This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Discover Kalamazoo.
Did you know that Kalamazoo is the birthplace of the craft beer resurgence in Michigan? In the 1980s, the Kalamazoo Brewing Supply Co. (now known as Bell’s Brewery Inc.) opened downtown and set the stage for what became The Great Beer State. In downtown Kalamazoo alone, there are nine breweries and several craft beer bars and restaurants. Within a 30-minute drive are more than 20 breweries. To get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the fastest-growing and creative industries in the state, take a walking tour with West Michigan Beer Tours.
Everything to Know About West Michigan Beer Tours
In collaboration with Discover Kalamazoo, West Michigan Beer Tours provides informative guided walking tours of various breweries within and surrounding the city. The knowledgeable guides give you a history of the craft beer industry in Kalamazoo and throughout Michigan, providing deeper insight than what you would get by visiting the breweries on your own.
For 2021, the walking tours are scheduled for nearly every Saturday throughout June, July, and most of August. Since they don’t start, visit, or end at the same breweries every time, you might want to schedule more than one beer tour. Here’s a list of some of the breweries included on the West Michigan Beer Tours:
- Bell’s Brewery Inc.
- Brite Eyes Brewing Co.
- Central City Tap House
- Final Gravity Brewing Company
- Green Door Distilling
- Kalamazoo Beer Exchange
- Old Burdick’s Bar & Grill
- Olde Peninsula Brewpub
- Saugatuck Brewing Co.
- Shakespeare’s Pub
These one-of-a-kind experiences demonstrate the process of brewing craft beer and the people and pride behind it. You’ll get to meet the brewers and possibly help with the brewing or packaging process. Best of all, every tour includes samples of the brews, some of which are exclusive tastings. Additionally, you’ll receive a goody bag that contains brewery-related promotional products and a souvenir logo pint in stainless steel. Tickets for the West Michigan Beer Tours start at $35 per person.
West Michigan Beer Tours: Makers Tour
Along with craft beer tours, West Michigan Beer Tours offers a monthly Makers Tour. During this walking tour, the guide highlights craft beverage makers of all kinds in downtown Kalamazoo. So alongside exploring Kalamazoo breweries, you’ll get to visit a Kalamazoo winery and distillery.
Usually, this tour starts and ends at Shakespeare’s Pub. In between that, the guide will take you to Kalamazoo Stillhouse, Tempo Vino Winery, and Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. At each stop, you’ll get guided tastings of the craft beverages and learn about the history of craft beverage making in Kalamazoo. Like the Kalamazoo beer tours, you receive a goody bag with a stainless steel pint and other items. Ticket prices for the West Michigan Beer Tours Makers Tour start at $45 per person.
The Give a Craft Beer Trail
If you prefer to tour Kalamazoo breweries on your own, you can participate in the Give a Craft Beer Trail. It’s a fun way to experience the beer scene in Kalamazoo. Using the mobile passport app, you collect a unique code at eight participating breweries to check-in. After that, you’re eligible to get a T-shirt. It’s 100% free to participate – you don’t even have to make a beer purchase. As part of the program, though, some of the breweries offer special discounts. You can learn more about how it works here.
The Central Commons Refreshment Area in Downtown Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo has embraced the craft beverage industry so much that it has created the Central Commons Refreshment Area in the Downtown Social District. While you’re in this area, you can get alcoholic beverages in designated containers from participating businesses. As long as you stay within the Central Commons Refreshment Area, you can walk around and shop while you drink.
Just keep in mind that you can’t take drinks from one business into another unless you have permission from the other establishment. If you don’t see signage or are uncertain, just ask the business what it allows. Since this is a community area, be mindful of others while you have fun.
Unique Features & Fantastic Food at Kalamazoo Breweries
Whether you visit Kalamazoo craft beverage makers on your own or with West Michigan Beer Tours, some of them have notable features and fantastic food menus that are worth checking out. At Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, you can enjoy samples in the outdoor beer garden and patio while listening to live music. One Well Brewing in Portage has a forest-themed interior with pinball machines, darts, a children’s play area, and other games.
At Presidential Brewing Company, you’ll notice that all of the beers are named after presidents. Also, there’s a fairly new outdoor patio area and a miniature golf course on the property. On the north end of downtown Kalamazoo, Green Door Distilling has blueberry gin, creates unique cocktails — including a maple drink — and hosts events with local food trucks. If you visit Latitude 42 Brewing Company, you can enjoy a wonderful outdoor area with shuffleboard and a New American-style food menu.
Texas Corners Brewing Company is located in a 100-year-old church building and makes a lot of hard ciders because it’s owned by Schultz Fruitridge Farms. Don’t forget about the mouthwatering burgers as well. Although you won’t find beer and food at Damn Handsome Grooming Co., you will find products made from recycled beer materials. This interesting shop is partnered with craft breweries to repurpose brewed ingredients into sustainable products — candles, aftershave, soaps, beard creams and oils, and more.
Unique Shopping Experiences Throughout Kalamazoo
When it comes to shopping in Kalamazoo, there’s no better place than Kalamazoo Mall. This historic mall was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the country and features numerous specialty shops in art deco buildings.
If you love chocolate, you can get all kinds of decorative treats at Cherri’s Chocol’art, which serves one-of-a-kind milkshakes with its chocolate creations. Spirit of Kalamazoo serves 24 flavors of Plainwell Ice Cream and sells Kalamazoo-themed clothing and memorabilia.
Kalamazoo Candle Company offers a popular do-it-yourself opportunity to make your own candles, or you can buy bath and body products, home decor, and more. At Colors & Cocktails, you can get creative by painting your own wineglass, beer stein, other drinkable glassware, or canvas.
Proud to be a family business, Bee Joyful Shop is the first zero-waste shop in Michigan and offers plastic-free alternatives to commercial home and personal care products. It has a refill station where you can bring in your own clean containers and fill them with laundry detergent, hand and dish soaps, shampoos and conditioners, skincare products, deodorant, toothpaste, and household cleaners.
To exercise your green thumb, visit the Mason Jar Plant Shop to build a terrarium with your own container or one of three sizes and a range of succulent plants. If you’re interested in curating your own fragrance, you can do that at The Aroma Labs and then use that fragrance to make room fresheners, perfumes, and more.
Where to Stay in Downtown Kalamazoo & Beyond
Kalamazoo is fortunate to have plenty of amazing lodging options, and several are located downtown. All of the downtown properties are within walking distance of breweries, bars and restaurants, and shops.
In a historic, six-story masonic lodge, the Hilton Garden Inn has an indoor pool and full-service restaurant. A pedestrian bridge connects to the adjacent parking garage. Also connected to the hotel is the eight-story Home2 Suites, which has a heated indoor pool as well.
The Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites is a full-service hotel in downtown Kalamazoo and forms part of the city’s skyline. It has two restaurants with a third slated to open in summer 2021. Also downtown is Kalamazoo House Bed & Breakfast, which is in an 1878 historic home and a tribute to the first hotel in the city. It’s located close to Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Although not located downtown, The Henderson Castle Inn is within biking and driving distance of the downtown Kalamazoo experience. The castle was built on a hill in the late 1800s and has a hot tub on its roof where you get an awesome view of Kalamazoo. There’s a restaurant, spa, and winery on-site and afternoon tea events. Even if you don’t stay here, you can dine in the restaurant and take a tour.