Hop Notes: Brite Eyes Brewing Co. joins the Kalamazoo craft beer scene

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Eric Strader/Hop Notes

Kalamazoo, Mich., is my beer city.  

There are many great cities around the country that offer great beer, but I have been familiar with this city my whole life — I attended college here, I discovered craft beer here, I first dabbled in homebrewing here and Kalamazoo continues to offer so many great opportunities for beer enthusiasts.

BRITE EYES BREWING CO. 
1156 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo, Mich. 

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to nearly a dozen different craft beer bars that I would happily visit any day of the week, there are 11 breweries within the greater Kalamazoo area. This past August, another brewery was added to that list.  

When our friend and artist Steve Curl (Planet Steve) told us his sculpted metal robot invasion would be on display at Brite Eyes Brewing Co., during the month of October, my first thought was “What? I don’t know this brewery.” A quick stop during our fall break changed that.

Brian Pierce began homebrewing about five years ago and while he loves craft beer, his wife doesn’t drink. Wanting to create a place where they could both hang out, Brian came up with a coffee house/brewery idea. When they first opened in August, the focus was on the coffee house part of the business. They offered a breakfast and lunch deli menu with coffee from Johnny Java’s, a commercial artisan roaster located in southwest Michigan. Some of the coffees are roasted specifically for Brite Eyes.

Since then, they have added beer to their menu. Brian brews on a one-barrel system and he currently brews about three times per week. Plans are to add a three-barrel system to the mezzanine directly above the bar and serving area. During our visit, there were four beers available and I ordered a sampler flight of three. Lucky for me, the Batch One (session pale ale, 4 percent ABV) was still on tap. I also sampled Mango A Go Go (IPA, 5.5 percent ABV) and Merry Traveler (robust porter, 5.8 percent ABV).

All three were really solid.  The pale ale was nicely balanced with good hop flavors, and there was plenty of citrus and mango in the IPA. My favorite, however, was the porter which was packed with roasted malt and coffee flavors and a slight bitter finish. I will have to return another time to try the Dogwoods Wife (blonde ale, 4.9 percent ABV) which was on tap, and the other pale ale and American IPA that were already gone.

The “Brite” in the name can have a double reference. Brite tanks are used to condition and sometimes serve beer and the large north facing windows allow lots of bright light into the tap room seating area. Brian told me that when he and his wife were looking for a location, high ceilings and lots of light were a must. They found the perfect spot on the corner of West Crosstown Parkway and South Burdick Street, just a short walk from downtown central.

When I asked Brian what set his brewery apart from other Kalamazoo breweries, he replied, “We are the only brewery in town that serves breakfast.”  

Even though my first visit was brief, it was enough for me to know that I need to revisit this brewery again very soon.

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