. October 23, 2012.

Mario Batali almnus Walt Hansen and his designer partner Hannah Cheadle had some initial zoning difficulties when they decided to move back to Michigan and open their artisan meats shop in Ann Arbor, but they managed to persevere, and they're keen to leave those days behind them and do what they do best — smoking and curing meats.

Because Biercamp is primarily in the business of selling cured meats, sausages, and jerky, their menu is small — but it punches well above its weight, with one of the best pulled pork variants in Ann Arbor. The shop itself has a very distinct personality, sort of Upper Peninsula cabin with some quirky touches, like the stuffed rooster (labeled "Little Walt;" we haven't asked) or the photo of the Fawlty Towers cast quietly slipped in with the framed family photos (they're fans). Seating is limited to a few counter seats in the cold months, but when it's nice out, there are picnic tables too. They also do takeout, wrapping the buns (made in Detroit) separately from the meats so they don't sog. And on home game Saturdays, they fire up the grill and sell their brats and hot dogs to hungry football fans and anyone else who braves the traffic.

We've reviewed the prepared sandwiches below, and we've also written up a sampling of the other meats. We've barely scratched the surface, though, so go in, have a look at the cases, and ask for tastes.

The pulled pork, the brisket (except Mondays), and one or more types of hot dog or bratwurst are always available hot and ready to go until they run out; the steamship round is primarily on Fridays. If you want to know what they're serving on a given day, friend their page on Facebook where they announce it.

16 Hour Pulled pork – beautifully smoked, with a full savory pork flavor and that melt-in-your-mouth texture that comes from letting the fat cap melt during the long cooking process. You know, the way proper pulled pork should be.

12 Hour Smoked Beef Brisket – equally tender to the pulled pork, with charred bits at the ends, and deeply satisfying for beef lovers. Again, sandwiches are dressed with just a bit of sauce to complement, not hide, the beef.

Steamship round – thick slices of flavorful roast beef, with a homemade horseradish sauce. If you've never had a real roast beef sandwich before, you're in for a very pleasant surprise.

Habañero hotdog – this dog should please those looking for something spicy hot to light up their tastebuds. We thought the habanero in our dog was well balanced with the meat, but heat does grow with each bite.

Biercamp not only does traditional bacon, but also some less common variants, as well as applying traditional bacon techniques to other meats — tasty and worth trying even if you do eat pork, but even more exciting for those who don't.

Applewood smoked bacon – pork, and capable of handily knocking its more famous competition out of the ring.

Peameal Bacon – Q: what do they call Canadian Bacon in Canada?  It's a trick question, because the most Canadian of all bacons is something we actually don't see here very much: "peameal bacon."  It's cured pork loin coated in fine cornmeal. Biercamp's rendition is fabulous.

Herbes de provence lamb bacon –  you'd be hard pressed to tell by appearance alone that this is not pork bacon. Thinly sliced and nicely marbled, it cooks up just like "regular" bacon. The herb de provence seasoning complements the lamb.

Duck bacon – Biercamp does multiple types of  "duck bacon" made from cured duck breast with the fat attached. Our favorite is probably the tasso duck bacon, which is spicy but not overwhelming, and can be eaten as is in thin slices.

Because Hansen and Cheadle do a lot of experimentation and are constantly adding new items, it's impossible for us to do more than touch on a few of the myriad of sausages.  Some are precooked and ready to eat; others are raw and require cooking.  Have a look in the case and the freezer, and feel free to ask questions.

Cajun smoked sausage – a nice sausage, a bit salty, a bit spicy, and with notable garlic flavor.

Olive Loaf – growing up, luncheon meats like olive loaf and pimento loaf were kind of scary.  This, however, combines actually good pork with good olives to produce something that explains why people would put meat and olives together in a sausage in the first place. 

Sriracha Lamb Sausage – strongly flavored, this sausage might be too much for some people by itself.  We're thinking of trying it cut up and mixed with white rice, and topped with a fried egg and a few more lashes of Sriracha.  Walt recommends putting it on pizza, which also makes sense.

Balaton Cherry Bratwurst – one of our favorite sausages, this combines a bratwurst base with dried Michigan cherries, for a result that's unusual and a bit on the sweet side.

Hopwurst – the hops really stand out, giving this wurst a slightly bitter flavor which pairs brilliantly with mustard (and presumably beer, though we haven't tried that yet). Though Lisa isn't a beer drinker, she enjoyed this wurst quite a bit.

Hillbilly Breakfast Sausage – available in patties or links, this is what you expect it to be, but tastier with sage, black pepper, and chili flakes.  They do several more breakfast variants; the one with the blueberries doesn't do it for us (it may for you), but the version with an apple cider reduction is the best breakfast sausage we've ever tasted.

Jerkies and Meat Sticks
Biercamp offers a range of jerkies (beef, pork, chicken) — all made from thick slices of good-quality meat, marinated in different sauces. It's hard to know what will be available on a given day, since they rotate and experiment with things, but the standard beef jerky, the Lizano salsa ones, and all of the Asian-inspired ones are especially good. A word of warning here; Walt has an unusual heat tolerance, so when he says something is hot (e.g. the "Quattro Crazy" jerky, made with four hot sauces), don't ignore the warning.

Traumatized by childhood Slim Jim experiences, many food enthusiasts disdain the humble meat stick. That would be a mistake here. Biercamp's, a mixtture of beef and pork, are tasty.  They're excellent snacks on trips, or just at home. Joe's personal favorite is the Barbecue (the fruity sweetness cuts the salt), but they're all good, and the Habañero is respectably hot. (He sometimes gets a bag of mixed Barbecue and Habañero as a Russian roulette kind of thing.)    


Domino’s Farms Aids Ann Arbor’s Need for Office Space

Domino’s Pizza and Arbor Research are both launching new office building projects at Domino’s Farms. Domino’s Pizza is creating a 33,000-square-foot building on the north side of Domino’s Farms, expanding to their current space. Arbor Research is creating a new 49,500-square-foot headquarters building on the east side of Domino’s Farms. Both buildings should be completed

A Physician’s Perspective on Legalized Cannabis

On Tuesday, November 6th, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Ten years ago, we had become the 13th state to legalize Cannabis for medical use. I voted for the medical cannabis law years ago because, in my view, cannabis is not a dangerous product, and too many people were being imprisoned for its use. At that time, however, I did not subscribe to the argument that there were legitimate medical uses for cannabis. How things have changed.

Tiny Expo at Ann Arbor District Library—A Curated Holiday Gift Fair with Flair

The Tiny Expo is a gem of an indie arts and crafts fair for vendors with original and unexpected products that make wonderful gifts but may not be an obvious fit for Ann Arbor’s mainstream art fairs. Shoppers who crave artistic, high quality products with diverse price points will find a rich variety of unique, handmade products to choose from.

New Tenants in Downtown Ypsilanti

Formerly long-vacant buildings in Downtown Ypsilanti are experiencing revitalization as small businesses and nonprofits are rapidly filling up spaces. Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP), a nonprofit organization that, “provides access to the justice systems for those that need it most,” recently purchased the Smith Furniture building at 15 S Washington Street which became their headquarters. Decode