Southwest Michigan's craft beer news from A through W

In 2013 craft brewers nationwide contributed more than $34 billion to the U.S. economy and Michigan alone chipped in just over a $1 million of that. There aren’t any exact figures on what Kalamazoo’s slice of that pie was but all signs point to both increased production and profits for 2014.

With five breweries joining an already impressive stable of local beer makers in 2013, local craft beer fans have become a bit spoiled with so many choices, and there's no reason to believe Kalamazoo beer makers will be resting on their laurels as we march forward in the new year. If anything 2014 looks to be even busier than the year that preceded it.

We recently touched base with all of the area’s breweries, new and old, to get a little taste of what’s to come in the local craft beer world.

Arcadia Ales
103 W. Michigan Ave.
Battle Creek, MI 49017

The finishing touches are being put on Arcadia’s Kalamazoo brewing facility located on the east bank of the Kalamazoo River. The 30,000-square-foot operation will open this winter with a state-of-the-art canning and bottling line as well as a 4,500-square-foot brewpub, featuring seasonal fare and Kalamazoo only brew options alongside all of Arcadia’s staple beers.

2014 marks the 17th year of business for Arcadia and the brewery will stamp the occasion, as well as the opening of the new facility with several events, limited release beers and other celebratory activities.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Nut Brown, Big Dick’s Olde Ale, Hop Rocket, Cocoa Loco, London Porter, Starboard Stout

Bell’s Brewing
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave
Kalamazoo MI, 49007

It’s been a busy year for the area’s largest brewery and 2014 looks to be just as eventful. After taking home two medals at the prestigious Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer, Bell’s decided to break from tradition and begin filling growlers at the Eccentric Cafe. Topping things off, founder Larry Bell decided to expand the brand northwards; revealing plans for Upper Hand Brewing, a division of Bell’s to be located in Escanaba.

The 11th annual FoBAB, sponsored by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild gave the Bell’s team a chance to showcase a limited run beer that would normally be unavailable to the general drinking public.

Le Bretteur took home the gold for best beer in the Wild/Brett category which judge’s beers made with Brettanomyces yeast but show no sour notes. The variation on the blonde biere de garde Le Batteur style also left the land of Lincoln as Best in Show, out lasting all 11 gold medal winners.

A little closer to home, the Eccentric Cafe announced that it will now begin selling and filling growlers of staple and limited edition beers for take home enjoyment.

One of the area’s last hold outs that did not offer growler fills, Bell’s decided change its stance thanks to the recent addition of a state of the art growler filling station that will allow the brewery to make certain each 2 liter, swing top bottle, will be able to hold up to Bell’s own quality standards.

“It’s convenient for those who live nearby and it works really well for our fans who visit from other areas and want to take something unique home,”  Laura Bell, Bell’s Vice President said.

While the addition of growler fills is something area beer drinkers had been hoping for, the addition of a new brewery under the Bell’s umbrella is easily the biggest news to come out of the Bell’s office in 2013.

A 3.16 acre lot within Escanaba’s Whitetail Industrial Park will soon host the Upper Hand Brewing Company which will distribute a variety of beers throughout northern Michigan and adjacent Great Lakes states.

Bell’s hopes to have the new brewery, which will employ five people and cost $2.5 million, open for business by the fall of 2014.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Hopslam, Winter White, Third Coast Old Ale, Bells Stout Series including: Cherry Stout, Double Cream Stout, Expedition Stout

Boatyard Brewing Company
432 E. Paterson St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Boatyard has lately been up to matters both blithe and serious. Beginning on a lighter note, the brewery now offers gift certificates, so patrons can pass on the joy of boatyard beer to everyone they know.

Perhaps in the near future one of those gift certificates can go towards purchasing a pint of EZ Ale, which is being made in honor of fallen KPD officer Eric Zapata. All proceeds from the sale of the beer will go towards the Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation which aims to maintain a memorial scholarship as well as give in other ways to the greater Kalamazoo community.

Beyond beer, BBC has gone through a couple of recent facelifts as a new main entrance off of E. Paterson Street has recently been constructed and the brewery has also put the ‘finishing’ touches on its taproom.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Christmas Eve Porter

5402 Portage Rd
Portage, MI 49002

As we delve deeper into the winter months, Bravo! continues to experiment with new and exciting beers that pair well with favorites and new additions to its Italian and American menu.

The restaurant also got a nice piece of publicity when it was recently featured on an episode of The Great American Brew Trail.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Holiday Ale, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout

Dark Horse Brewing Company
511 S. Kalamazoo, Ave
Marshall, MI 49068

Marshall’s Dark Horse Brewing recently debuted a sleek new website packed with pictures, news, events and info on all of its great beers.

The brewery is currently selling several "leftover" specialty bottles at reduced prices; brands such as Top Fuel Barley Wine, Maple Porter and 666 Stout will remain available for a limited time.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Double Crooked Tree, Thirsty Trout Porter, Scotty Karate Scotch Ale, Holiday Stout Series including: One Oatmeal Stout, Too Cream Stout, Tre Blueberry Stout, Fore Smoked Stout, Plead the 5th

Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing Company
140 S. Westnedge Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

One of five new breweries to spring up around Kalamazoo in 2013, Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing wants to make its mark in the city, and is off to a good start offering eight staple beers, high-end pub fare and what seems like a new limited edition beer almost every week.

If you’re a job seeker and craft beer fan you might be interested in sending resume to the brewery, as Gonzo’s is currently looking to round out its staff, just in time for the upcoming Kalamazoo Beer Week.

Beyond human staff members, the brewery has also recently added a set of bourbon barrels to its arsenal; stay tuned to find out what Gonzo cooks up in them, and what he does with a recently delivered double batch of hops. Rumor has it; something very special will be unveiled during KBW.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Spiced Porter, Unloosened Ale

Greenbush Brewing Company
5885 Sawyer Rd.
Sawyer, MI 49125

As 2014 opens, Greenbush once again aims to keep its patrons not only satiated with high quality beer, but with unique and tantalizing food options as well. A brand new food menu was recently unveiled and is filled with dishes that pair magnificently with the beers being offered in the tap room.

Though the brewery is certainly proud of its comestibles, folks around the country have been raving about the beer, which is why Greenbush was recently honored as Brewery of the Month at Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden in Chicago.

The month long celebration of Greenbush came on the heels of a collaboration the Sawyer based brewery worked on with the Chicago beer bar. Kaiser the Aristocrat, was a Rye IPA made with pear juice that clocked in at a very manageable 6.7ABV.

If you’re hoping to enjoy Greenbush a little closer to home, try filling up one of the brewery’s new 64 oz. growlers, which feature a 24k gold imprint of the Greenbush logo.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Mr. Hyde, Kaiser the Aristocrat, Broken Promises, Brother Benjamin, Pain

Latitude 42 Brewery
7842 Portage Rd
Portage, MI 49002

Latitude 42 opened in 2013 to much fanfare and expectation as head brewer Scott Freitas relocated to West Michigan in order to help open Portage’s first micro-brewery.  Freitas who has worked with Eugene, Oregon’s Steelhead Brewing Company and Wild Duck Brewing Company and most recently Hawaii’s Maui Brewing Company brings an experience level and maturity to Latitude 42 that most new breweries lack.

The brewery, which takes up 11,000 square feet, has a capacity of 243 patrons, much of which the brewery hopes will be families. In order to show off its family friendly ideals, Latitude 42 set up something that you won’t see at many other breweries; a children’s corner.

Along with the opening of the brewery and restaurant areas Latitude 42 also has recently begun a banquet service offering a lounge, a private dining area and staffing and catering services.

Fans that would rather have their beer on the go will be happy to know the brewery will begin canning in 2014. The can will be distributed in partnership with HIS Distributing and should be ready for purchase by next September.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Flavor Savor Imperial IPA

Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant
200 E. Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

O.P. is happy to announce several new additions to its food menu including; Black 'n' Tan Mac & Cheese, more grilled pizzas, and an Italian inspirations themed menu. The Brewpub is also looking to add more food and beer pairing options to the menu in the very near future.

Patrons who are never quite ready to let go of their pumpkin ales got their wish this season when head brewery Dan Kipplinger brewed up enough Pumpkin Ale to last into January.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Holiday Spiced Apple Crisp, Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine, The Porter Series: Porter, Vanilla Porter, Gingerbread Porter

Patchwork Brewing Company
103 N. Phelps St.
Decatur, MI 49045

One of the area’s smallest operations found itself in an unusually enviable situation towards the end of 2013; demand outweighing production. Several new release dark beers including Peanut Butter Stout and Eye Opener Stout sold out within days of tapping, giving the Patchwork hope that an increase in future production could be met with local approval.

Patchwork has also become the area’s only official father and son Brewing team as Kevin and Michael Christensen have taken full responsibility for the beer making process. More to come on this exciting new development.

Upcoming Events:
Patchwork is selling tickets to the 2014 Michigan Winter Beer Fest. Passes include: breakfast at the brewery, a bus ride to and from the festival and specialty Patchwork libations for the ride.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Cherry Porter, Redlight Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine

Paw Paw Brewing Company
929 E. Michigan Ave
Paw Paw, MI 49079

2014 Marks Paw Paw Brewing Company’s third year on the scene and it continues to grow both its fan base and its operation each year.

As it moves forward, the brewery is hoping to get more people involved in the beer making process and as such will be hosting its first annual home brewing competition to take place on January 18th.

PPBC was also selected as an entrant in the 2014 Ashley’s Brewery Throw Down.  Each year the Westland beer bar features a competition between eight Michigan breweries, aligned in a bracket format to see who makes the best beer (as chosen by patrons of the pub). Paw Paw will be joined by other West Michigan breweries--Arcadia Ales and Dark Horse Brewing. Greenbush took the title last year.

Seasonal and Special Releases:
Imperial Stout, Coconut Porter, Cafe 237 Coffee Stout, K.U.A.

Rupert’s Brew House
773 W. Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Another one of Kalamazoo’s newest breweries, Rupert’s is already standing out not just in the craft beer world but also in the local music scene. Housed in the former home the Strutt, Rupert’s is picking up where the popular club left off by providing live music by local and touring bands throughout the week.

On a quieter note, owner Mark Rupert hopes to get a board game night started as well.

Seasonal and Limited Releases: Peanut Butter Porter, Match the Drapes Amber

Saugatuck Brewing Company
2948 Blue Star Highway
Douglas, MI 49408

SBC finished 2013 riding high on its second consecutive "best in show" medal at the World Beer Expo in Frankenmuth. After taking home the award in 2012 for ESB/Amber, Saugatuck was once again given top honors, this time for Bonfire Brown.

The brewery, which continues to grow every year, enters 2014 with big plans for the next 12 months.  

The brewery anticipates a brewery expansion in late April that will up its barrel capacity to 35 barrels. With the physical growth also comes a wider distribution as Saugatuck will aim to increase its footprint in the Midwest by entering both Indiana and Ohio.

Besides quenching the thirst of West Michigan craft beer fans, SBC also hopes to teach them a thing or two as the brewery continues its popular “Beer 101 classes.” The classes will be take place on the last Thursday of every month, will focus on different aspects of the brewing process, and be hosted by members of the SBC team as well as outside experts.

If you head to the Lucky Stone Pub for a beer class you may be interested in picking up a pint of SBC’s feature fan favorites such as; Serrano Pepper Ale, Darker Than Your Soul Stout and Hope On Your Rye which will be released in January.

Seasonal and Limited Releases: Hop On Your Rye, Barrel Aged Olde Ale, Oak Barrel Aged Darker Than Your Soul (Available at Michigan Winter Beer Fest)

Tibbs Brewing Company
402 S.  Burdick St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

The smallest brewery by volume within the city limits of Kalamazoo, Tibbs looks to make up for in quality what it lacks in quantity. Though only open four days per week (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday), Tibbs aims to lure patrons though its downtown doors with a constant rotation of new and limited release beers.

There are also plans in the works to begin serving food and to hire a small staff. Currently the brewery is run entirely by Kevin and Cindee Tibbs, but the New Year should bring some new blood into the establishment as Tibbs will look to hire a pair of part-time servers in the very near future.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
For Richer or Porter, Belgian Dark Strong, Winter Warmer

Walldorff Brewpub
105 W. State St.
Hastings, MI 49058

Walldorff continues to match fresh, seasonal food with unique and innovative beer styles. It also continues to bottle a wide selection of staple and limited edition beers.  One of which, Indispensable IPA, was made with a 44 pound batch of Manderina Hops provided to the brewery by Hop Head Farms of Hickory Corners.

Seasonal and Limited Releases:
Old Woody Imperial Stout, Indispensable IPA, Chocolate Cherry Porter
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