“Beer Can House” in Texas Receives Landmark Status
Driving down Malone Street in Houston, Texas, will put you in front of an interesting spectacle: the “Beer Can House,” a dwelling retrofitted with aluminum siding made entirely out of beer cans. The house has had its look for decades, but has recently been dubbed an official landmark by the city of Houston.
The house was a labor of both love and thrift, by the original owner, John Milkovisch. As he imbibed, Milkovisch accumulated the cans, not wanting to get rid of them because he knew he’d be able to use them for something; eventually, he was struck by the idea to convert them to aluminum siding.
Over the course of 18 years, he covered his house’s exterior with his custom siding, and Milkovisch—and later, his sons—even crafted some more ornamental features like wind chimes, garlands and privacy screens. Over 50,000 cans were repurposed to adorn the property. Milkovisch and his wife Mary both passed away several years ago. Now, the house is maintained by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a nonprofit Houston art organization.
Angry Neighbors Seek to Cut Down Tree House
For the folks who line up on Damien Goudreau’s property every weekend, empty growlers in hand, Tree House Brewing is one of the most exciting things to happen in the small town of Brimfield, Mass., in a long time. However, at least one local resident disapproves, and the complaint led to a July 10th town ruling overturning Tree House’s original approval to operate a brewery in their residential-agricultural zone.
Tree House began operations in 2012, after obtaining approval from local and state offices— including Brimfield’s Zoning Board of Appeals. But then a nearby resident carefully examined the town bylaws and brought to the attention of the town’s ZBA that Tree House was in violation of these regulations. “We were not approached at all by the appealing party prior to his appeal, and were completely blindsided by it,” says Tree House co-founder Nate Lanier.
Under the bylaws, a residential-agricultural business must consist of at least 5 acres and produce crops netting at least $1,000 per acre per year. Tree House’s site is 2.7 acres, and currently grows only a small amount of hops, flowers and herbs. According to the town’s board of selectmen, it came down to the wording of the bylaw; Tree House is in a “restrictive” zone—essentially meaning that if the law doesn’t explicitly say one can do something (in this case, run a brewery), one can’t do it.
Tree House is appealing the board’s reversal in state court, but can still operate during their appeal. As for how long this battle could stretch, Lanier isn’t certain, but is thankful for their local supporters. “We’re not entirely sure how long the process will take. We have incredible support in Brimfield. A vast majority of 100-plus people who attended a town meeting on this appeal were there in support of us, and the majority of our regular customers are [locals].”
Even if this appeal doesn’t work out, Tree House has plans to survive. Lanier adds, “We’re working hard on the next phase of our business that includes a new location, hop fields and an orchard of varied fruits. We were working on this long before the appeal, and the necessary licenses and permits are in the works.”
California Growler-Fill Law Receives New Interpretation
A recent reinterpretation of a California beer law has caused a stir among the state’s breweries. It has been determined that under that state’s current growler laws, a brewery can fill a generic growler (or one from another brewery) with their own beer, provided the growler’s contents are then properly labeled, and no inaccurate information is visible on the container.
Now, many of the state’s breweries have taken it upon themselves to revise their own growler policies. The Bruery has declared they’ll fill non-branded growlers in addition to their own, but not any that contain markings associated with another brewery. Additionally, they must be in the 2-liter palla style. Knee Deep Brewing has announced they will fill any palla-stye containers, even those originating from other breweries.
Despite the leeway, several other California breweries are opting to continue filling only their own containers for a number of reasons. Russian River is one brewery taking this stance. Co-owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo have stated via press release that their reasons include container quality, sanitation, filling logistics and branding. “Nothing against other breweries [sic] growlers, but we want our beer going home with you in our branded growler,” they state in the press release.
Some breweries have yet to take an official stance, like Stone Brewing, which has stated that it will take more time to consider their options.
Shipyard Founding Partner Changes Roles
Alan Pugsley, the master brewer behind Shipyard’s beers, has announced he is selling his 20 percent stake in Shipyard and will return to working as an independent brewery consultant.
Pugsley is no stranger to independent business. He launched his consulting company, Pugsley’s Brewing Projects International, in 1986. PBPI has helped set up and enhance operations for over 70 North American breweries, including Maine’s Gritty McDuff’s and Michigan’s Arcardia Brewing Co. In the early 2000s, Pugsley put PBPI on the back burner to devote his time to Shipyard.
Now, Pugsley is resuming work with other up-and-coming breweries, while still working as Shipyard’s master brewer on a consulting basis. He’s recently been helping Davidson Brothers Brewing Co. of Glens Falls, N.Y., open a new brewery; he collaborated with Ringwood Brewery of England on a new beer; and he has a series of English brewery tours in planning with Virgin Vacations. ■