This year, May 13 will have significance in more way than one for Olde Peninsula Brewpub. On that date 34 years ago, a devastating F3 tornado ripped through downtown Kalamazoo, Mich. Among the buildings caught in its path was one on the corner of Portage Street and Michigan Avenue, built in 1874. That building now houses Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant. In addition, American Craft Beer Week will take place from May 12-18.
Olde Peninsula brewer Dan Kiplinger is a good friend of mine and no stranger to the Michigan brewing community. According to Kiplinger, when he was in college, the best beers available were Becks Dark, Killians and, occasionally, Swiss Lowenbrau. While Dan was in school at Michigan State University, he visited a cousin living nearby who was homebrewing. He was introduced to a whole new world — beer with flavor. He began homebrewing on his own, and on his 21st birthday, Kiplinger got a job at Bell's Brewery (Kalamazoo Brewing Co. at the time).
This was right at the time of Bell's Batch 1,000. As one of the specialty brewers, Kiplinger brewed the starter and the last quarter of Batch 1,500. He was kind enough to recently share some bottles of Bell's Third Coast Old Ale (barley wine, 10.2 percent ABV) from 1992, 1993 and 1994, which he purchased during his employment there and has kept in a cellar since.
In 1993, Kiplinger founded KLOB (Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers), and that is where we met. Tom Fuller (formerly of Bell's Brewing and Old Hat Brewpub, which is now closed) was another early member of this homebrew group. Other employees of Bell's eventually joined as well.
Before arriving at Olde Peninsula Brewpub, Kiplinger also brewed for Mystic Brewing Co., which was on Gull Road in Kalamazoo. That brewery is no longer in existence.
Kiplinger has a no-nonsense style of brewing and has a silver medal from the Great American Beer Festival for his B4W (bourbon barrel-aged barley wine). He brewed this recipe again only for the second time since 2007 and released it during this year's Kalamazoo Beer Week. It was aged for 17 months in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels.
In addition, Kiplinger is a fellow Detroit Red Wings fan and has enjoyed his beer out of The Cup not once, but twice. The first time was in 2009 when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup Final, and then again in 2011, when then goalie Tim Thomas of the winning Boston Bruins brought the cup to his Michigan hometown. Here are some photos.
Each year, to commemorate the 1980 tornado, Kiplinger brews Tornado IPA. In the beginning years of this release, it varied from year-to-year. However, four years ago, he fell in love with a 100 percent Citra hopped version that he has repeated each year since. If you are looking for a hop bomb, this is it. Kiplinger said, “It features a nice light body, dominated by a bold and deliberate hop profile that includes big citrus flavors, a nice tropical hop spiciness and hints of pine. On the tornado scale, it's an EF6!” It is likely somewhere around 7.25 percent ABV. I had last year's release, and it was delicious.
Also on tap for American Craft Beer Week will be Olde Peninsula's first double IPA offering of the year, Magnum XL (10.25 percent ABV). This beer uses 100 percent Magnum hops in the boil and has an intense hoppy flavor, yet it is balanced with a pleasingly malty flavor that will leave you wanting more.
If you haven't visited Olde Peninsula recently, then you just missed Kiplinger's Chile de Mayo. This is his Stout Chocula (sweet stout, 5.25 percent ABV) with double the chocolate and brewed with arbol chiles. Kiplinger intended this to be approachable by non-chile heads, meaning lots of chile flavor but without the heat of many other chile beers. But Kiplinger also likes really spicy chile beers as well. He grows his own ghost chiles for his Ghost of Stout Chocolate, which he has brewed just twice in small batches.
As far as what to look forward to at Olde Peninsula, this year you won't find a summer hefeweizen on tap. Kiplinger said you can find those just about anywhere. If he had space to brew them, his favorite summer time style of beer is sour ales. Instead, he will be having fun with hops. You will find plenty of single hopped IPAs and double IPAs.
Olde Peninsula opened its doors on St. Patrick's Day 1996. The atmosphere is of an old tavern with lots of dark warm wood, including a beautiful large wooden bar with mirrors on the back. They feature a full menu with everything from salads and burgers to pasta and steaks. There are five permanently tapped beers, with rotating and seasonal beers on tap as well. Next time you stop in, take notice of the front corner of the building. The damage caused by the tornado required massive repairs, and there is still a section of the ceiling that is missing the tin of which the rest of the ceiling is made.
Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant is at 200 E. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo. Hours are Sunday to Tuesday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesday to Thursday 11 a.m. to noon and Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.