Imagine stock traders scrambling to buy and sell, as prices go up and down in front of their eyes, and the chaos that ensues when a market crashes–and the thrill of discovering a hidden gem no one else knows much about. You can have all that in Kalamazoo. Welcome to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange.
And a market crash at this place is a good thing.
The two-story Kalamazoo Beer Exchange has something for just about everyone. The first thing you see is the hip, modern brickwork. From the exterior of the Globe Building on East Water Street, to the exposed brick interior you notice the beauty of this Kalamazoo landmark. Beyond building’s beauty, what makes the Beer Exchange cool are the beer boards. All of the ales, porters, and stouts on draught are listed; customers can see the ups and downs of the “market,” based on current sales. A couple times a night (or more, sometimes) the market crashes and the prices drop out. The more people buy of a specific brew, the higher the price will climb. A beer that’s going for $5 may drop to $2 for a bit, so you can try a new beer that you may never try at full price.
“We do have ceilings and floors so prices don’t get out of control,” owner, Jim Flora says.
Flora first got the idea for a market-style beer pricing model from a similar idea in Germany, more than a decade ago. His started as a wine bar, but transformed when he saw craft beers becoming a more popular interest for a lot of folks. From there the idea developed into what you see today, complete with networked computers that truly reflect a demand pricing model. As a food and beverage manager, Flora loves to see people enjoying themselves.
“I was the kid who hosted the parties growing up, not the one who went to the parties,” he says. “I love to see people having a good time.”
With 28 beers on tap at all times, there’s no shortage of beers to choose from on any given night. Flora says 28 is the magic number because of volume: The more beer they sell, the fresher the beer will be.
The Beer Exchange’s lower level is a pub with pool tables and a huge community table that fosters a friendly gathering atmosphere. The full bar downstairs has all the same beers as the upper level, so there’s no need to worry that you’ll miss a deal when the market crashes.
The main kitchen sits in the upper level, and it’s a great open space where you can see the chef and staff preparing what Flora calls “craft pub fare.” Eighty-five-percent of the food, like the Pub Nachos, is made from scratch, and the produce is chopped up on site. Where else can you find fried twinkies and salmon pate in the same night, at the same place?
“We wanted to serve something that matched the craft beer we serve. So we came up with ‘craft pub fare’,” Flora says, over an Oberon.
The Beer Exchange uses as much local food as they can, from fresh produce to local meats. They even use Detroit chili shipped in straight from the Motor City. They also feature local breweries like Dark Horse, Bell’s, Founder’s, and Short’s on tap. One of the mottos you’ll hear at the Beer Exchange is “Be Local, Drink Local.”
Even though Flora is from the Royal Oak area–and other college towns, like Mt. Pleasant and Lansing, were considered–he admits that Kalamazoo is the perfect home for the Beer Exchange.
“Kalamazoo is great. College crowd plus professionals from local companies like Stryker and you get the perfect crossover crowd,” he says.
Flora’s passion for his business is striking, and his behind-the-scenes experience and hard work shows; however, he refuses to take all the credit.
“I have a ton of people here. From our executive chef, to our beer manager, to the rest of our team. They make this happen,” he says.
So if you’re looking for a cool place to try some new beer (or enjoy the familiar) and have a great time doing it, check out Kalamazoo Beer Exchange.