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craft draft 2 go
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are aware of the situation surrounding Craft Draft 2 Go and its co-owner Aaron VanArsdale. Due to the turbulent nature of the story, we are closing comments on this article, which originally published on July 14, 2016. However, we are happy to get feedback from our readers and invite them to email us at news@mittenbrew.com.

 

Being the first to do anything craft beer related in Kalamazoo these days is a tough proposition, but Aaron VanArsdale is pioneering an untapped market in the city with Craft Draft 2 Go, a tap room focused on packaging beer to go in either 64-ounce glass growlers or 32-ounce aluminum Crowlers.

Taking home a growler has long been a staple part of microbreweries, but prior to a state law passed in 2013 it wasn’t legal for bars in Michigan to fill growlers. When the law changed, many venues throughout the state started offering draft beer to-go, but Craft Draft 2 Go will be the first in Kalamazoo to offer a wide variety of craft beer on draft with to-go sales being the cornerstone when it opens the first week of August.

craft draft 2 go

Aaron VanArsdale

“In Cincinnati you can get a growler filled at a gas station,” said VanArsdale, who owns the bar with his business partner Shayne Sherman. “In Oregon it’s booming. In Arizona it’s booming. You can get a growler filled just about anywhere. So Kalamazoo, why not? Why has nobody done this?”

Craft Draft 2 Go will serve craft beer with a side of some serious technology. The bar uses a digital pour system so people can see in real time how much is left of each keg on their website and Facebook page. If your favorite is in the red, you should probably ask the boss to leave early that day. New tappings are announced on their Twitter feed as well.

Another innovation Craft Draft 2 Go will focus on is Crowlers, a 32-ounce can that is filled directly from the tap and sealed right at the bar, introduced by Oscar Blues Brewery in late 2013. A CO2 nozzle purges the can of oxygen immediately prior to filling and the seal prevents air penetration, keeping the beer inside fresh for longer. Currently, Rupert’s Brew House is the only other Kalamazoo establishment offering Crowlers.

“To me it was a no brainer,” VanArsdale said. “The convenience of the can is you don’t have to remember to bring it back with you and it’s recyclable. It’s up to you to recycle it, but the can is convenient to take to the golf course, take it on the boat, take it to the race track. And then when you’re done with it you don’t have to worry about breaking it.”

craftdraft2go

 

VanArsdale said he’s been working on the idea for Craft Draft 2 Go for about three years, but it started becoming reality last October when he took possession of the space at 4520 Stadium Drive in the University Commons retail center formerly housing a Radio Shack.

Inside, it’s impossible to tell Craft Draft 2 Go was a defunct electronics store less than a year ago. The black and red walls are broken up by expanses of reclaimed barnwood and sections of whiskey barrels form the bases of pendant light fixtures hanging above the bar. More reclaimed barn wood went into building the tap room’s tables, and Michigan-themed art is prevalent. Bottle caps from Michigan breweries even cover the screws securing the drink rail to the bar’s outer walls. VanArsdale, a Navy veteran, is especially proud of the prominently displayed U.S., Michigan, and Kalamazoo flags.

“You want to do it right and go big,” he said. “But sometimes when you go big you lose the little details. I wanted to focus on making sure we didn’t miss any of the little details.”

Craft Draft 2 Go seats about 50, but the bar stools stop about two-thirds of the way down the 36-foot, poured concrete-topped bar so patrons who come in for growler and Crowler fills have plenty of room and a clear view of the 50 taps, 35 to 40 of which featuring Michigan beer, VanArsdale said. He’s committed six taps to Bell’s Brewery and another four to Latitude 42 Brewing Company. Two taps are nitro capable, one of which is used to serve Michigan-sourced cold-brewed coffee, and another tap is dedicated to serving root beer from Tibbs Brewing Company.

“We’re going to have Tibbs and One Well,” VanArsdale said. “We’re always going to have some of the other proven breweries in the state of Michigan—Dark Horse, Founders, New Holland. Besides that there’s a lot of other great beer out there in different parts of America we want to bring in. People doing good beer that you don’t always see.”

While the tap room’s focus is on giving craft beer lovers the biggest selection of to-go craft beer in Kalamazoo, it also will feature some compelling reasons to stick around and sample a few brews before selecting a couple to take home. A staffed private suite with two additional dedicated taps, bringing the bar’s overall total to 52, is available. The bar will have Kill the Keg Mondays, offering discounts on tap room pours for kegs that have been going the longest, and New Tap Tuesdays celebrating whatever went on tap to replace the previous night’s casualties. They plan to spin records on monthly vinyl nights and also have a monthly Bells night.

“We want people to feel like this is their local watering hole,” VanArsdale said. “Somewhere they can come in and have a beer, have a decent conversation and forget about life for a while.”

 

Photography: Steph Harding

perrin brewingComstock Park, Mich. – Perrin Brewing Company’s specialty Veteran Pale Lager is made once a year to honor and support the upcoming city-wide event West Michigan Freedom Cruise on June 14-18th. This event features several activities throughout the week with 100% of the net proceeds and $1 for every pint sold of Perrin Veteran Pale Lager goes towards veterans in need and the quality of life projects at Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Perrin Veteran Pale Lager is available on draft and specialty crowlers to go at Perrin Brewing Company.

Perrin Brewing has been a proud sponsor for the West Michigan Freedom Cruise for the past three years, each year crafting a specialty beer and crowler to raise funds and awareness for the Finish the Mission Veterans Relief Fund. The Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund is an organization with a single focus of making West Michigan the most Veteran friendly community in the nation by providing for the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Every summer, the week long Freedom Cruise event, made up of car, motorcycle, music, and golf activities spreads awareness, fun, and funding for Veteran needs across West Michigan.

Veteran Pale Lager (VPL) is a light, clean, and crisp American lager brewed with mild hops. From the rich historical roots of pilsner American brewing, this lager was brewed in a traditional way. The end result was a very approachable beer with flavorful taste that everyone could enjoy. For every pint sold of VPL at Perrin Pub, one dollar will be donated to the Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund to support and enhance the quality of life for local West Michigan veterans and their families.

Perrin Brewing is privileged to be a part of this city wide event and support those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Innovation is a driving force in the craft beer industry. Brewers push the boundaries of what a beer can be with new flavors, new ingredients and new techniques. But innovative changes aren’t just found in how a beer tastes, they’re also found in how it’s packaged. If you love bringing home your favorite beers from your favorite breweries, it may be time to say “goodbye” to the growler, and “hello” to the Crowler, the newest innovation in take-out beer.

The Crowler is a one-use, recyclable 32-ounce can that is filled and seamed right at the bar. The can is sealed air-tight by a modified canning machine developed by Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery and its partner, Ball Corporation. Oskar Blues is the exclusive distributor of the Crowler machine, a logical extension of the brewery’s pro-can philosophy.

“We’re really big fans of cans and all the advantages of cans,” said Jeremy Rudolf, Production Manager. Those advantages include recyclability, an air-tight seal that preserves carbonation and an opaque package that keeps sunlight out. It is also cleaner than your usual growler.

“Growlers come from all these people who just empty their beer, rinse them out and throw them in the car and just grab them when they need to. That doesn’t do the beer any favors,” said Rudolf.

Bill White, owner of White Flame Brewing Company in Hudsonville, was the first brewer in Michigan to offer Crowlers. He was a believer from the first time he saw it.

“My wife and I participated in a festival in Chicago last summer. Someone popped open a cooler with these quart-sized beer cans in it and I was amazed. When we returned that week I looked it up and said, ‘How do I get one?’”

In just a couple of months, a Crowler machine was purchased, and White Flame patrons were introduced to the newest way to get craft beer on-the-go.

“It’s been a huge boost for to-go sales, for sure,” claimed White. “It’s more portable than the growler.  For us, going forward, we’re going to try to push the can package.”

The Crowler machine is a modified food-canning system for the home that’s small enough to fit on the counter behind the bar.

“We took an existing machine, and we kind of pulled the machine apart and built it back up and evolved it over the last year and made many improvements for these custom cans,” said Rudolf.  The machine also includes a CO2 purging station that removes any oxygen from the can before it’s filled with beer.

Oskar Blues has sold over 200 Crowler machines around the globe, including White Flame and Perrin Brewing Company, which Oskar Blues acquired in March.

The Perrin Crowlers have been well received by both novice and savvy clientele. Bobby Klene of Indianapolis was at Perrin on a brewery tour with his wife when he noticed the new, canned take-out option.

“I was excited when I came in and saw they had the Crowlers. The first thing I thought in my head was, ‘I’m getting that!’” Beer aficionados like Klene are also anxious to spread the Crowler gospel. “Oh yeah, it’s getting put on Twitter tonight…there’s no question about that,” said Klene.

Chris Keskitalo of Grand Rapids had never heard of the Crowler, but had just made his first purchase and was already sold on its merits.

“I bought this because I’ve never had it before.  It seems easier for coolers, and you can just recycle it on your trip to the beach,” Keskitalo said.

In addition to White Flame and Perrin, Crowlers are also becoming popular at several other Michigan breweries and bars, including Griffin Claw Brew Company (Birmingham) and BFD Clubhouse in Detroit.

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Even though the Crowler is generating buzz, growlers are still extremely popular, and not all beer drinkers will be ready for a switch. But for Bill White, the benefits of the increased shelf-life is a huge selling point.

“I’ve had them months and months later and they’ve still been great,” White said.

The combination of a longer life and a smaller volume has beer lovers like Klene favoring the Crowler.

“The moment you crack open a 64-ounce growler you have a time limit on when you can actually finish that and get the same quality product out of it,” Klene said.

Perrin customer Travis Andresen of Grand Rapids also sees a hidden benefit to the smaller 32-ounce can.

“It eliminates the sharing responsibilities because it’s just in one can, so I get it all to myself,” he joked.

Jeremy Rudolf from Oskar Blues does concede one possible drawback of the Crowler, and that’s the environmental concerns from using a new package for every purchase. But he believes those concerns can be answered as well.

“The one drawback of the whole thing is that it’s a one-way package. Now, the benefit of a one-way package is that it’s clean and it’s new every time. And it is infinitely recyclable. As long as you’re not a jerk and [you] throw it in the recycling bin, that will become a new can in less than two months.”

Beer lovers are always game to try the latest, greatest flavor innovation. Will that same attitude apply to the Crowler as well? Only time will tell. But these big, shiny cans may be making an appearance at your favorite brewery very soon.

To learn more about the Crowler, check out the Oskar Blues website.