The Great Michigan Beer Journey, Day 3: The Literal Big Dog

(This post is part of a series detailing my recent trip to Bell’s Funvitational in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 if you enjoyed this!)

After two and a half days full of beer and driving, we were quite tired by the time we arrived in Kalamazoo. However, we weren’t too exhausted to embark on a mini pub crawl! We rigorously planned our trajectory, since we were staying a little bit outside of town and would be cabbing in.

Our first stop was actually a total accident. Before our arrival, we had pulled into a gas station down the street and noticed a large sign that read “BREWERY” leading to One Well Brewing Company. We decided we had to go back, and I’m very glad we did.

Note the creative flavors!
Note the creative flavors!

We ordered a sampler of all the beers listed on the right of that board. Much like our stop at Kuhnhen, this turned out to be a surprise highlight. The Xalapa was my personal favorite, a jalapeno beer that managed to showcase all the flavor of the pepper but just a touch of its spice. Beer Nerd Boyfriend’s personal choice was the Root Beer Float stout, which tastes exactly like – well, a root beer float. Also in the stout range was the Sweetwater Street, brewed with doughnuts from Sweetwater’s Doughnut Mill. One Well excels at extracting flavors, as this beer tasted just like a chocolate doughnut. Meanwhile, the Professor Nutbutters had a little too much earthy peanut for BNB’s taste, but I liked it just fine. That jalapeno beer, however, was so good that I insisted we return the next day for lunch.

Still impressed. And wishing I was drinking it right now.
Still impressed. And wishing I was drinking it right now.

After that, we jetted off to downtown Kalamazoo, knowing we still had four bars left to visit – thankfully, all within walking distance of each other. We started the night at Rupert’s Brew House, which turned out to be another delight. To be honest, I’d added them to the list because I’d found out that they had a Great Dane named Captain Stooby who just hung out in the taproom. And hang out he did, although he was mainly more interested in pizza than humans!

You can tell I wasn't the only one excited by the GIANT DOG!
“Yeah this is nice and all but can I have some noms please?”

The dog isn’t just a gimmick to make up for the beer because the booze is delicious. We managed to taste two cream ales, two ciders, a peanut butter porter and a double IPA. I’m not usually a fan of cream ales, but the dry hopped one they had on tap was delicious. Fruity and tropical, with a big pineapple taste and some distinct notes of corn husk. The raspberry cider was also a big hit with us. It was sweet with just a bit of tang, and some definite apple still present among the raspberry. The peanut butter porter smelled like a melted Reese’s but didn’t quite deliver on the taste. The winner, however, was the Double High PA, which was just juicy and intense, with lots of mango, lemon zest and orange. Absolutely one of the best Double IPAs I’ve ever had.

Artfully shown here as the best of the pack
Artfully shown here as the best of the pack

Since we were hungry (and following a dog theme, apparently), we walked to Gonzo’s Bigdogg Brewing next, where we’d heard the food was delicious. The crab flatbread in particular really won my heart. Their kale slaw was also probably the best slaw I’ve ever had. I’ll be throwing sunflower seeds in all my future slaws, thank you very much. We took it easy on the beers here, since we were both starting to tire (as I write this, I’m noticing that BNB’s beer notes got noticeably sparser over the evening). Gonzo’s did have some very drinkable beers, such as Melons on a Blonde, a blonde ale that captured a cantaloupe-like flavor. The Shoddy Lock Stout was also quite nice, with lots of coffee and milk chocolate (direct quote from the beer notes: “super dark, yo!”). IMG_1054

Next stop was Tibbs, a charmingly small pub with some rather tasty beers. Once again, I gravitated towards the lighter fare, particularly the Citra and Take It IPA. Oh, did I mention that Tibbs is all about the puns? With beer names like the Hell Raisin Saison, I was delighted. Uncharacteristically, I really enjoyed the Auslander Hefeweizen, which had a nice balance of spice and bitterness, just enough to counteract the usual overwhelming Hefe taste of bananas.IMG_1059

Our last stop was Bell’s, where we got lazy with the notes. Can you really blame us? After all, it was our seventh brewery of the day. The brewery itself was incredibly cavernous. Since it was a Friday night, it was also packed to the brim with tipsy students. There was quite a bit to try here, as they were trying to kick a lot of their kegs to make space for things they would serve at the Funvitational the next day. IMG_1064The two highlights here included Le Bretteur, an American Wild Ale, and the Coffee Mustache, known as a California Common or an American-style lager. This style was common in the late 1800s when refrigeration was rare, since it uses a strain of yeast that responds well to warmer temperatures. Le Bretteur had a lot of white wine character, along with a lot of tartness and lemon. Meanwhile, the Coffee Mustache tasted like a real, good, robust, earthy cup of coffee.

The beers. They never end!
The beers. They never end!

We finally returned to the hotel after this, completely exhausted. And maybe a little drunk. Don’t worry, mom, we took another cab home!

Next time, I finally get to the main event: Bell’s 30th Anniversary Funvitational! Join me again as I tell you about the fanfare, the fun, the surprises and, of course, the beers.

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