Bikes & Brews in Kalamazoo
by Victoria Principato
From Toronto, to Buffalo, from Buffalo to Chicago, it's been a whirl wind couple of days (I guess they don't call it the Windy City for nothing!) In the past 72 hours, Cate and I have been in 4 different cities, on 3 different trains, in 2 different countries! Since we've been moving so quickly, it was so nice to have a relaxing stop in the beautiful city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo is only a short 2 hour train ride from Chicago, IL, (although the one hour time change did throw us off a bit!) The station is conveniently located right in the heart of Kalamazoo, and makes accessing all of Downtown Kalamazoo's offerings a breeze. Luckily, Cate and I had a wonderful welcome crew awaiting our arrival, including the city's mayor, Mayor Hopewell!
The Kalamazoo station was built in 1887, and features beautiful wooden benches, a bubbling fountain outside, and a fireplace inside for the cold Michigan winters. It serves the 75,000 citizens of the city, and includes several bus terminals to increase accessibility throughout the area. Cate and I were able to make use of the city's bike rental shop, called Pedal Bicycles, and were able to see the city by our favorite mode of transportation! Thanks to the wonderful people of Discover Kalamazoo and Downtown Kalamazoo, we were able to see some of the highlights that Kalamazoo has to offer. Our first stop: Bells Brewery!
Bell's Brewery, originally known as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, first began in 1983. Larry Bell first started his company by brewing, packaging, labeling, and delivering his beer all on his own, urging people to try his craft beers. At a time when the largest brewers in the country were Budweiser and Miller, and people pretty much only drank light pilsners, Larry faced many challenges in spreading his vision of craft beer across America. Since his humble beginnings, Bell's has evolved into one of the largest craft breweries in the country, and has received countless awards for his Two Hearted Ale. As a fan of Bell's Oberon Ale, I was so excited to get a tour of the original brewery where the idea for my favorite summer seasonal began! Bells has established itself as a key part to the Kalamazoo community
Next up on our tour of the city was Arcadia Ales. This brewery began twenty one years ago in 1996, when then paper salesman Tim Suprise decided to change his career to work in a field that he loves! Its clear to see that Tim is passionate about what he does, especially when he was giving us a tour of the Arcadia Ales facilities (which, by the way, Tim says are modeled after his favorite show, Game of Thrones! Could this place be any more perfect?!) Hearing about the brewery's methods and mission from the owner himself was an incredible, and I learned a lot on our tour. Arcadia is one of the few American breweries that uses an open fermentation method, which is more typical of English beers. Arcadia Ales is active in the Kalamazoo area, and seeks to create jobs and community for the people that live there. With its beautiful beer garten and facilities, (and delicious BBQ!) Arcadia Ales is a must see.
Next up on our tour of the city, we got to bike through the one of the city's many parks. Sitting on the edge of the bike trail, however, was our destination of Open Roads headquarters. Open Roads is a nonprofit bike repair program for the youth of Kalamazoo. The program teaches its participants how to repair bikes and how to be responsible owners. It also incorporates the values of respect and personal responsibility as well as teamwork and . If you want to learn more about Open Roads and how to offer your support, check out their website here!
Overall, Kalamazoo is a vibrant city with fresh air, beautiful bike trails, and countless breweries to try. It's definitely off the beaten path for typical destinations, but I'm so glad to have had the chance to try all that Kalamazoo has to offer. We got to ride bikes, try delicious beers, and meet wonderfully welcoming people. I can't wait to return to one of our friendliest cities we've visited so far. Thanks for the great times, Kalamazoo! Up next: Colorado, here we come!