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kalamazoo beer week

Breweries, bars, restaurants and other venues will provide unique programming all week

 

KALAMAZOO, MI – The first community in Michigan to host a “Beer Week” celebrating its craft beer culture will toast to a decade in January. 

Kalamazoo Beer Week will be held Jan. 11-18 with a variety of new and unique events as well as some fan favorites for the beer-loving traveler and local alike. The week-long program will feature new beer releases, food pairings, meet-and-greet opportunities, behind-the-scene glimpses, recreational activities and more. 

“For the past ten years, we have seen significant growth in the craft beer industry throughout the Kalamazoo region. From support of the annual celebration of Kalamazoo Beer Week to the launch of the Give-A-Craft ® Beer Trail, Discover Kalamazoo has invested in the promotion of craft beer as one of many reasons to discover Kalamazoo,” Discover Kalamazoo President and CEO Greg Ayers said. “We are excited to be the presenting sponsor of this annual event.” 

One of the other highlights of this year’s events will be the introduction of a digital presentation of Discover Kalamazoo’s popular “Give A Craft® Beer Trail” program where visitors receive a reward for visiting at local breweries. Launched to coincide with Beer Week, the digital passport will allow visitors to check in on their mobile devices to receive the reward. 

Discover Kalamazoo took over management of the event from Imperial Beverage in recent years and continues to promote the events around the region. Among the more popular events offered at Kalamazoo Beer Week are: Bell’s Brewery’s Snow Jog; Tibbs Brewing Co.’s CANtucky Derby; Beer vs. Wine battles, beer dinners, specialty tappings and many others. 

Kalamazoo Beer Week was imported here by local distributor Imperial Beverage in 2011 and inspired by a similar concept held in Philadelphia. Imperial Beverage, fronted by the Cekola family, had been named Craft Beer Distributor of the Year by the Brewers Association in 2010 and decided a “Beer Week” would be an appropriate way to celebrate the title. 

The annual event expanded after 2011 to include more area distributors and local breweries, as well as nontraditional venues. Other communities around the state have replicated the program. In previous years, Kalamazoo Beer Week featured more than 250 events.

 

kalamazoo beer week

As the new year begins, Kalamazoo likes to start it off right by hosting the annual Kalamazoo Beer Week.  During the middle of January, Kalamazoo invites locals and visitors to come and celebrate their appreciation for craft beer. Local restaurants and breweries have come together to create a weeklong series of events that promotes different craft beers from Michigan and other states through dinners, tap takeovers, and lively events held all around Kalamazoo. Some events provide their guests opportunities to dine with local brewers over a dinner designed to be paired with their beer. Other events offer the chance to challenge a brewer to a Mario Kart race while sipping on their KBW specialty beer on tap.

This year Kalamazoo has selected to host KBW from January 16 – January 23. Local breweries started the week off with several release partys and tastings around the area. All week long, Gonzo’s Biggdogg Brewing will be serving KBW limited release beers on tap and ending it with a barrel aged beer week finale that will include five barrel aged beers.

Both Brite Eyes Brewing Co. and Tibb’s Brewing Company have teamed up with local beer enthusiasts, the Malt Mavens, to brew special beers for KBW. Brite Eyes will be serving their collaboration, a Spiced Rye Stout, on tap starting January 20 while Tibb’s will tap their Beardless Blonde Ale on January 22.

Bell’s Brewery is partnering with Louie’s Trophy House on January 21 to host “Beat the Brewer at the Putting Green.” Louie’s invites KBW partygoers to come and enjoy some Bell’s beer while challenging a Bell’s Brewer on the green.

Towards the end of the week, Kalamazoo Beer Exchange will be hosting a never-before-seen Total Tap Takeover of Hop Head Farms on Friday January 22. They will be serving twenty-eight local beers brewed with hops from the local Hop Head Farms.

Even though these events are only a select few of all the ones KBW has to offer, they are great examples of how Kalamazoo has set out to help attendees create a relationship with craft beer.

If you are interested in the events KBW has to offer this year, check out the events page on their website.

KALAMAZOO — “Put your damn hands in the air/Stomp your feet on the ground!” proclaimed Branden Mann, lead vocalist of Branden Mann and the Reprimand.

It was the culmination of Kalamazoo Beer Week, and I strolled into an early afternoon of beer sampling, local music and casual conversation in the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange parking lot. And bonus, it was a balmy, 40-degree winter day in Michigan!

People were, indeed, stomping — either from excitement or the slight chill in the outdoor tent, it didn’t really matter. Like the members of the band, a majority of the Beer Exchange party attendees were not quite recovered from the previous nights’ festivities, but all were in great spirits.

“Heat rises, so my feet will be cold all day, but who cares? I’m drinking great beer and the kids are at my sister’s!” said one exuberant attendee, a local who couldn’t partake in Kalamazoo’s infamous beer week until today.

And the day’s happenings were a guaranteed salute to the local craft industry: the craft of beer of course, but also food and music as well.

The festivities started a little after noon — “yea, we’re a little late with setup, but the party HAS started,” said a Beer Exchange worker rushing past — and didn’t think about slowing down until late in the evening.

Celebrating Kalamazoo, the Beer Exchange featured a variety of taps from local brewing companies. Bell’s and Arcadia Ales were present as solid foundation breweries, but I was eager to see breweries I had not heard of as a Michigan east-sider: One Well Brewing, Rupert’s Brew House, Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing, Tibbs Brewing Company, Latitude 42 and Boatyard Brewing Company. Together, the breweries offered a delicious assortment of tastes and smells and mouthfeels.

As a bonus, the Beer Exchange event offered specialty pours debuting at certain times throughout the day. This led me to my first sampling right at noon. The “21 and over” bracelet was barely taped around my wrist when I rushed over to see what was being released first: Dark Horse’s Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth. A bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, it smelled and tasted like a dark chocolate dream and finished with a warm mouthfeel that can only come from bourbon.

In between samples and hunger-lusting after the local food fare (Crepes! Sausage! BBQ!), I was quickly taken into conversation with a few west side locals who waxed philosophic about Kalamazoo. “It’s a loyal city—such a great place to start an idea and get support from the community. And there are breweries just popping up everywhere!” said one long-time local.

One such baby brewery is One Well Brewing, and I only refer to its infancy because it’s only a few months old. But the age has no factoring in the quality of the beer here.

T.J Waldofsky, co-owner and brewer at One Well, first words to me were, “ Have you tried the Xalapa?!” I scooted right on over and did just that. Jalapeno, people! There is jalapeno in the Xalapa and it’s brilliant! Not a fan of too much spice? Well, it has the perfect after-kick to make anyone a fan without scaring you away.

Between the beer, the food and music, I was on sensory overload in the best way possible. Whether I was bumping into new friends or industry workers, everyone was there to toast Kalamazoo. I started the day with a cup of Dark Horse in my hand and Branden Mann on the microphone, and I exited with Tibbs Brewing Company’s Citra Your Ass Down IPA while The Corn Fed Girls were just taking the stage, one of them shouting, “You just keep on drinking and we’ll just keep on playing!”

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!