Dax Shepard launches nonalcoholic beer brand with his childhood best friends

Co-founders Aaron Tyrell and Aaron Weakley, former owners of the Lager House, will promote Ted Segers at Tigers Opening Day party at Nemo’s in Corktown Friday

Three childhood friends who have shared more than a few beers over the decades recently found themselves all sober and dissatisfied with the nonalcoholic beer options on the shelves.

Luckily, these three lifelong buddies — comedic actor Dax Shepard, podcaster Aaron Weakley and craft beer industry veteran Aaron Tyrell — were in a position to make their own product, and Ted Segers “unleaded regal brew” was born.

“We were all together and all of us were not impressed with anything out there,” said Weakley, who has been sober since 2019. “Everything seemed, taste-wise, ‘eh.’ I guess we kind of liked Heineken (nonalcoholic), but didn’t love it. Nothing jumped out at us. Nothing seemed cool. One day we decided we should just make our own (expletive) beer.”

Ted Segers is a fictional character, a loyal father figure with a bushy 1970s mustache who takes care of his family and no longer drinks alcohol. His name is made to sound vaguely like a Michigan classic rocker or two, with an “s” tacked on at the end, to signify the way many Michiganians unnecessarily pluralize words.

The Segers tagline is “unleaded brew, full taste, full memory,” and with less than a half of a percent of alcohol by volume, it counts as nonalcoholic. The crisp malt beverage tastes a little like a European-style pilsner with a hint of bitter citrus.

While it took a while to land on the idea for Ted Segers (Weakley likened it to trying to come up with a cool band name that wasn’t already taken), once the concept came about, the three guys were having just as much fun coming up with jokes, catchphrases and a backstory for “Ted Segers.”

“We ended up with Ted Segers and we were laughing so hard just at the name,” said Weakley. He said Shepard said Ted Segers should look like Weakley’s late father. “We thought, yes, that is the face of Ted Segers, because my dad was cool, good-looking, a ladies’ man and had a mustache that just didn’t stop.”

They’re using their alcohol-fueled past as proof that they know what good beer should taste like.

“We don’t know a ton about brewing beer, but what we damn well know is how to drink cold beer and slam suds,” Shepard says in a video promoting the brand. “Ted Segers blows doors on all other NA beers. It’s suspiciously good, and what else would you expect from 60-plus years of combined alcoholism?”

One of Ted Segers’ catchphrases is “the dad that stuck around,” which is available on one of the T-shirts sold on the brand’s website, tedsegers.com. That just makes Weakley laugh even more, because his father wasn’t always around when he was growing up and neither were the dads of Shepherd and Tyrell, he said. While all three were able to connect with their respective fathers later in life, they all died relatively young.

Though they didn’t really have Ted Seger-style dads of their own, the friends are now in a position to be this kind of father for their own children: sober, present, able to drive safely and quick with good advice. The three guys, all 49 years old, are active dads to their children, including Shepard, who has two kids with his wife, fellow actor and Huntington Woods native Kristen Bell.

In a way, they’ve crafted their own, solid role model in this fictional, mustachioed father.

“This is almost who we aspire to be,” said Weakley.

Weakley and Shepard met while attending Margaret E. Muir Middle School in Milford. When Shepard moved to Walled Lake in high school he met Aaron Tyrell and the three became close buddies. Shepard headed west to Los Angeles in the late 1990s to pursue an acting career and has since appeared in dozens of films, television and voice acting roles, including the 2006 cult classic “Idiocracy.” Since 2018 he’s recorded more than 400 episodes of his “Armchair Expert” podcast, with guests ranging from Bill Gates to Bradley Cooper to Barack Obama.

While Weakley stopped drinking in 2019, Tyrell was sober-curious for a while and more recently started to abstain from alcohol. Shepard, however, has been sober for nearly 20 years, having stopped drinking in 2005, said Weakley.

Around that time, Weakley and Tyrell were still very much in the mix with booze, having been co-owners of historic Corktown tavern the Lager House. They took over from Weakley’s family and ran the place from 1999 to 2007, a high point for local rock and garage acts. They transformed the Irish bar from a longtime family-run watering hole into an authentic destination for live Detroit rock and roll.

This week, the Aarons will head back to Corktown as they promote Ted Segers at a Tigers opening day party starting at 10 a.m. at historic sports bar Nemo’s, 1384 Michigan, a block down from Lager House. Having spent so many years in Corktown, Weakley feels at home at Nemo’s, which has been selling Ted Segers beer since it launched a few months ago.

“It’s wild,” Weakley said when thinking back to the debaucherous 2000s. “I’m not proud of everything, but Lager House is one thing I’m very proud of. Although it almost killed me, owning that place, I am happy to have lived that life and I’m happy to be alive now. I would have never guessed that life could get even that much better.”

Melody Baetens is The Detroit News restaurant critic

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