With the grand opening of Arcadia Brewing Company's Riverfront Pub set for next week, the total number of Kalamazoo breweries will soon become eight. These include Gonzo's Big Dogg Brewing, Boatyard Brewing, Rupert's Brew House, Bell's Brewery, Olde Peninsula Brewpub, Bilbo's and Tibbs Brewing Company. Recently, I've had two opportunities to stop in to Tibbs Brewing and meet owner and brewer Kevin Tibbs.
Kevin was in the construction industry for many years and even has a connection to Michiana – he worked on the construction of the Elkhart City water treatment facility. Since then, he has become a home brewer turned professional brewer. The brewery's motto is "small batches, not small beers," and from what I've tasted, he has stayed true to his motto. Tibbs is a nano-brewery with three two-barrel fermentors and five one-barrel fermentors. So even though he doesn't have a lot of capacity, he is able to turn his tap handles over within a short period of time.
The first time I stopped by, he was down to three beers – A. Tibbical Pale Ale (6.8% ABV), IPA (8% ABV) and Lovell Double IPA (9.6% ABV). All of them had very nice flavors ranging from a mildly carbonated, good, hop flavored pale ale, to nicely balanced sweet and bitter pine hop characters in the double IPA. I was determined to try more of his beer styles, so I stopped in again earlier this week and found a whole new menu on his beer board.
The Hell-Jen Belgian Tripel (10% ABV) is his best seller. Recently he upped his fermentation temperature in an attempt to smooth out the sweetness a bit, and according to Kevin, he achieved exactly what he was looking for – and it's still his bestseller. With plenty of banana and clove, it is pretty true to style.
His Citra Your Ass Down (IPA, 8.3% ABV) was quite enjoyable – what is there not to like about Citra hops? It was quite dank, with some great pine hop character, and was probably the most aromatic beer I've experience from Tibbs Brewing. The huge drawing point of a brewpub (as opposed to a big brewery that bottles and distributes its beer) is the freshness. Kevin's beer can be enjoyed within minutes and hours of it being ready to be served. This is part of what made Kevin's Citra IPA so incredibly enjoyable.
For Richer or Porter (porter 7.8% ABV) was not overly dark in appearance but did have a big malty, sweet flavor. My favorite beer on the menu, however, was G'Morning Coffee Stout (7.6% ABV), brewed with coffee from Something's Brewing, a coffee shop just up the street. Founders Breakfast Stout is one of my favorite coffee stouts, and I can honestly say that Kevin's coffee stout is every bit as coffee-forward as Founders'. He used cold brewed coffee and even added some beans to the fermentation.
Kevin has been collaborating with The Cupcake Zoo, which just opened a location around the corner from the brewery. The Cupcake Zoo features a different Tibbs draft beer in their cupcakes each week. It started out with the Belgian trippel, last week it used the coffee stout, and this week it featured a lemon cake with with Citra IPA. Since I didn't get to try one of these, I can only imagine how good they are. At some point, Tibb's might also have these available paired with the beer in the cupcakes, but those plans have not been solidified yet. I just talked with Andre Arguijo, manager of The Cupcake Zoo, and he said the cupcakes have been a huge success and the bakery will continue using Kevin's beer.
Some of us in Michiana may remember the collaboration between Mini Delights Bake Shoppe and Iechyd Da Brewing Co. in Elkhart. Iechyd Da's Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout was used in a chocolate cupcake topped with a cream cheese frosting. I think that cupcakes and beer pair very well together. And if you think so, next time you are in at the Constant Spring, think about enjoying a Happy Dance Cupcake made by local baker Margaret Potuck.
Tibbs brewing is located in downtown Kalamazoo, at the corner of Lovell and Burdick streets. Downtown is very pedestrian-friendly, and there is plenty of parking. Several downtown restaurants have outdoor seating, and Kevin is hoping to have his own outdoor seating available at the brewery soon. The brewery has a wonderful "small town brewery" feel in what's a larger beer city. Seating is very comfortable, and I struck up many conversations immediately with locals – some stopping in for a drink on their way home from work, others who have made themselves regulars.
With so many different beer choices in Kalamazoo, it is often hard to choose. However, I highly recommend a stop at Tibbs Brewing next time you head that way.
Brewery hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; closed for brewing Sunday through Tuesday