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Beer O'Clock GR

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Craft Beers of Michigan: I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo

Having recently decided to get back into the dating scene, I thought it proper to fill out an online dating profile. As I am pressed for time and had to do this column as well, I have decided that I am going to multitask and do both of them at the same time. I hope you don’t mind.

Here goes… 

Looks: I have been described as being the secret lovechild of Gary Busey and Steve Buscemi. Lot of teeth stuff going on.

Personality: If cardboard or Styrofoam were capable of having a personality, well, you’re in the ballpark.

Dislikes: I generally dislike anyone who uses the phrase “shifting paradigm” or “we need to shift the paradigm” or any and all variations thereof.

Likes: I love Fall. It is far and away my favorite time of the year. The crisp Autumn air, Halloween, apple cider, postseason baseball, pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, the list goes on and on about why Fall is super awesome and why all the other seasons can kindly go F themselves .

I also love music. Rap, rock, country, it’s all great as long as no one who has ever appeared on the Disney Channel is involved in any way. I think my favorite type of music, though, the one that makes me the happiest and puts the biggest smile on my face, would have to be old time big band and swing music.

Though not loved by critics and accused of being too commercial in his day, I have a special spot in my heart for Glenn Miller, the man behind such classic tunes as “In The Mood” and “Moonlight Serenade”. The best song he ever recorded, though, would have to be “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, which was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren and had Tex Beneke on lead vocals. In addition to being the best-selling record in the United States in 1942, the song also appeared in the film “Orchestra Wives”, for which it was nominated for an Academy Award.

Which brings me to my final “like” here on my dating profile/beer column…

As I think I made it clear in my first column here on Beer O’Clock GR, I love my home state of Michigan and my hometown of Grand Rapids in particular. Sure, I will occasionally make fun of the Furniture City but you only tease the people and places that you love (that’s why I don’t tease Ohio…just kidding…Ohio, you suck).

I never attempt to hide the fact that I am from Michigan’s second largest city, unless, of course, someone mentions native Grand Rapidian and noted children’s book author, Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express? More like The Polar Now I’m Depressed, am I right? Who’s with me? Anyone?


Okay, moving on…

I don’t just love the G Rap, however. I love all of West Michigan, from those wooden shoe wearing, windmill turning, tulip plucking knuckleheads over in Holland to those cereal chompin’ crazies down in Battle Creek. My favorite town outside of Grand Rapids, though, would have to be the town Glenn Miller and his band made so popular all those years ago, a town I believe was named for the favorite pet of Titus Bronson, who was southwest Michigan’s first white settler. Mr. Bronson’s favorite animal was, of course, a llama that liked to play the kazoo.

Llama. Kazoo. Kalamazoo. Give it a second, you’ll totally get it.

Seriously, how could you not love a town with such an awesome name. That would be like not loving some of the other towns in the Mitten State that have awesome names. There’s Christmas, Michigan, for instance, or Climax (a town I always feel like I have to prematurely leave for some reason). Did you know there’s a town in Michigan named Hell? There’s also a Paradise. For all you atheists out there, I believe there’s even a small village in the Upper Peninsula called Nothing Happens After You Die Because You’re Dead And That’s It, though rumor has it the local government might change the name as it is quite difficult to fit on the sign that welcomes you to town.

Kalamazoo is more than just a city with a sweet name, though. It’s also a big player in the worlds of education, medicine, music, and, oh yeah, alcoholic beverages!!! I speak, of course, of Uncle Joe’s moonshine still on the outskirts of town.

Uncy Joe makes some wicked hooch!

Just kidding. Of course I’m talking about the craft beer scene in K-zoo, the biggest player being Bell’s Brewery, which was founded in 1983 by Larry Bell as Kalamazoo Brewing Company, a home brewing supply store. In 1985, Mr. Bell began selling his own beer and, well, he hasn’t looked back, his company having become, in the nearly thirty years since its inception, one of the most respected craft beer producers in the country.

Available in fourteen states and the District of the Columbia, Bell’s most popular beer would definitely have to be Oberon, a beverage that is pretty much synonymous with summer in Michigan at this point.

I have to admit something, though, something that may make you come after me like the villagers chasing down Boris Karloff with pitchforks and torches at the end of the classic film version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Deep breath. Here goes…

I secretly like the music of The Goo Goo Dolls.

Wait, that’s not what I wanted to admit, though that’s totally true. What I meant to say is that I don’t enjoy drinking Oberon. It’s not my cup of tea, or, more accurately, my bottle of beer. Blasphemy, I know, but I don’t like wheat beers. Any beer you can put a piece of fruit in, I mean, come on, what are we doing here, making jello with a grape in the middle?

I will not apologize for the fact that I don’t like Oberon, nor that I still cry a little every time I listen to “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls.

So what Bell’s beer do I like?

I enjoy their Best Brown Ale. Frickin’ love it, actually. Like I said way back near the beginning of this rambling dating profile/beer column, my favorite time of the year is Autumn and, in the same way Oberon says summer, Bell’s Best Brown Ale says Fall.

The company describes the beer as a “smooth, toasty brown ale that is a mainstay in their fall and winter lineup.” It’s not hard to see why it’s a mainstay. And while the term “toasty” is used more in this description to highlight the beer’s malty flavor and aroma, I can’t help but think that it doesn’t also double as a declaration of how a Best Brown Ale makes you feel.

It warms your body and soul, giving you a toasty feeling on a cold Autumn day.

If you peruse the reader reviews of Bell’s Best Brown Ale on Beer Advocate’s website, over and over again this point is made. For instance, one reviewer, who goes by the name Bradthegreat7 (which we kind of doubt because it also states that he’s from Ohio) says…

“One of my favorite Autumn brown ales. It has everything needed to give you a nice warming experience when the days start getting shorter and the nights longer. A real classic brown ale that finds its way to my fridge every Fall.”

While Best Brown Ale is, by no means, Bell’s best beer, nor is it actually the best brown ale you’ll likely to ever come across, it is still both classic and always consistent in my eyes (besides the packaging, which they changed this year).

I want a bottle of it in my hand on every rainy night I’m tucked up reading a book in my homemade Snuggie, which I made with an electric blanket and an old Starter jacket (not sure how I haven’t lit myself on fire yet). I want to drink it at every football tailgate I’m at. I want one (or five) on Halloween night, when I’m dressed up in my sexy and revealing claims adjustment manager for a mid-sized insurance firm costume.

Trust me, it’s pretty hot.

So, in the end, I guess it turns out that I’m not really sure that I needed to fill out a dating profile. It would appear that I’ve already got a gal (named Bell’s) in Kalamazoo, a city you should totally get to because, as they say, “When in Rome.” 

“Wait, what are you saying, Paul? You want me to find someone of the Christian faith and have them fight a lion for my amusement? I mean, finding the Christian will probably be easy but where the heck do I get a lion?”

No, you idiot. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in Kalamazoo, do as all good Michiganders do in the Fall and get yourself to Bell’s Eccentric Cafe and pick yourself up some Best Brown Ale.

In a season and a world of shifting paradigms, it’s the sensible thing to do.