much, you probably wouldn’t ever do it.”

At this point, though, knowledge is helpful. For instance, “invest in a good brewery floor” — because “once you put tanks on it, you never have a second chance to do it right.”

Several of the Spauldings’ beers can be found in Detroit, including Farm House, Triomphe, and a red ale with a rooster on the label that’s known as Big Red Coq.

Pothole Stout, alas, has not made the bumpy trip east. It’s available only at the pub, in $5 pints or $12.99 four-packs.

It’s been tapped for two weeks and should be available for four to six weeks more. Through Sunday, Brewery Vivant was donating $1 from each pint to support a street repair tax proposal that will appear on the Grand Rapids ballot Tuesday.

“I tend to be apolitical,” Spaulding says, but potholes make activists of us all.

That’s why the label of Pothole Stout features potholes shaped like the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, and why the motto says “It’s Unavoidable” — and why he’s keeping the recipe.

If the potholes come back next year, he says, so will Pothole Stout.

A pudu is a dear deer

They’ve got a new baby pudu.

A pudu? Whodu?

The Detroit Zoodu, of course. The rest of us aren’t allowed to own one — even if young Noni is small enough to get pushed around by a Lhasa Apso.

The pudu is the tiniest species of deer, about 18 inches at the shoulder and 25 pounds fully grown, which might be one reason you don’t see them very often. Another reason would be that they mostly hang out in the rainforests of Chile and Argentina.

The Detroit Zoo has a family of them, over by the giant anteaters: parents T. Roy and Carol, and three females born within the last two years. Following in the hoofsteps of Hammie and Penny, Noni showed up March 25 and now weighs a whopping 6 ½ pounds.

Pudus are classified as “vulnerable” in the wild, conservation-wise, and they’re rare enough in captivity that U.S. zoos claim fewer than 40 of them.

Newly displayed, Noni is presumably the youngest pudu on the continent and would surely stand tall if she could.

The largest species of deer, by the way, is the moose, with males topping out around 1,500 pounds.

That’s 900 pounds more than the kudu, which is actually an antelope but is the largest animal whose name rhymes with pudu.

Doodle the right thing

Google is run by creative people, and creative people tend to get bored. Hence the existence of the Google Doodle — and of one Ann Arbor fifth-grader’s chance to win a $30,000 scholarship.

“Doodle” is Google’s name for the quirky artworks that sometimes substitute for its familiar logo.

The next doodle will come from a national contest for K-through-12 students called Doodle 4 Google, and if you would be so kind as to click here by Friday, Hannah Hu of Logan Elementary might win the whole shebang.

(Note: Pushing the word “here” in your newspaper won’t work. To vote, you’ll have to go to and read this column there.)

Hu is already the Michigan winner, and one of 10 kids in her grade level competing for $5,000.

The overall winner will collect the $30,000 to use for college, where he or she can sit in classrooms full of learned people and doodle pudu.
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Hannah Hu says her Google doodle is an ocean cleaner that removes trash ... (Hannah Hu)
Six-week-old Noni is the new pudu at the Detroit zoo. A pudu is a small, ... (Picasa / Detroit Zoological Society)
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