A little more than five years ago, a Kalamazoo, Mich., friend of mine informed me of a new brewery opening in Paw Paw, Mich. As a potter, I approached them about making hand thrown mugs for their mug club. Brothers-in-law Ben Fleckenstein and Ryan Sylvester hosted a soft opening in December 2010 with four beers on tap: St. James English Mild, Black River Oatmeal Stout, Paw Paw Wheat and 2Paws IPA. On Jan. 21, 2011, they threw a grand opening celebration, and shortly after that I delivered the first 50 mugs, each individually numbered, for the mug club.
Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, Trevor Klimek, was living in the Paw Paw area. He had worked at Bell’s General store and was an avid homebrewer. In February, just one month after opening, Trevor joined Ryan at the brewing team at Paw Paw Brewing Co.
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In the beginning, Ryan and Trevor were brewing on a one-barrel system at the pub, mashing in several times a day just to keep enough beer on tap. Now, they now brew on a six-barrel system at an additional facility about a mile away and last year they produced 2,000 barrels of beer. They are quickly outgrowing their existing space at the pub and just recently announced an expansion to a new building that will offer four times as much pub space as they now operate. According to Ben, they hope to move into the new 22,000 square foot building by late summer 2016.
On Saturday, Jan. 30, Paw Paw Brewing Co. will celebrate their fifth anniversary with the release of five collaboration beers. The party will begin at noon and will include live music from the Kalamazoo Americana band Barn On Fire, bonfires, food (including barbecue and a crawfish boil) and a commemorative anniversary pint glass. There will be no cover for the event, but guests will need to purchase drink tickets.
The five collaboration beers were brewed with nearby brewing friends and include:
- Blue Shrub: An India Pale Lager (7 percent ABV) brewed with Greenbush Brewing Co. (Sawyer, Mich.) using pilsen malt and Mandarina and Saaz hops
- Paws in the Well: A Double IPA (8 percent ABV) brewed with One Well Brewing (Kalamazoo). Trevor told me that they kept high-fiving each other and came to the conclusion that they needed to brew this beer with five grains and five hops. This collaboration was brewed with 555 pounds of grain, including barley, wheat, oat, rye and rice, and Summit, Zues, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo hops.
- Final Paw: A Belgian IPA (8 percent ABV) brewed with Final Gravity Brewing Co. (Decatur, Mich.) using local hops and caramelized candy sugar.
- PAW-ARC-ED Eldorado: An India Brown Double IPA (Parked Eldorado, 8 percent ABV) brewed with Arclight Brewing Co. (Watervliet, Mich.) using Eldorado hops and molasses.
- Black Barn: A Double Cascadian Black IPA (7.1 percent ABV) brewed with Barn Brewers Brewery (Lawton, Mich.) using Cascade hops and licorice.
Last Friday I delivered mugs up to number 850 and found 15 beers on tap, including one of the collaboration beers, Black Barn. It has a bold malt backbone with a great hop bitterness that went well with my pesto panini. Last Saturday, Trevor previewed all five of the collaboration beers during a Kalamazoo Beer Week event at Old Burdick’s Bar and Grill.
Paw Paw Brewing hand bottles a couple of times a week, sending six packs of 12 oz. bottles as well as some 22 oz. bottles into distribution. Once again, for baseball season, they will be releasing their Mr. Sunday, but this year in six packs. This beer is in honor of Paw Paw native and former Detroit Tiger player Charlie Sunday. He led the American League outfielders in fielding in 1957 and 1960, with only 25 lifetime errors, and was a two-time American League All Star player in 1956 and 1957. Charlie lives in Paw Paw and visits the pub once in awhile. Also, look for Citra Melon (American IPA, 4.8 percent ABV) to be released in cans this spring, with the use of Michigan Mobile Canning.