Beer Travel: Paw Paw Brewing

Beer Travel: Paw Paw Brewing

Again, I find myself doing a review of a place I’ve visited away from home, while still gathering my notes on local spots. I just have a little more fun hitting places on my way to and from somewhere.

I had some weekend business to do in the Detroit area last November. I didn’t take any time to stop on the way out Saturday, which turned out to be a good thing: I got slowed to a crawl as I ran into traffic leaving the U. of Michigan football game. But Sunday I scheduled a lunch stop on the way back. Thanks to two different Michigan brewery guides at their Welcome Center on I-94, I was able to narrow down the places that were open on Sunday afternoon and just off the highway—and whose beers I had not had yet. The first place I’d come to under those criteria would be Paw Paw Brewing, in its namesake town, just west of Kalamazoo.

Paw Par Brewing Exterior

Paw Paw’s “Pawking Lot”

Paw Paw was founded in 2010 by Paw Paw resident Ryan Sylvester. In 2019, they moved from their original space to a building on the south end of town. The space has plenty of serving room, with most of its walls covered with mug club mugs. A large carry-out cooler greets the visitor inside the entrance, in front of the brew works. They also have a private party room, and another room with arcade games. Throw in the TVs with sports, and there’s your weekend afternoon.

Paw Par Brewing

Bar and tap handles at Paw Paw Brewing

On a late fall afternoon, turning dreary from oncoming rain, Paw Paw proved a cozy stopover. And to eat: they have a chef on premise with some interesting entree choice, but I needed to go east on the wallet. I went with the “Gremps Grub” pulled pork sandwich. My guess is that a barbecue entree would be the most personalized part of the sandwich menu, as opposed to hamburger patties or chicken filets. My pork sandwich turned out to be a bit sweet, maybe partly from the house sauce. I had the included cole slaw on the side, because I’m finally getting around to trying it after a lifetime of “Eww!” The slaw was pretty nice as a separate item.  The included fries were hot and tender on the inside, with a light dust of rosemary & garlic. 

Of course I got a couple tasters of their tap beers, trying to focus on the ones that were special, or tap only”

paw_paw_brewing_img_1076O.W.B. (One With Beer) Triple Hopped Pilsner, a collaboration with Other Woman Brewery of Berlin. 4% abv.
A slightly hazy Pilsener color, head goes away very quickly. A definite hop smell to it, but it comes in line with a German hop profile.

Ranch und Rye Rye rauchbier. 5.8% abv.
A deep brown color, with a scrum of foam on top of the taster. Not much smoke in the nose, but there is a note of spicy rye malt. Followed by smoked Gouda in the palate. And the smoky note gets bigger the further down I go.

Bloody Zombie “Bloody Mary beer.”
Deep auburn brown color. Surprisingly, it still holds a bit of a head. It does look a little like a Michelada, but I was told there’s no tomato in it, just some Bloody Mary spices. Once I’ve gotten a sip in, the spices do pop in on my nose. I like the Snap-E-Tom taste, but I know you have to be in the mood for it.

Black River Oatmeal Stout. 5.8% abv.
Last of four taster glasses, but it’s still holding on to a thin, tan head. Solid black color, of course. Very roasty dark malt nose, but not astringent of otherwise off. Just a note of coffee underneath the malt. The taste is also solid and roasty, right at the edge of a black patent malt roast. The oatmeal in the bill doesn’t play too much here, it’s more like a dry stout, but one that’s a little more complex than expected. Another solid, well tuned beer.

I’m happy to have discovered this little brewery. I, of course, got a to-go sixpack, trying to keep with some beers I didn’t have on tap, and have been reviewing them on my RateBeer page (also accessible in the sidebar to the right).

For other things to do, Paw Paw is also home to the main St. Julian winery, open 7 days a week, with tours starting at noon.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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