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Erman Brothers Bring Michigan To Arizona
Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar in Tucson, Ariz., could seem an unlikely place to grab a Michigan beer. But nearly 2,000 miles away from Metro Detroit, brothers Eric and Mark Erman, who opened the bar in April 2015, make sure to keep it on tap and in the cooler. They play Michigan games at the bar and host the University of Michigan alumni association, too.
“I think we’ve been accepted into the local community, but we still fly the Michigan flag proudly,” Eric says of their hometown roots.
The bar, with its scratch kitchen, beer and wine, joins a tight-knit community of brewers, foodies and creators that wants to raise the bar on area food and beverages. They work together, including a recent project that involved souring a local beer with Ermanos’ kimchi.
“We get to work really closely with the chefs to incorporate beer and wine into our recipes. We have a fermentation and pickling program, and we do collaborations,“ Eric says.
Getting the restaurant rolling was a labor of love, they say. Mark went to Arizona first and did the groundwork, picking a site in an historic shopping district called Fourth Avenue that reminds him somewhat of Ferndale. “It’s one of the most walkable kind of eclectic areas with a lot of authentic and independent businesses,” he says.
Eric joined him a few years later, before construction was under way on the 1926 building they’d selected. They demolished the inside, exposed brick, added steel and hired an architect to blend the old and new elements. They prioritized using reclaimed wood and materials from the demolition for the tables, the wall trim and the bar tops.
When Eric is in Michigan, he tries to stop at a deli. “Michigan delis are something I really miss and appreciate,” he says. Mark says he likes experiencing the seasons and seeing tall trees as well as maple leaves on the ground. Their parents still live in Michigan, so when they go home, they spend lots of time with family.
Eric went to Lahser High School and attended U-M. Around 2008, he went to Colorado, while finishing an intermediate degree from Siebel Brewing Institute. He headed to Portland, Ore., in 2013, and then to Arizona in 2014. Mark attended Andover High School, U-M and Wayne State University Law School. He moved to Arizona in 2011 after a visit. The desert, people and mountains compelled him to move there.
When Mark was in law school and Eric was in college, they started home brewing together and, as Mark puts it, “became obsessed with the hobby.” Eric become a brewer, and Mark went on to practice law.
“We always wanted a beer-centric place that brought together our favorite components from our favorite hangouts in Detroit and Ann Arbor,” Mark says. “In Ann Arbor, one of my all-time favorites was Arbor Brewing Company. Ashley’s, meanwhile, is one of Eric’s favorites.”
And when they want a taste of home, the brothers don’t have to look far — they also incorporated the zip sauce from hometown restaurant Lelli’s into their burger. “A lot of people don’t know it’s a Michigan thing,” Mark says. “We call it the Zip Burger.”
No matter the task, the brothers enjoy working together. “It’s definitely brought us closer together,” Eric says. “We’re happy with how things have turned out and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
If you know an expat Detroiter with strong ties or influences from the D who could be featured, send an email to Karen Schwartz at email@example.com.