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Boatyard Brewing

When an unfamiliar visitor stumbles upon the north side of Kalamazoo, they may feel as though they have taken a wrong turn as the main attractions shift from restaurants and breweries to old warehouses and large factories. However, if they look closely they will notice a small 10 barrel brewery that decided to call this part of town home. 

After several years of preparation, Brian C. Steele and Dan Gilligan were finally able to give Kalamazoo its newest craft brewery, Boatyard Brewing Co., in June of 2014. Their mission is to be a brewery where you get to know the staff while you’re enjoying one of their 11 beers on tap. It is also not uncommon to get a Boatyard history lesson during your visit. Their story is an intriguing adventure of two home-brewers and their attempt to bring quality beer to the north end of Kalamazoo.    

Roughly 5 years ago, Steele approached Gilligan with the idea of opening up a craft brewery. Gilligan immediately accepted the proposal and partnered with Steele to begin this journey with great intentions. One particular goal of theirs was for the brewery to have a Michigan centric name.  After going through tons of copyrighted names, they discovered that “Boatyard Brewing Co.” had not been used. Calling back to boating adventures that they shared with family and friends, Steele said, “We decided to aim for a culture of boating. Most of the time it’s relaxing, family oriented, and fun and so we went with Boatyard.”

To embark on their nautical brewing journey, Steele and Gilligan needed a location around Kalamazoo for their Boatyard Brewing Co.

During their search a building became available on the north end of Kalamazoo. It seemed like a great location for a temporary home. Steele and Gilligan rented out a section of the building they thought would be the perfect size for them after some renovations.

Several weeks went by during the restoration and the guys began to feel at home. They started to call their new place “a location of opportunity.” Despite many people telling them that being on the north side of Kalamazoo was a big risk, Steele and Gilligan never abandoned their ship. They eventually purchased the entire building from their landlord. This allowed Boatyard to have a permanent location with plenty of room for innovation and expansion.

As Steele and Gilligan said, this location became a place of opportunity. They were able to explore new ways of brewing by cultivating a few strains of yeasts from different areas within the brew house. This lead to the creation of the “Alice” and “Betty” series, which contain different ales using these wild yeasts.

Proud of their results, Boatyard plans to brew several different ales from the Alice and Betty series for the upcoming Kalamazoo Beer Week in January. Boatyard is also partnering with The Union to do a tap takeover with the Alice series at their location on S Kalamazoo Mall.

In another effort to support Kalamazoo commerce, Boatyard has also been partnering with the local food truck, Sloppy’s, to help feed hungry customers at the brewery. Steele and Gilligan enjoy their relationship with Sloppy’s because of the opportunities it has created for everyone. Both businesses are able to focus on their specialties with relief that the other is attending to other consumer needs.

After being open for almost 2 years, Boatyard has made partnerships that have brought other local businesses to the north side of Kalamazoo. Thanks to the help of DiscoverKalamazoo, Boatyard has become a part of the “Give a Craft Beer Trail” to help promote their brewery. The trail provides its participants the opportunity to explore 11 breweries around Kalamazoo County. This has contributed to attracting outside travelers and locals to the north side for the first time.  

Through the combination of great beer, local business partnerships and a friendly staff, Boatyard has been able to make their mark on an unexpected area of Kalamazoo. As Steele explained this impact perfectly, “We’ve kind of become the ‘anchor’ on the north end.”

KALAMAZOO — Friday night was a whirling dervish of red bandanas, Galaxy hops, prom dresses and beer enthusiasts with attitude.

Yes, attitude. For Kalamazoo Beer Week, Boatyard Brewing Company threw a seminar party combo with the tagline, “We Can Brew It!” Everyone had their fists up and their beer fierce faces on.

The night began with a Pale Ale Hops seminar hosted by Fermenta and Boatyard’s head brewer, Amy Waugaman. As a lady brewer in the industry, Waugaman approached Fermenta, a Michigan Women’s Craft Collective nonprofit organization, about a collaborative event where education could be combined with a good time.

Fellow industry professionals Pauline Knighton (Fermenta), Sheryl Rose (Women in Beer advocate and educator) and Bonnie Steinman (Hop Head Farms) helped guide event attendees through tasting, smelling and experiencing different hops.

“These are all the same beer, but with different hops,” said Waugaman. The fan favorite of the night seemed to be the Galaxy hops, a rare breed from Australia that displays passion fruit flavors and smells. Also in the taste flight were the more common Cascade, Celia and Mt. Hood hops, and it was fascinating comparing the different smells and tastes.

While we swirled and sniffed our beer, the hostesses answered questions and offered sampling techniques. Knighton shared her recently gained knowledge: “After swallowing your beer, exhale through your nose to get a more intense aftertaste and smell — the aroma is much stronger.”

Vouching that this does work, I can also admit it adds excellent entertainment value to hear people vehemently blowing out their nostrils while drinking beer. And I cleared out my sinuses, too!

The seminar easily transitioned into a 1940s party for all professionals and enthusiasts and for anyone who accidently stumbled into the back room — there was music for dancing, beer for drinking and local food for snacking.

In between Rosie the Riveter-themed photo shoots, I fell in love with Boatyard’s Gingerbread Man Overboard Imperial Porter as well as the Hold Fast Pale Ale. Porters and pales are not my usual go-tos, but these were flavors and feeelings I had never before associated with either kind. The gingerbread flavor gentled the heavy porter mouthfeel, while the pale had just enough bitter hops to bite a little. In talking with Waugaman about her background and just how she does it, she told me:

“You have to have a little crazy to be able to do it.”

She has only been in the industry for two years, and she didn’t drink her first beer until she was 35. So how did all of this magic happen?

With much admiration and amusement, I quickly learned that Waugaman unintentionally set herself up to become a brewer. Her schooling background encompassed Biology, Chemistry and Microbiology — so much science! Combine that with her culinary school expertise in baking and she was already an expert before she contacted Boatyard to learn the intricacies of the brewing process.

“I know yeast,” she says, “and I’m a hard worker and motivated. Brewing doesn’t feel like work. There’s no stress.”

She tells me that brewing is forever about crafting your work and paying the respect back to the process.

“It’s all about the innovation. Boatyard is a tiny team, but we take simplicity and take it far.”

As for representing women in the brewing industry? Waugaman relates it back to Rosie the Riveter and how it wasn’t emphasizing women doing men’s jobs, but rather it’s anyone having the motivation and determination to do a job.

“The men here — the workers at Boatyard aren’t here to capitalize on having a female brewer. They stand behind me — I’m their grasshopper.”

The feeling at Boatyard that night was all about possibility and saluting historical ideals. We were a room full of people united by beer, supported by the Kalamazoo community whose loyalty to beer is world-renown. We can drink it. We can smell it. We can enjoy it. We Can Brew It!

KALAMAZOO — Friday night was a whirling dervish of red bandanas, Galaxy hops, prom dresses and beer enthusiasts with attitude.
Yes, attitude. For Kalamazoo Beer Week, Boatyard Brewing Company threw a seminar party combo with the tagline, “We Can Brew It!” Everyone had their fists up and their beer fierce faces on.
The night began with a Pale Ale Hops seminar hosted by Fermenta and Boatyard’s head brewer, Amy Waugaman. As a lady brewer in the industry, Waugaman approached Fermenta, a Michigan Women’s Craft Collective nonprofit organization, about a collaborative event where education could be combined with a good time.
Fellow industry professionals Pauline Knighton (Fermenta), Sheryl Rose (Women in Beer advocate and educator) and Bonnie Steinman (Hop Head Farms) helped guide event attendees through tasting, smelling and experiencing different hops.
“These are all the same beer, but with different hops,” said Waugaman. The fan favorite of the night seemed to be the Galaxy hops, a rare breed from Australia that displays passion fruit flavors and smells. Also in the taste flight were the more common Cascade, Celia and Mt. Hood hops, and it was fascinating comparing the different smells and tastes.
While we swirled and sniffed our beer, the hostesses answered questions and offered sampling techniques. Knighton shared her recently gained knowledge: “After swallowing your beer, exhale through your nose to get a more intense aftertaste and smell — the aroma is much stronger.”
Vouching that this does work, I can also admit it adds excellent entertainment value to hear people vehemently blowing out their nostrils while drinking beer. And I cleared out my sinuses, too!
The seminar easily transitioned into a 1940s party for all professionals and enthusiasts and for anyone who accidently stumbled into the back room — there was music for dancing, beer for drinking and local food for snacking.
In between Rosie the Riveter-themed photo shoots, I fell in love with Boatyard’s Gingerbread Man Overboard Imperial Porter as well as the Hold Fast Pale Ale. Porters and pales are not my usual go-tos, but these were flavors and feeelings I had never before associated with either kind. The gingerbread flavor gentled the heavy porter mouthfeel, while the pale had just enough bitter hops to bite a little. In talking with Waugaman about her background and just how she does it, she told me:
“You have to have a little crazy to be able to do it.”
She has only been in the industry for two years, and she didn’t drink her first beer until she was 35. So how did all of this magic happen?
With much admiration and amusement, I quickly learned that Waugaman unintentionally set herself up to become a brewer. Her schooling background encompassed Biology, Chemistry and Microbiology — so much science! Combine that with her culinary school expertise in baking and she was already an expert before she contacted Boatyard to learn the intricacies of the brewing process.
“I know yeast,” she says, “and I’m a hard worker and motivated. Brewing doesn’t feel like work. There’s no stress.”
She tells me that brewing is forever about crafting your work and paying the respect back to the process.
“It’s all about the innovation. Boatyard is a tiny team, but we take simplicity and take it far.”
As for representing women in the brewing industry? Waugaman relates it back to Rosie the Riveter and how it wasn’t emphasizing women doing men’s jobs, but rather it’s anyone having the motivation and determination to do a job.
“The men here — the workers at Boatyard aren’t here to capitalize on having a female brewer. They stand behind me — I’m their grasshopper.”
The feeling at Boatyard that night was all about possibility and saluting historical ideals. We were a room full of people united by beer, supported by the Kalamazoo community whose loyalty to beer is world-renown. We can drink it. We can smell it. We can enjoy it. We Can Brew It!

KALAMAZOO — A West Michigan Beer Tour is a long day, but a long day worth the cost and a hell of a lot of fun.

MittenBrew recently tagged along with Lisa Faber and Beth Liberty, partners (along with their husbands) of West Michigan Beer Tours, Inc. for ‘Women of West Michigan Beer.’  About 25 craft beer enthusiasts signed up for this Noon to 5 p.m. event, geared towards showcasing and meeting women who are leading the way in the Michigan craft beer community.

West Michigan Beer Tours is a relatively new company, with its inaugural tour in June of last year. So far, they’ve had a lot of success with their unique public and private tours for craft beer lovers. Offering plenty of tours through the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and close-by areas, the group is looking to expand to the I-94 corridor soon.

Lisa and Beth don’t often host a tour, but they told their husbands that it was only fitting they get to lead this one.

ARRIVAL

Registration and check in starts at Tibbs Brewing Company in Kalamazoo, a small locally-owned nano brewery. Cindee Tibbs, six months pregnant and wearing a company shirt christened with FV1 (fermentation vessel #1) on her stomach, greets us at the door.

An initial Q&A starts the day while everyone samples some pints, like the Citra Your Ass Down IPA or Hell-Jen Belgian Tripel. “We opened on December 6, 2013 and the community has been amazing, very supportive, everyone has been wonderful. I can’t say enough about how great and supportive Kalamazoo has been, everyone reaching out to make us feel welcome. It’s really nice,” said Tibbs.

Cindees’ interest in brewing was sparking because of her husband, but they both soon realized it was her who had the better palate. Taste testing product and offering suggestions for tweaking recipes, Cindee is an active part in the brewery, not just the paperwork girl (though she takes care of that as well). Since her pregnancy, the tastings have of course stopped, but she’s still working right alongside her husband.

Tibbs is already very active in the community and involved with other local businesses, like their recent collaboration with The Cupcake ZOO on treats made with G’Mornin Coffee Stout and the For Richer or Porter coffee cake.

“Tibbs is all about our customer. We want to connect with our customers; we want to be that ‘Cheers’ location and make sure they are getting high quality beer, at a great price and in a good atmosphere.”

+ + +

After registration, it’s on to the bus to our first stop, Hop Head Farms. On the way to our first destination, Shannon Kuchera, the Communications Director from the Michigan Brewers Guild, shares some information with attendees about the Guild and what they do for the industry and for the craft beer fans alike.

HOP HEAD FARMS

After a little drive, we arrive at Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, a 30-acre farm that supplies some of your favorites with what makes beer, beer.

Bonnie Steinman is part of the husband and wife team that runs Hop Head. Today, she is leading our tour from entrance to field to harvesting room, with beer samples featuring their product along the way. Pouring is the ‘Beer Broads,’ a local group of women who get together over a pint on a semi-regular basis.

Seven samples in all are offered throughout the stop, featuring almost all of the nine varietals that are grown by Hop Head. Manda Geiger from Pike 51 is on hand, sharing her KUSH IPA Dry Hopped with HHF Saaz and one hopped with HHF Glacier.

A tasting list with descriptions is graciously provided, and we spend time talking about the nuances between varietals as we go through the facility, starting off in the main area, tasting the Citra Melon from Paw Paw and the Multigrain Mutt from Ruperts Brew House in Kalamazoo. “So basically, the citra and melon hops play off each other in this one, but the melon mellows it out,” says Bonnie about the Citra Melon Session Ale.

We make our way towards the hop fields, acres of poles waiting to be covered in vines. “We grow 30,000 hop plants and 9 different varieties of hops,” she says. “We supply over 50 breweries throughout the United States — not just Michigan.”

Bonnie shares as she shows us the small, asparagus hop shoots that are coming up at the base of each pole. Within the next week, Hop Head will use a machine to score the tops. After the crowns are pruned, two ropes will be tied to each crown and three vines (or hardy shoots) will be trained up each rope.

“We can do about 4,000 ropes a day — that’s kind of slow, actually, in comparison to other places out west. We are still perfecting our system,” says Bonnie.

Our next stop is the harvesting room, where we meet Griselda, Hop Head’s massive harvester, complete with gears and wheels and conveyers that are all a little Willy Wonka. It gets even better as we make our way into a room underneath the oast tower, looking up from the blowers into three floors that are actually drawers, designed to dry the hops as needed depending on variety.

We end with a few more beer samples and Bonnie’s special Hop Cheese, a secret mix that includes beer and hops, of course.

+ + +

Between stops, Lisa and Beth keep the ladies well hydrated and make sure no one lacks for snacks. It’s a great atmosphere, and as the day processes, more and more strangers become friends and share their experiences with Michigan brew, homebrewing horror stories and successes, and simply chat about everyday things one talks about over a pint.

BOATYARD BREWING

It’s on to the brand new Boatyard Brewing in Kalamazoo, where we meet Amy Waugaman, a pink-booted brewer who has a rather unique road to working in the industry.

“I drank my first beer when I was 35. I was into big red wines, and I went through a divorce and decided to try things I was opposed to before for no reason, and beer was one of them,” she says.

Waugaman pours us samples of Kissing the Gunners Daughter — a traditional Klosch which she says is great for mowing your lawn of sitting on your boat. Lightly hopped, it’s an easy drinker, perfect for summer.

“I started to drink beers in this area, and went up to Founders and had a Red’s Rye and fell in love, then decided I wanted to try to homebrew. I have a degree in microbiology and chemistry and then went to culinary school, so it made sense. My homebrew was pretty good and I wanted to do more.”

Our next sample is a Blonde Ale, a malt forward Bière de Garde brewed very true to style called Currents Will Shift. “So I discovered this place, sent an email that basically said I want to learn commercial brewing. Teach me, and I will give you my time. Bryan and Dan, owners of Boatyard, started teaching me and it went from there. It’s my passion and I love it and I don’t feel like I’m ever working.”

The last beer is Swearing Sailor Sasion, so good I go home with a growler full. It’s back onto the bus where Waugaman joins us as we make our way to Arcadia.

+ + +

On the way to our final stop, Beth Raich from Brew Hauler demos her product and provides goodie bags for everyone. An ingeniously simple little contraption made from sturdy webbing that fits snugly around your growler to make carrying easier, this product came about as a way to use leftover materials from the Brew Hauler’s main seller, the larger version made for carboys. It was a nice gesture and very usable during the trip.

ARCADIA BREWING

Our last stop of the day was a treat — Arcadia’s brand new Kalamazoo facility, which is having its grand opening on May 8. It was the brewery’s soft opening, and we enjoyed a full free pint courtesy of the tour and had the option to eat ample, decadent BBQ that assaulted our nostils when we walked in.

Mardy Suprise, co-owner along with her husband Tim, stepped outside with the group to talk about Arcadia, from opening the Battle Creek location 18 years ago to the launch of the Kalamazoo branch.

Mardy has been a part of Michigan’s craft beer scene since inception, and shared stories of falling pizza ovens, exploding water drains and how Arcadia has reached the point where it is today. Wife, mother and entrepreneur, Mardy is very much a part of daily operations at Arcadia. Like the other women on our tour that day, she has made her way in what is still considered a man’s world, shattering stereotypes and breaking barriers. “I did not sleep at all, for the first 10 years,” she jokes.

The clock strikes five, and the weary attendees make their way back to the bus to end where we started, at Tibbs Brewing. The hardier of the bunch stay at Arcadia and opt to walk back, but the ladies at MittenBrew had had their fill and headed home, laden with beer and swag, great photos and good stories.

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