“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage.
Of all the breweries I went to back in 2015, Paw Paw felt the most like a little community. And now, if you go on their website and hit their History page, you’ll see that that’s what they emphasize, that’s what their mission is all about: creating community.
I had meant to go to Paw Paw the day before, but ended up spending too much time at the beach. (I know, problems, right?)
So after having lunch at Bell’s and drinking some great beer, I looked at my itinerary and figured, hey, I could make the trip out to Paw Paw. It was a little bit of a drive and kind of out of my way because it was between yesterday’s stop (St. Joe’s) and Kalamazoo, but whatever. I was spending two nights in Kalamazoo, anyway, and could spare the time. Even though my itinerary was painstaking, I was fine flexing it a little and dropping one thing for another if I felt like it.
I headed over to Paw Paw Brewing Company, located in Paw Paw, Michigan. It’s a tiny town, and the brewery structure itself isn’t all that impressive. I kind of side-eyed it, actually, when I arrived.
But I headed in anyway and BOY, was I glad I did!
It was dark and felt a bit cramped, even though it was spacious enough and there weren’t even that many people there yet. This was the view from the front window where I was seated at the bar.
I joined 2-3 older men at the bar, and I could tell they were regulars and knew what they were about. I hemmed and hawwed over the beer list and, in the process, struck up a delightful conversation with the bartender, who was wearing a leather vest over his t-shirt and a bandana. He talked me through some of the beers and I made my selections.
Here’s a partial shot of my flight. I had several beers and enjoyed them all. The South Branch Summer was “great,” per my notes. You can tell pretty easily if the beer is hitting me because my notes get shorter and my pretty handwriting turns into a bit of a scrawl. I was still fine to drive when I got to Paw Paw, but that doesn’t mean I was unaffected by the beer I’d already consumed.
The King James Scotch Ale was “perfectly sweet,” and I really enjoyed it. I love Scotch Ales – even in the summer, although I don’t drink as many of them when it’s hot and sunny, obviously. But I’m an all weather girl when it comes to beers: I’ll enjoy a barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout even if it’s 98* outside, I don’t care, and I’ll sip a delicate Berliner Weisse while a snowstorm rages outside. Who gives a fuck?
Another regular walked in, a middle aged man with salt and pepper hair and a large growler in his hands. He’d home-brewed a pineapple mint julep IPA, and offered me some. Ken, my best friend beer nerd who converted me into a craft beer fanatic, has a thing against home brews, and he’s always low-key convinced that I’m going to get myself roofie-d by accepting home brewed concoctions from strange men I meet in breweries.
I mean, he’s not wrong, but hey, with a description like “pineapple mint julep IPA,” I had to try it. You’d think that with those ingredients, it would be sickly sweet (for an IPA), but it wasn’t. The pineapple sweetness was mostly in the aroma, and the IPA was hoppy with citrusy notes. The mint on the finish cooled it off. I just loved it.
Paw Paw’s Citra Melon IPA smelled of citra hops, which I found very pleasant, and Mr. Sunday was kind of meh.
In the meantime, that gentleman from earlier had produced another home brew, and obviously I was going to try it. It was a Chocolate Chip Cookie Stout, he said, and it was sweet and smooth and very enjoyable.
He told me that next Saturday, he planned to bring in a caramel brownie porter, which sounded amazing and I was quite disappointed that I wouldn’t be around for it.
Beer always makes me hungry – duh, alcohol tends to do that to most people – and so I ordered some nachos despite having just eaten. Frankly, I think I just wasn’t quite ready to leave Paw Paw. I ordered another small pour with the nachos, knowing I was drinking a little more than I budgeted for, but not particularly caring.
It was their Gusmeister Amber Ale, and it smelled tart for an amber. I thought it was lovely, despite not being a huge fan of the style. That’s a credit to the brewer and his abilities, to be sure.
I was told that Paw Paw was actually moving down the street in a month, to a better facility. I haven’t been back there since, but I do want to go check out the new space. The pictures on the website are lovely, and I’m sure it’s tons of fun, especially in the winter.
If you’re on the fence about Paw Paw, swing on through. At least, when I went, it felt very cozy and friendly. That’s what I love about the craft beer community: it’s very much a White Male thing, and obviously has a history of racism, but it’s still quite welcoming. I realize I have some privilege over other minority groups as a (South) Asian female, but I’ve never had difficulty navigating the craft beer world, even as a total newbie. Everyone I have talked to was very happy to share their opinions, listen to mine, discuss styles and stories, teach me the methods, provide recommendations, and more. And never have I felt the welcoming aspect of the craft beer community more than at Paw Paw in 2015.
As I was preparing to drive out of town, I noticed the courthouse. I hadn’t yet started my #CourthouseSelfies, but I still liked checking out courthouses. I stopped and looked at it, and the adjoining jail, and was charmed by this old-timey patrol car parked on the corner.
Paw Paw is a delightful, tiny little town, and if you’re in the vicinity, I can confidently say that this lovely little brewery will not disappoint.