Written by Scott Atkinson for The Flint Journal
FLINT TOWNSHIP, Michigan — If T.J. Wisner ever thought he’d be famous, he would never have guessed it would be for the beer in his living room.
But the 59-year-old motivational speaker and Internet businessman became an overnight sensation after the Wall Street Journal on Thursday featured his “beer tree” in an article about quirky alternative Christmas trees.
“Well I guess you’ve got to do something for your 15 minutes of fame,” he said with a laugh.
The tree in the corner of his lower-level living room — an assortment of pricey bottles of beer and Christmas decor neatly arranged on a pyramid of upturned metal buckets — was featured in an online.wjs.com slideshow that accompanied the story.
“It’s funny, because The Wall Street Journal talked about people who are looking for economical ways to build a tree. This thing was expensive as all get-out,” he said.
It may sound like something out of a fraternity house but Wisner’s wife Lynne (she does the decorating, T.J. Wisner is quick to point out) has made it look classy — if that’s possible for a stack of beer bottles.
T.J. Wisner, who recently started a men’s lifestyle Web site, coololdguys.org, was talking to a Wall Street Journal reporter about gifts for men when they stumbled onto the topic of his beer tree.
Wisner said he later received another phone call from the reporter who said her editors weren’t interested in the gift story anymore but they loved the sound of his beer tree.
The beer tree joined other trees featured from around the country, including trees made from wire hangers and Mountain Dew cans.
Since the story went online, it’s circulated the Web and earned T.J. Wisner the honorary title of “BarBEERian” on the beer-dedicated Web site.
He said he still can’t believe the attention it’s gotten.
“It’s amazing how the Internet works,” he said.
He got the idea about four years ago when he and Lynne saw a similar beer and wine tree at an event at the Flint Institute of Arts.
“And I said, you know, that would be so easy to do, and fun,” he said.
The Wisners have hosted beer tasting parties for years, and T.J. Wisner said he thought plucking the bottles from the “tree” might be an interesting way to change things up.
“And it just caught on. And all of our friends and kids and everyone just look forward to it. We sit around, we play games after Christmas,” he said, adding with a laugh, “And I don’t drink.”
While he enjoys the occasional Samuel Adams, his tree is covered with an assortment of porters, stouts and other heavily flavored beers that are his family’s favorites, he said.
The Wisners do have a more traditional tree that is just up the stairs from the beer tree. T.J. Wisner calls it “the Martha Stewart tree” (That one was also decorated by Lynne Wisner).
But he insists that the beer tree is the real tree.
Come Christmas morning, it’s a hard point to argue as it’s under the beer tree where all the presents go.
“It’s become somewhat of a tradition,” he said.