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Exploring Arcadia Ales' Kalamazoo location

While on a short Kalamazoo brewery tour recently to collect some Give A Craft passport stamps, I joined my friend Michael for lunch at Arcadia Ales.

Even though the pub opened about a year ago, this was my first visit. Michael has become somewhat a regular and has been raving about Arcadia’s chicken and waffles and gumbo for quite some time, so I’m glad to have finally made the trek. Even though it is just across the river, Arcadia is just about a mile from the many other downtown Kalamazoo beer destinations.

The original Arcadia Ales brewery is located in Battle Creek, Mich., which now brew smaller specialty batches and have a restaurant and pub. The company does continue to keg in Battle Creek, but it has moved its packaging to the new 30,000 square foot facility in Kalamazoo, which has a state of the art bottling line and small canning line. My parents live in Battle Creek, and I have enjoyed many pints at the original pub over the years.

While looking for my friend Michael, who was already inside enjoying a beer, I happened into my friend and Arcadia brewer Colt Dykstra. I knew Colt from his days at Bell’s with Trevor Klimek (currently brewer at Paw Paw Brewing).

After Colt left Bell’s, he went to Natty Greene’s Brewery in North Carolina, then returned to Michigan to brew at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Mich., where he helped install the new brew house.

Before Michael and I sat down for lunch, Colt took us on a tour of the 50-barrel brew house and packaging facility.  

Unlike most breweries, Arcadia uses open fermentation — which means exactly what it sounds like. The top of the fermentation vessels are not enclosed. This includes lot of extra hard work, like manually getting inside of the fermentation vessels and cleaning them with a soft brush.

However, because the brewers harvest the yeast off of the top (instead of off the bottom as traditionally done at most other breweries) the yeast can go many more generations.

Brewers harvest yeast from each batch of beer to use for the next batch, which is easier, less expensive, and more consistent than propagating a new batch of yeast. Arcadia is on the 972nd harvest of its yeast strain — when harvesting off the bottom, it is common to get only 15 to 20 generations.

Arcadia is one of the largest breweries in Michigan, with the capability of producing about 21,000 barrels annually in its new facility. We met three of the other brewers and I observed around two dozen other employees working at different aspects of the packaging process.

Colt walked us through the whole bottling line, starting where empty bottles drop down on a conveyor, are cleaned, filled, then dropped into cardboard cases.

Arcadia brews mostly traditional English style ales, but with his love for sour ales, Colt is starting a sour program. Keep your eyes and ears open to hear more about these beers coming soon from Arcadia.

The building has a modern brick and metal look and is roomy and comfortable. The west wall is mostly windows on overhead doors, which I imagine they open for special events or when the weather is moderately comfortable. This also allows for minimal lighting on days like our visit.

Michael had the gumbo, no surprise, and I had barbecue pulled pork, barbecue beans, waffle fries and raspberry cream pie. Paired with B-Craft black IPA (8.5 percent ABV, IBUs 85), it made for a great Thursday afternoon meal.

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