The Rise and Fall of Family and the Beer Business in Detroit

Frances Stroh of Stroh’s Brewery family talks about her new book “Beer Money”

Frances Stroh

As complex as the relationship is between the city of Detroit and the surrounding suburbs, so too are the relationships complicated in the Stroh family. Frances Stroh recounts those nuanced relationships in her new book, Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss.

Stroh describes Detroit as the “slow-motion catastrophe” playing out behind the personal and financial struggles facing the Grosse Pointe family behind Stroh’s Brewery Company.

“Our commitment to Detroit has always been there, even as things were falling apart all around us,” says Stroh on WDET’s Detroit Today.

In her book, Stroh discusses race relations between the suburbs and Detroit post-uprising in 1967. Stroh was a young child in the 1970s. She describes a scene in which her father instructed his kids to lock the car doors as he drove her and her brothers through the city; fearful of Detroit’s black population while passing the liquor stores from which they made their living through beer sales. Despite this divide, she says, their family maintained a close relationship with their African-American housekeeper, Ollie.

“There were really no boundaries in terms of those familial bonds that we felt,” says Stroh. “And yet, Grosse Pointe was really this privileged enclave that felt in such contrast to Detroit.”

Stroh says she is proud to contribute to a national conversation surrounding privilege and its pitfalls. Stroh says memoir has the ability to push boundaries and buttons, and her book has received mixed reviews from some family members.

“There are as many points of view on the book as there are people in the family,” said Stroh.

She has an event for Beer Money tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit [MOCAD], which will be open to the public.

To hear more of Stroh’s conversation with Detroit Today producer Laura Weber-Davis, click on the audio player above.