Kalamazoo Beer Advocates: Bartender, Server, Beer Geek

The man himself

Phil Stressman is a bartender and a server at downtown Kalamazoo’s Central City Tap House. As a self-described beer geek, Phil has always been a great person to get beer advice and opinions from. Over the past year he has also tried his hand at homebrewing.

 I am in love with beer.  I have been for several years now.  And while I cannot pinpoint a specific experience or moment in time that began this love affair, I can attribute it, I think, to a certain dominant personality trait.  I am a serious geek.  Like, bought thousands of comic books, have a favorite Star Trek captain, can recite off-hand all the characters of Battlestar Galactica level-geek.  And if there’s one thing that unites all geeks, it’s an instinct to collect.  We share a magpie-like love of assembling and maintaining stockpiles of shiny, pretty, unique things and bits of knowledge relating to various categories of nerdy crap.  And so it was that when I turned twenty-one, I decided that I would buy and try a new six-pack of beer every week, until ran out of beers to acquire or pants that fit (you can guess which happened first).

 That was five years ago.  And while I don’t still follow my rule explicitly, I do still love to experience new beers.  The more unique or weird or challenging, the better.  So it should come as no small surprise to you that probably my favorite Michigan brewery is Shorts.  When it comes to experimenting with the limits of beer flavor, they boldly go where no brewery has gone before.  A key lime pie beer? Delicious. A bloody mary beer?  Amazing, especially with celery salt. A white russian flavored beer? Terrible. But dammit, somebody had to try.  On top of all that, Shorts produces what may be my favorite beer of all: Spruce Pilsner.  Crisp, resiny, grassy, piny, and refreshing, and above all, wholly unique.

 I’m young however, and have decades and wardrobes worth of beer drinking ahead of me, so it could be supplanted by something new and outlandish and delicious at any point in the future.  Because craft brewers are going to continue to push the limits of beer into strange new worlds, and I’m going to continue to collect and drink all the weird and wonderful beers I can find.

Have your own beer story?Let us know! Email it to Vitkin7@yahoo.com and we’ll put it up!



2 responses

  1. Phil! Love your beer story — especially insights like adding celery salt to the Bloody Mary Beer!
    I’m newer than you to the craft beer game, so I’m wondering: What are your top 5-10 brews that left you buckled in your knees and swooning?

    • A quick 10 beers to drink, in a row or separately. Probably not in a row though. Don’t do that, actually.

      1) Anchor Steam – You’ve probably heard of it. Make sure you drink it. This was my earliest favorite, if I recall correctly.

      2) Southern Tier Krampus – An imperial pilsner named for Santa’s evil child-snatching counterpart. Hoppy, clean, and refreshing.

      3) Founders Devil Dancer – You ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?

      4) Great Lakes Elliot Ness – Another lager, this one is amber in color, with a nicely crunchy toffeeish malt flavor.

      5) Avery Eighteen – Dry-hopped rye saison. No kidding.

      6) Troubador Magma – A Belgian IPA, with a different american hop strain each year. This beer is truly unparalleled

      7) Bells Smoked Vienna Lager – Let me vent for a moment. I’ve noticed lately that among a certain class of Kalamazoo beer geek, it’s become fashionable to trash Bells brewery. I get that this is in part a reaction against Oberon, which is without a doubt over-hyped. But that doesn’t excuse it. Bells is still a first class craft brewery, and I could have filled this list exclusively with amazing offerings from Larry and Co. Smoked Vienna happens to be my favorite. End rant.

      [8)] Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale – The best fruit beer around, as far as I can tell.

      9) Ommegang Three Philosophers – Probably my current favorite beer, and not just because it has my name in it (nooch). Mind blowing.

      10) Pabst Blue Ribbon – WHAT? I said it!

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