Friday, January 25, 2013

Recap of an EPIC 2013 Kalamazoo Beer Week

Written by  Jon Jefferson
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Recap of an EPIC 2013 Kalamazoo Beer Week

Kalamazoo Beer Week (Jan 12-19) started off with a bang. That is after a slight misfire. My original plans had been to take the Gallagher's party bus and do the kick off pub crawl in its entirety. The only issue was when I arrived at Gallagher's at about 5:30pm the bus was dead in the water, not the best place to be when you have so many people ready to go and explore the festivities of the start of beer week. I hung around till closer to 6 when the driver mentioned that they would need to get a wrecker out to jump start the bus. Minor setback but we soldier on. This is Kalamazoo Beer Week, anything can happen. They did finally get the bus working around 7pm but it took 4 wreckers to get it started. This is one I wish I had had the time to stick around and see.
But I was a man on a mission. Seeing that I wouldn't be able to start the week off with the chauffeured pub crawl, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I started the night at O'duffy's pub where I knew Right Brain Brewing was featured. The place was packed when I got there. Beer Week was working in full force, and it was only 6pm. After Russ Springsteen from Right Brain arrived I kicked off my beer week with a Right Brain Chipotle Stout.  This was a great kick off for a week that ended up being a marathon of samplings from great Michigan Breweries.

Later the same night I found myself at Shakespeare's Pub talking to Jarred Sper from Perrin Brewing. I haven't had a chance to make it up to the brewery yet so to be introduced to their beer by one of their owners was close to actually being there. This was my discovery of their Chocolate Porter, great beer to discover but this is definitely one to watch. It can get away from you. After this one I held off for a bit but took some time to explore a bit more of the pub crawl. It was plain to see that pretty much everywhere involved with the crawl was packed. There was almost no breathing room anywhere. Although it started off with a slight hiccup the pub crawl carried on and showed no signs of stopping till the very end.

With well over 130 events planned out for this year’s beer week, there was no way to be at every single event. After the first night I made a specific plan and stuck with which events I would make it to. Even with the plan making 3 and 4 events everyday was a marathon race to see as much as possible. I feel like even with the pace I kept I only saw a small fraction of the overall experience that was the week.

The majority of my time was spent migrantly moving from tasting to tasting. I wanted to make sure I hit as many Michigan brewery tastings as I could. Early on in the week I made it to Sour Sunday at Central City Taphouse. This was a great time to get flights of barrel aged sours from Brewery Vivant as well as Red Barn sour from Paw Paw Brewing. Brewery Vivant had five different sours on tap including Escoffier. I found their Paris to be quite tasty. The Red Barn from Paw Paw was great as well. They have a section of their production brewery set aside specifically for the wine barrels they age this one in.

Monday night I found myself at Shakespeare's again for the release of the Right Brain and Paw Paw Brewing collaboration ales. This was a huge beer night. Not only were the collaboration beers on tap but other beers from the breweries as well. Bronco Brown from Paw Paw and 2nd Coming from Right Brain were great beers for the night. I was able to get my hands on Perrin's Black Lager as well. Needless to say this was a great night for Michigan beer.

I want to come clean a little bit right now. I transgressed a little throughout the week. Epic Brewing was in town and at another point so was Finch's. With Epic Brewing, that was an oddity. I mean beer from Utah of all places. I had to see what they were all about. The beers were pretty good. With the draft laws in Utah (nothing over 3.2% on draft), Epic is pushing some boundaries with their bottle lines and making some pretty big beers. And they do get a little leeway in that they can keg bigger beers for out of state markets. I don't feel quite as dirty when it comes to Finch's. Sure they may be from Chicago, but when you consider they have been using hops from Hop Head Farms right here in Michigan, that is a big win for us. And ya, they also have Jonathon Cole (formerly of the Shark Club in Howell) as their rep, so they do have a couple pluses in their favor.

For the most part the tastings I made it to I was finding the standard beers for most of the breweries. These weren't really where you would go to find the super exotic. They were meant more for getting to know the brewery. Which in the case of some of the lesser known and newer breweries this was a great way to meet the people of Kalamazoo. It was at their tasting at Salut that I was able to spend a few minutes with James Crank from Cranker's out of Big Rapids. Though not as new as Perrin they are still a relatively young brewery. He had both of the beers they currently bottle for the tasting. Of the two I found the Bulldog Red to be well within the styles of my more preferred drinking variety (Irish reds and ambers are some of my favorites).

As my week came to an end I found myself at the Union Caberet and Grill. Right Brain was featured there on Thursday night. After running my marathon I was done on day six. There was still more events coming up on Friday but I had run my course. It seemed only fitting to finish my week the way I started it. My last beer of the week was Looping Owl, their bourbon barrel amber. It was like coming full circle or maybe like I had made a full loop.

Jon Jefferson

Jon Jefferson

Having graduated from both Grand Rapids Community College (Associate of Science: CulinaryArts) and then Davenport University (BBA), Jon Jefferson has been working within the restaurant industry for roughly eight years. The last restaurant was Epic Bistro/ Central City TapHouse in Kalamazoo Michigan. In 2008 he started a journey, exploring the world of beer through brewing. It was through a desire to share his homebrewing and beer related adventures that the blog 10th Day Brewing was born. He lives in Galesburg, Michigan with his wife Joanna and daughters Chelsea and Maggie.