Beer to-go in growlers and crowlers has become fairly standard at most breweries, but only rarely have I found growler fill stations at places other than breweries.
Ohio and South Carolina are two states that I’ve found growler fill stations at bottle shops, and in fact I found one shop in South Carolina that had Bell’s Expedition Stout available to go in 64-ounce growlers.
That has now changed in Kalamazoo, Mich. On Sept. 8, Aaron VanArsdale and Shayne Sherman — two Goshen natives — opened Craft Draft 2 Go, a 50-tap bar with an emphasis on beer to-go in 64-ounce growlers, and 32-ounce crowlers. In addition, all taps are sold for in-house enjoyment in 5-ounce pours as well as one or two larger sizes, depending on the beer.
One of my favorite features is their digital draft system. Each listing on the tap board displays a keg symbol along with a color coding, letting customers know how much of each keg is left (this can also be viewed online).
The photo I took shows the Arcadia and Griffin Claw beers in green, indicating that they are mostly full. The Perrin and Tibbs beers indicated in yellow are about half gone and the One Well keg in red is almost empty.
On my visit, 41 of the taps featured Michigan beers, many of which were limited releases, and seven taps were pouring barrel-aged beers. Since they are offered in 5-ounce pours, one can easily sample a wider variety of beers.
Some of my favorites included Latitude 42 Topanga American Pale Ale (6.7 percent ABV, 6 IBUs); Odd Side Ales I Want My HTV (double IPA, 9 percent ABV); Perrin No Rules (imperial porter, 15 percent ABV); and Brewery Vivant Angelina (barrel-aged sour, 8.4 percent ABV).
If the current tap list is any indication of what VanArsdale will be getting long term, the more than 50 seats at Craft Draft 2 Go are going to be full of regulars enjoying pints in addition to catering to those getting beer to-go.
“The idea was spurred from the love of growlers from breweries and the law changing in 2013 that allows me to do this,” VanArsdale told me. “My business partner, Shayne, and I are Goshen High School alumni. He would come up to Kalamazoo to hit breweries with us, and when I approached him with this idea, he was sold.”
Each week will start with “Kill the Keg Monday,” which will feature specials in order to move certain beers. This week featured 16-ounce pours of Latitude 42 Poppin’ Pils for $3.50 and 32-ounce crowlers of New Holland The Poet for $10. Following Monday will be “New Tap Tuesday,” where new beers will be introduced.
There’s no food available, but there are plenty of options in the University Commons, where Craft Draft 2 Go is located. Although customers are welcome to bring in food from area restaurants. Since I was at the end of my day on my visit and in dire need of food, I ran across the parking lot to Jimmy John’s for a veggie sub.
While I was enjoying my last beer of the evening, Lattitude 42 barrel-aged Lucifer’s Cuvee (imperial stout, 11 percent ABV), one of VanArsdale’s buddies from Syracuse walked in and joined me at the bar. The crowd was varied — from young hipsters searching for the newest barrel-aged beer to tick off on Untappd, to a few older than me looking for a comfortable place to unwind on a Saturday evening.
The tap room features many connections to Indiana. Jeff Barrick, a Goshen native, has four of his paintings hanging on the wall, depicting the four seasons of Michigan. VanArsdale’s uncle, Rick Delcamp, built the cabinetry and drink rails using Indiana soft maple, and Dennis Miller of Goshen poured the concrete bar; he also poured the concrete bar at Goshen Brewing Co.
The 2,042 square-foot tap room is located at 4520 Stadium Drive, off of the northeast corner of Stadium Drive and Drake Road, and about a half mile off of U.S. 131. Hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Sunday. Sunday nights will feature “Industry Night” from 7 to 11 p.m., which will include a discount on beer prices for those who work in the food service industry.
I met Aaron a couple of years ago through his high school sweetheart who has been in the Kalamazoo brewing scene for some time now. It is not uncommon to meet up with the two of them at Goshen Brewing Co. or to see them around Goshen. After hearing about these great plans for quite some time, it’s exciting to see the place in action.
Kalamazoo already has a solid craft beer following — several breweries, craft beer bars and a HopCat location coming soon — Craft Draft 2 Go just adds one more positive dimension.
For his part, VanArsdale is excited for how things have been going so far. “Our expectations were high, because of the strong craft beer scene in southwest Michigan, and as predicted, the reception has been great.”