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Beer tour features three breweries and a hop farm in West Michigan

The Women of West Michigan Beer Tour returns on Saturday, May 16. This tour, sponsored by West Michigan Beer Tours, will include visits to three Kalamazoo breweries and a 30-acre hop farm.  

Each stop will feature a unique perspective on the area’s beer culture presented by women in the area’s beer industry.

  • Cindee Tibbs​, co-­owner of the year-old nanobrewery, Tibbs Brewing Co.
  • Bonnie Steinman,​ who grows hops for brewers all over the country as the co-­owner of Hop Head Farms.
  • Amy Waugaman,​ who brews at Boatyard Brewing Co.
  • Mardy Suprise, ​who helped lead Arcadia Brewing Co.’s $7 million project to open a new facility along the Kalamazoo River.

The tour isn’t just for women, and there were a few men who came along last year. The tour will take place 11:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m, and at each location participants will sample beer and meet the people behind it.

When I called to talk with Cindee Tibbs, she was in the brew house with her husband and co-owner Kevin, brewing a Belgian Wit for the tour. Since she does much of the office work behind the scenes, this was her first time brewing.

She told me that in her experience, the brewing industry is very welcoming to women, and she has especially enjoyed getting to know the different brewers. Other breweries were quick to lend a hand when she and Kevin were getting started, she said.

Their Belgian Wit will be a traditional style brewed with orange peel, coriander and chamomile, and will come out somewhere near 5 to 6 percent ABV. Cindee was pregnant during last year’s tour and wasn’t able to participate, so she is looking forward to taking part in this year’s event.

Bonnie Steinman, co-owner of Hop Head Farms, is passionate about hops and loves giving group tours of the farm. She told me, “We are very proud to have earned our way into some really fantastic beers. Most people don’t realize what goes into producing hops that are usable for brewers.”

From the field to the brew kettle is a long, careful journey, but as for being a woman in the industry, Bonnie says that most people just forget about it and instead see her as someone who is passionate and driven about what she loves to do.

Still, Bonnie loves that there are celebrations of women being a significant part of the brewing industry like the Women of West Michigan Beer Tour and the Michigan organization Fermenta.

This will be the second year that Hop Head Farms has participated in this tour and she will give a walk through of the process they use and have samples available of some of the beers that highlight their hops.  

“I do give a different tour than Jeff,”  Bonnie said, referring to her husband and co-owner. “It is from my point of view and how I like things.” She will explain how she likes to taste beer and hops, but would never tell others how they should taste.  

Last year Manda Geiger, brewer at Pike 51 Brewing Co. and Fermenta, was on hand to help.  She brought some specially hopped IPAs to share, and her fellow Beer Broads (of Hastings) also came out to help serve up samples and answer questions.

Featured again this year on the tour will be Goshen native Amy Waugaman, brewer at Boatyard Brewing Co. and member of Fermenta.

She told me that John Liberty of West Michigan Beer Tours approached her last year with this idea, and she was happy to be one of the featured women on the tour.  According to Amy, “Most people don’t really pay attention to the fact that I’m a woman brewer. They just see that I’m a hard worker and that I make good beer.”

Amy has worked in many jobs that are not traditionally held by women, but this doesn’t bother her. She is also a mom and has seen her own girls be inspired by what she does. In the end, she says, if she can inspire women and young girls to go into science because she is a brewer, she would be very happy.

One of the beers brewed by Boatyard is Scuttlebutt IPA, which is more of a non-traditional hybrid American/British IPA with British malt character.

Mother May IPA, which Amy brewed specifically for the tour, will be a much more traditional American IPA with big, bold character. She knows that it’s a myth that women only enjoy fruity beers, so this is a true American IPA brewed for women (and men also). Hops from Hop Head Farms used in this IPA include Zeus, Columbus, Amarillo, Citra.

Few major decisions have been made during Arcadia Brewing Co.’s 18-year history without the approval of Mardy Suprise. Along with her husband, Tim, she helped open the company’s new 30,000-square-foot facility along the Kalamazoo River in downtown Kalamazoo.

The $7 million project takes Arcadia’s potential annual production from 9,000 barrels a year at its original Battle Creek facility to 60,000 barrels a year. On the tour, she’ll talk about the company’s history and what this next chapter means for Arcadia.

Standard tickets to the Women of West Michigan Beer Tour are $67 and include samples at all four stops. Premium tickets are $79 and include samples at all four stops, a West Michigan Beer Tours Tt-shirt and a Hop Head Farms pint glass.  Purchase tickets online.


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