You may not be aware of this, but December 5th is the official date in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed in the United States. The law was a weird one where by federal rule, booze was legal again. But the states have jurisdiction over how alcohol is handled within their boundaries. This has led to a number of different adaptions to how alcohol is handled, even to the point that it was just this year that home brewing became legal in all 50 states.
I know what you’re thinking, why am I tormenting you with yet another post about prohibition. Well, I only bring it up because of the date. But also because tonight was the soft opening for Tibbs Brewing Company in downtown Kalamazoo, MI.
First impressions: Small space, big beers. That’s right, their beers aren’t playing around. These beers grab ahold of you and say “How you doin’?”
Of course you know I couldn’t just settle on a single beer. You don’t get to see what’s going on when you do that. Instead I did the flight of all five beers, served on their Lower Peninsula flight boards of course. Stand outs for me were the Belgian and the IPA. Overall the beers were great though. I’m just a sucker for a Belgian Triple.
They will officially be opening their doors on Friday December 6th. What’s this? If you know anything about downtown Kalamazoo, you will know that the first Friday of every month is Art hop. The December Art Hop is the busiest of the year. This will be their trial by fire, but their beers are up for it.
Time for a pint…
Ever feel like so much is happening around you that you just can’t keep up? That has been the brewing community around me lately. So much is happening it is hard to be every where at one time.
It has been a while since I was last up at Hop Head Farms. In the eternity between visits they have gone through harvest season on their own yards, finished the oast, built a new expanded hop fridge, and gotten shipment of German hops to process. Quite a bit has been going on to say the least.
Recently they held a brewer’s open house (ya, I must be special. I got to hang out too). The event was held for two goals. The first being to show off the completed facilities to those who had not yet seen the finished work. The other was to introduce area brewers to the new stock as well as set orders for the next year.
With the limited growing space of most hop farms throughout the world, breweries need to plan ahead for their hop needs. At times this can make it difficult for new breweries coming into the market. A few years ago when we experienced a hop shortage, the hops available were already spoken for by existing breweries.
Unlike a restaurant where it is possible to change a menu based on availability, a brewery and the beers they make require consistency from batch to batch, year to year. When they plan out their hop purchases they are looking over the amount of beer they intend to make over the course of that year. Breweries get their orders established as early as possible to ensure they will have what they need.
Aside from just the business side of things, an event like this is a great time to get together with the people who make the beer we drink. Sadly, I still haven’t had a chance to fully explore the completed oast. But I spent some time with old and new friends.
Time for a pint…
Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery is counting down the minutes till they open. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration). But really, they will officially open within the next week or so.
As it is right now, they have been doing what new places do to work through the bugs. It is called a soft opening. Customers can get a chance to check out what is going on and maybe even sample some of the food and drink and the staff get a chance to learn the system without the stress of a busy night getting in the way.
A soft opening gives the kitchen a chance to learn their process for working through the menu. It also gives the serving staff a chance to work through the ordering process. The customers going in for a soft opening are essentially guinea pigs, but for the greater good. The feed back customers can give at this point will help fine tune how everything works when they officially open. Of course getting paid with free food is a good incentive to show up.
On Monday night they offered an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. All were pulled at random. Of course dietary issues were taken into consideration. If there was an issue with something on the item it was simple enough to pull a different card.
I ended up splitting entrées with my wife, half the white cheddar burger and half the roast turkey sandwich. I just want to put it out there right now, that turkey sandwich made my night. We also shared the kale slaw and the pasta salad. The kale slaw was alright but the pasta salad was fantastic. Your mileage may vary but those were my standouts for dinner.
Anyone who comes here often will be able to tell you that I don’t do beer reviews here. There are quite a few sites that do them already. But I will call attention to the beers I find at a place that stand out over the others.
Gonzo’s has followed the trend of individual pricing for their beer flights. This works out great if you only want to sample a couple beers, or maybe sample them all (like I did). Maybe it was the cold on Monday. I mean it was snowing outside and a little slushy. The Geyser Brown Ale was the perfect match for the evening and went great with my food.
At the time of the soft opening they didn’t have an exact date for the official opening. I can imagine that when the day comes (soon) Kalamazoo better be ready for the Bigg Dogg.
Time for a pint…
As I sit here trying to come up with something clever to say to open this post, I realize that to do so is a bit superfluous. In the end, isn’t it really about the beer anyway?
That was what today was about. Rupert’s Brew House opened today. One of the handful of new breweries moving into town has now opened their doors to the public.
When you step into Rupert’s you won’t find fancy tables with shiny coverings or elaborate scroll work along the walls. Even better, you won’t find vintage era clap trap covering the walls in some bogus attempt to draw you in with melancholy memories.
Instead you find a place that feels a bit more like home. There is no pretense. When you go to Rupert’s you are going for a beer maybe even two, and to listen to a band play.
How often do you find a couple easy chairs and a fire place in a brewery tasting room?
They opened at 2pm on Friday the 25th of October. I know, that seems an odd time to open, most people are still at work. When I arrived, the place wasn’t crowded but there was a modest crowd around the bar. As the work day finished the crowd grew. The growing crowd Kept Mark Rupert and his crew busy behind the bar pouring flights and full pints.
Time for a pint…
Good things come to those who wait. That’s what I have heard anyway. Sometimes though you get to be lucky and get in on the sneak peak. I spent a short time over at Gonzo’s soon to be open Bigg Dogg Brewery. Kalamazoo is in for a treat.
I could go on and on right now about the stuff happening but I think I would do better just to show off a few pics from my time there the other day. I’ll let you decide from there.
Chef Michael Martin doin some work
It shouldn’t be too much longer when we can all sit down at the bar and enjoy some great food and righteous brews.
Time for a pint…
You can’t keep a good city down. Mother nature has tried. She ripped through Kalamazoo with a Tornado in the 80s and the city not only survived but grew. There is a new tornado hitting the city now. We have a whirlwind of breweries popping up within the city and surrounding area.
Earlier this week I was able to spend some time with Kevin and Cindee Tibbs at the site of their new brewery. Tibbs Brewing Company is still in build-out mode right next to the State Theater in downtown Kalamazoo.
As far as possible locations in downtown could go they lucked out when they found theirs. Within walking distance of the other downtown breweries and restaurants, the small upstairs of their location should fill up quickly. When you first see the size of their operation, the size can throw you off. The location has been a small sandwich/lunch spot on several occasions.
But that suits the business plans for the Tibbs. They prefer to start the brewery smaller in order to find those raving fans and regulars that will grow with them. Notice I said small a few times there. The brewery is small, only a 1 barrel system to start off with. But the beers are anything but small.
One of the greatest things about the craft beer and local food movement is meeting and getting to know the people who are making the beers you drink and the foods you eat. Tibbs Brewing is set perfectly to fit right in with this. Their beers will be brewed right there in the diner. Starting out, the people who are making the beer (Kevin Tibbs) are also the people who will be there to meet and greet the customers when they come in for a pint.
If their beers I sampled recently are any indication of what they will have available when they open, they won’t be small for long. Judging by the space they have available beyond their current footprint, they have room to grow.
Time for a pint…
Beerfests, they’re all the rage. Seems they are popping up everywhere. Thing is, that’s a good thing. We are in the middle of a beer renaissance and as crazy as this might sound to those inside the “bubble” not everyone actually knows anything about it all.
I know that last sentence sounded a bit off but let me explain. Michigan is a huge beer state. Heck, Beer City USA is in Grand Rapids and the city that came in second for the votes is Kalamazoo. Go figure that the city’s of Michigan that made it into the votes ended up within the top five placements. Craft beer is big in Michigan. But if you were to ask most people they would still not know exactly what you are talking about when it comes to craft beer.
This is why fests are so important. For many people it is their first exposure to the world of craft beers and what they have to offer. I was pretty psyched when I heard that the Kalamazoo Vine Neighborhood Association would be throwing the first Kalamazoo Beerfest.
They lined up sixteen Michigan breweries in the Arcadia Creek festival site. The plan was to run the fest during the day and then open the festival to Oktoberfest for the evening. The day of the fest was fantastic. It was bright, sunny, warm, not at all what you could expect from October in Michigan.
My trip through the different breweries centered on what it is I normally go for in the fall. Most of the breweries Represented had a version of an Oktoberfest or a pumkin beer available for samples. Add in to that Vandermill and Virtue cider were also there.
A couple of the standouts of the day for me came from Virtue. I had not sampled them until now. Their Cidre is everything I love about cider, crisp and dry, with strong apple notes. Another new brewery for me, Tapestry offered a decent number of their beers. Enigma, their double IPA, was a good beer to break up the number of Oktoberfests I drank that day.
As a first year fest, it wasn’t as crowded as it will be in the coming years. The breweries made a good showing. I think the tap/serving trucks were a great idea for keeping beer cold and controlled. It was a pretty good fest and will continue growing.
Time for a pint…
Opening day is getting that much closer. Of course with that on the horizon the amount of work at the brewery is ramping up. Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery in Kalamazoo started brewing over the past weekend.
You might think that this is the easy time as they are only getting ready for opening day. But that is deceiving. Now is the time that they need to make sure they will have enough beer to keep patrons happy when they officially open. This is the opening of a brewery, anything can happen..
Aside from the brews that are going into primary right now. The kitchen is getting pieced together as well as the tasting room. Every section that goes into making the start up a success is going through tests and checks.
It won’t be long that the behind the scenes pieces are in place. From there employee training and operations will be set up. There is an energy in the birth of a new place like this. For quite some time it has only been the few people who are there every day. But soon the number of people who call the place their work home will grow.
But for now that is still just a little ways away. In the brewery it is still just the small crew doing the finishing touches and making beer. The quiet before the storm to come. Before they know it, the real work will begin
Time for a pint…
Here we go with the status report for my garden this year. The drought last year was horrible. We did get some production out of the garden but the heat just wouldn’t let up and our plants did not fare well at all.
This year is a polar opposite. We have had steady rain and great growth all around (Pics to follow). We are still waiting on the tomatoes to give us more than a couple reds here and there. But the plants are filled right now with fruit that is poised to ripen at any time. The beefsteaks are getting nice and big too. This is a first for us.
The zucchini and cucumbers have been doing quite well at producing. It seems like every time I turn around I am bringing an armload from the two plants.
Last night I made some cabbage rolls from our first ever cabbage plant. That went over well. It was a mix of veggies from the garden as the basis for the filling. Of course that means I used zucchini, we have gone through quite a few of those now. This was also our first year for growing lettuce. I will be harvesting the plant for the third time this summer within the next few days.
Check out some pics. The veggies are coming in great.
Time for a pint…
Progress like this is a beautiful thing. This was a hot day. Not unexpected in Michigan during the summer, But still it was toasty. To see the building crew pushing through to get this build out finished, you gotta admire the dedication. The oast build out at Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners is moving along. They expect the new oast to be up and running around the middle of August.
The amount of work that has taken place over the past couple months is huge. At one point engineers from Germany had come out to oversee the build out. The design is tied together well. In one continuous stream hops will be able to go from the field to the picker directly into the oast. The oast house is traditionally where hops are dried for storage to eventually find there way to the brewers who make the beers we drink tasty.
It was shortly after I left on this visit that the roof was hoisted by crane and placed on the tower in the center of the buildings. Yep, this is that kind of construction project. They have all sorts of toys to play with to get these buildings finished.
I spent a few minutes wandering the hop fields. The original fifteen acres (planted last year) are thriving this year. While walking through I had the prevailing thought of being lost in a hedge maze.
While wandering through the bines, I was directed over to the centennial rows. The centenniels are showing some of the best growth. The size of the hop flowers are amazing.
Lost in the field there was a few minutes of some of the crazy Michigan weather. At first I thought maybe I was getting hit with splash from the irrigation system (they use a drip system). Turned out even in the scorching heat of the sun, it was raining. Sun and rain were there to feed and care for the growing hops. What more could you ask for?
Time for a pint…