Discover Kalamazoo features a tour of four breweries over two days

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By: Eric Strader
eric@ericstraderpottery.com

Eric Strader

Discover Kalamazoo has a couple new beer-centric projects, one of which includes a beer tour with West Michigan Beer Tours.

The Brews From Kalamazoo tour takes place Aug. 30-31, and includes transportation, samples or pints at Paw Paw Brewing, Latitude 42 Brewing, Boatyard Brewing, and Bell’s Brewery, overnight accommodations at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo, parking and dinner at the hotel and swag.  

If your Labor Day weekend is not already booked, this will be a great way to spend your Saturday and Sunday. Prices vary depending on single or double occupancy. Go here for full pricing details.

Boatyard Brewing is just a few blocks up the street from Bell’s, and I recently made a stop to check things out. Owners Brian Steele and Dan Gilligan have been working on their brewery for around three years, and the tap room is officially open.

The main brewers are Amy Waugaman and Dennis Massingill, but Brian and Dan also take turns brewing on both the pilot system and the 10 barrel brewhouse.

When I was there, the tap list consisted of Kalamazoo Cream Ale (5.4% ABV), Frosted Harbor Dark Raspberry Ale (6.4% ABV), Sunset Amber (6.4% ABV), Midnight Star (6.4% ABV), Sea Dragon (cherry Belgian, 7.6% ABV), and Lost Peninsula IPA (5.8% ABV).

They work hard to keep all seven taps flowing and offer growler fills for take-out. For now, their hours are Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday noon to 9 p.m.  Boatyard Brewing is located at 432 E. Paterson in Kalamazoo.

Regular Hop Notes readers will know that Paw Paw Brewing is one of my favorite breweries, and one of my buddies, Trever Klimek, is part of the brewing team. Trevor recently updated me on their sour beer program. 

Some of the sours that you may have seen at the brewery or other events have included Red Barn Sour (Flanders red ale), Sour James (Paw Paw St. James soured and aged in oak barrels), and Bluegrass Blonde (aged in sour wine barrels).

We can soon look forward to Raspberry Red Barn (aged with raspberries), Free Range Sour Stout, Fruit Belt Sour (with Southwest Michigan raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries) and one of my all time favorites from Trevor — Sour Spruce Ale.  

I am one of the lucky few who has enjoyed Trevor’s four year aged sour spruce, and he has brewed it again, this time on a larger scale. It is aged for two months on freshly harvested spruce tips and then soured.

It is an acquired taste, but the best way that I can explain the sensory experience of this beer is standing in the middle of a Northern Michigan pine forest after a light rain. I hope that you will get the chance to experience this beer, then you will know exactly what I am talking about.  

Hours are Monday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Latitude 42 Brewing Company just celebrated its first anniversary this past weekend with the release of its anniversary barley wine (12% ABV) and Barrel Aged Double Chin Wig (10.8% ABV), an Imperial American style strong ale that has been aging in Templeton Rye whiskey barrels since Nov. 2013.

It is located at 7842 Portage Road, Portage, and hours are Monday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 11  p.m., Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

And last, but not least, Bell’s Brewery will be featured on the tour. The most recent release from Kalamazoo’s most known brewery is Mars (double IPA, 10.1% ABV), the first release in its Planets Series (inspired by Gustav Holst’s seven movement orchestral suite).  

With a ratio of about 3.4 pounds of hops per barrel, there is plenty of citrus and other fruits in the aroma and flavor, balanced nicely with a malty sweet backbone. This recipe was developed from a trial batch called Larry’s Latest Double IPA brewed in its original brewery located adjacent to the Eccentric Cafe in downtown Kalamazoo.  

Mars was released at the brewery last week and by this time, should have found it’s way to most Michiana bottle shops.

The second project of Discover Kalamazoo is its freshly printed Kalamazoo Brewery Map. This map shows the location of all the breweries in Kalamazoo County and includes a special map of downtown Kalamazoo, which features six breweries all within walking distance of each other.  Maps can be found at all the breweries in Kalamazoo County and select bottle shops in Kalamazoo, Portage and Richland.

In other Michigan beer news, if you haven’t picked up your six pack of Short’s Imperial India Spruce Pilsner (7% ABV, IBUs 140), you had better do it quick.

This is an annual release of one of my absolute favorite Short’s beers. It is fermented with local, hand-picked blue spruce tips, and it is, in Joe Short’s words, the quintessential symbol of his love of hops and craft beer.

This style is rooted in historical brewing practices and has a nice balance of crisp lager character along with the pinyness of the freshly harvested blue spruce tips. On the front end you get lots of good hops and lemon citrus, followed on the back end by resinous hops and spruce.

It is not unlike Trevor’s spruce ale in that your senses are once again taken to a Michigan pine forest, although this time without the sourness.

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