Today’s slate is a full one as I plan on stopping at 3 different breweries. Waking up energized after a restful night’s sleep is a good start. I am still smiling thinking of the good times that I had the night before with Fritz, Melissa, and the other folks from Bell’s. It is time to hit the beer trail running!
Many of Michigan’s breweries serve food so they open earlier in the day. This is a great thing when you are trying to fit in several stops a day. I also like the option to grab some food on site so as to be able to sample my beers safely. After some relaxing at the Airbnb, I am off to Arcadia Ales!
Located just over a bridge and a river, Arcadia Ales resides on the outskirts of Kalamazoo’s downtown. Their location is breathtaking with an inviting outdoor patio area. Fritz was explaining that Arcadia has a ton of music at the taproom and many people frequent the patio during the Michigan summers. There are not many folks in here yet and I am wondering why I am the only one in this town ready for a beer at 11am?
Their beer menu is a mix of classic styles with a few eclectic ones thrown in for good measure. Their selections run the ABV gamut from light and refreshing to something that can fuel a jet. Of the seven beers I try, the Loch Down Scotch Ale and Imperial Stout are my favorites. The Loch Down is a biggun at 8% ABV and drinks smooth thanks to the nice caramel and balanced smokiness of the malt. The Imperial Stout is rich and decadent with a nice modicum of booziness.
The rest of their beers are well-made, but not styles I am particularly excited about. I definitely need to come back here in the fall or winter because I hear their darker and maltier beers are extraordinary.
As I am working away at my tasters, I see a fellow beer enthusiast with a Surly hat on. We chat and he (Adam) and his companion, Hannah are here grabbing some beers. Everyone I meet in Kalamazoo is extremely warm and friendly. We chat a little bit about the Kalamazoo beer scene and confirm that I am on the right track with the places I plan on visiting. They head on their way and I continue drinking away enjoying the fresh air that is blowing in from outside.
Eventually, another younger couple comes in and starts trying to figure out what to order. Steve and Keisha are hung up on what to try. The beertender happily gives Keisha a few samples so she can make her decision. I am intrigued to chat with Steve and Keisha about the local beer scene.
A disconcerting statistic is that black folks make up only 12% of all craft beer drinkers. Increasing this demographic is a point of emphasis for the Brewers Association. Their goal is to make independent and craft beer more approachable to people of color and females. I wholeheartedly support this idea and it is important to make everyone feel welcome into the beer community.
Being that Steve and Keisha are locals and black, I want to ask them about their perspective on craft beer. More specifically, I am curious to hear about their introduction to craft beer in Kalamazoo. For Keisha, it was a matter of someone sitting down with her and having her drink some tasters until she found what she liked to drink. For Steve, he likes trying all the new stuff. He acknowledges that he started off like many of us, by drinking macrobrews. Neither Steve or Keisha speak to the Kalamazoo craft beer scene as being unapproachable to them. I thank them for chatting with me and I get set to finish my beers and head for the next stop.
Brite Eyes Brewing
Brite Eyes Brewing is fairly new, but is recommended to me by several of the locals. Since it is a hop, skip, and a jump away from my only scheduled visit of the day, I stop by and see what they have. As I walk in, I have the place almost all to myself. I decide on three tasters and while they are being poured, a gentleman in a Chicago Cubs jersey walks in. There seem to be an awful lot of Cubs fans in Michigan. Knowing full well that this gent is probably still on cloud nine from the big World Series win, I comment about how enjoyable the 2016 World Series was to watch. What he said next absolutely warmed my soul.
He said that it was probably the second best one behind the 1987 World Series. Oh. My. God. It turns out that this dude’s name is Les and he is from MN and is also a Twins fan!!! We wax nostalgic about the improbable Twins victory in ’87 and ’91. This conversation just warms my soul and I have to honestly say that it made the beers seem like an afterthought.
I enjoy the samples that I order and the Maple Walnut Stout is the best in show. A wonderfully nutty and sweet flavor that isn’t too sweet. It has a great roastiness to it for balance and I really wish I had more time to drink a full tulip of this one. Before I know it, I have to depart. I say goodbye to Les and we both hope for a Twins/Cubs World Series as we go our separate ways.
At the beginning of the day, I said I was going to visit three breweries. However, things often change on the beer trail and after spending better than six hours at One Well Brewing, some of the staff convince me to join them at Tibbs Brewing Company before I head back to my Airbnb. Trying new beers and making new friends is the recipe for fun and so I absolutely oblige them.
Tibbs is not a large space at all and if you don’t look closely from the outside, you might mistake it for a cute little diner. However, there is good beer to quaff in this cozy corner spot. Tibbs specializes in Belgian-style beers. Yes, I know that some people see Belgian-style beers as a turn-off. To me, when Belgian-style beers are brewed well, they are fantastic.
I have to say that Tibbs Brewing Company has some unique beers. The Ben Jonesin’ Chocolate Toffee Porter is a fantastic dessert beer. Wonderful toffee and chocolate flavors from the malt make this a memorable. The mouthfeel is robust and really delivers the flavors with a rich smoothness to the palate. The Hell-Jen Belgian Tripel has a balanced sweetness to it which I appreciate. Many times, a poorly made Tripel just comes off as syrupy. The Hell-Jen has a nice spiciness to it with a nice touch of honey for sweetness. The Strawberry Blondeshell is also good. Although I am not a huge fan of strawberry in my beer, this one has a natural fruit taste to it that goes well with the effervescence of the beer.
There are several young whippersnappers sitting at the bar enjoying some beers. They are impressed with my beer trip idea and are fun to talk to. I also enjoy chatting with a few of the lads from One Well Brewing as they met me at Tibbs for my nightcap. The time is getting to be the witching hour and I want to be back by midnight before I turn into a pumpkin beer.
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