A Conversation with Walter Hansen

For some time now, I have been hearing about Biercamp, the shop on State Street (just south of where the Stadium Blvd. bridge crosses). A friend of mine kept telling me about the varieties of sausage and jerky the owners make in house. Knowing my affinity for all kinds of cured meats, she suggested that I give it a try.

The first time I entered Biercamp, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. When I was a child, my family would go together with other relatives to buy a cow or hog which would be processed at a local processor. The sparse decor, a bare concrete floor and refrigerated cases of meat, took me back to the trips to Punch’s or the Moline Meat Locker where we would get the huge box full of butcher-paper wrapped packages, with a sticker or stamp that identified what was inside.

After trying several of the choices of jerky and sausage as snacks, I noticed that they also sell hot sandwiches and house-made hotdogs and sausages for lunch as well. Over the past two months, I have become a regular lunch customer and have thoroughly enjoyed the BBQ pulled pork sandwich (and I rarely praise anyone else’s pulled pork) and my personal favorite, the BBQ brisket sandwich (not available on Mondays). Given my interest in charcuterie and desire to talk to local people involved in the Ann Arbor food scene, I decided that I should talk to the person who makes these wonderfully tasty foods.

After introducing myself and explaining what I intended to do, Walter Hansen (one of the co-owners of Biercamp) agreed to talk with me. Walter is originally from Suttons Bay, Michigan, and grew up working in the meat department of the grocery store that his parents owned. After high school he attended culinary school in Vancouver. From there he made his way to New York, where he worked at Mario Batali’s Del Posto and was the in house chef at Sound Lounge. In 2011, Walter moved to Ann Arbor and opened Biercamp.

I asked Walter why he decided to start his business in Ann Arbor and he said, “Ann Arbor is a place that you hear great things about.” He continued by saying that he wanted to move somewhere closer to home and Ann Arbor seemed like a good fit. I asked why he decided to make charcuterie and he told me that he had wanted to make and sell sausage and jerky from the beginning and has expanded his offerings based on demand.

Walter strives to acquire the ingredients for his products from local sources as much as is possible and features information about the farms in the shop. He makes quite a variety of products, from the previously mentioned sausages and jerky to about half a dozen different types of bacon: canadian bacon, pea bacon, country bacon (made from a pork shoulder), traditional bacon (applewood smoked Berkshire pork belly) and a couple different flavors of duck bacon. The contents of the meat counter are definitely a carnivore’s dream.

When I asked Walter which of the meats that he makes is his favorite, he told me that was like asking a parent which of their children they like the best. As a parent, I can sympathize with his answer, but as a consumer, I would say that for me it is a tie between the Habanero Smoke Sticks and the BBQ brisket sandwich. When I asked what brand of BBQ sauce he uses for the brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, he (to no surprise) replied, “We make it here.”

Since I had my conversation with Walter, Biercamp has begun brewing their own beer that is sold by the growler. As if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit. The next time you are on State Street, down by the University of Michigan Golf Course, stop in and try one (or more) of Walter’s creations. You won’t be disappointed.

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3 Responses to A Conversation with Walter Hansen

  1. Robert says:

    Sounds like a fascinating shop. Out of curiosity, what kind(s) of beer do they brew? Do you know if they brew to pair with their meat offerings?

    • Robert,
      They are brewing a Vienna I.P.A., a Smoked Porter and a Pale Ale. During my conversation, Walter told me that they had hired a brewmaster, but I don’t know if they are focusing too much on specific pairings. Given the subtle tastes of their BBQ sandwiches, I would think a pilsner would go well, but I don’t know enough about brewing to determine how difficult it would be to make a good one.

  2. I really like Biercamp and their meats. I agree with you that their sandwiches are just great. I live a two minute walk away, so I am tempted way too often…I also like the smokesticks, and their bacons are very good too. As far as sausages are concerned, my favorite is their tomato, mozzarella and basil sausage…good place, and Walter is a really affable guy, too. Just makes me feel good buying there whenever I go…

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