John Liberty is a staff writer at the Kalamazoo Gazette (you may know him from the popular weekly insert The Ticket) as well as the main contributor for KalamaBrew, a blog connected to the Kalamazoo Gazette, focused on beer, brewing and everything in between in Southwest Michigan.
KalamaBrew launched in February, 2008. It was started by Gazette staffers Alex Nixon, Josh Smith, Anne Holcomb and myself. As craft beer fans, we saw a rapidly growing industry filled with great product, passionate followers and hard-working, generous brewers. We set out to document, as best we could, the Michigan beer scene — everything from previewing events, brewer bio videos, video tours, photo galleries, trend pieces and more. My colleagues have since moved on to greener pastures, but the intention to capture the beauty of Michigan beer is still there.
Like many Kalamazoo residents, I was introduced to the world of craft beer via Bell’s Brewery Inc. I was enticed by the hand-crafted, local nature of craft beers, as well as the artistry. Short’s, The Livery, Arcadia Ales and Dark Horse are at the top of my list of favorite breweries.
I liked the idea of meeting the people behind the brew and learning all that goes into a pint, bottle, keg or can. I tend to lean toward IPAs, but enjoy sampling beers as they change with the seasons. Hands down, the greatest beer moment of my life was brewing a batch of “Liberty’s Ale” with Steve Berthel at The Livery. Berthel, one of the kindest men in the state, offered to have myself, my wife, Beth, as well as Josh Smith and Anne Holcomb, come down his Benton Harbor brewery and make a special batch of beer for our wedding in the summer of 2009. We spent an entire day sweating away in the brewhouse making the small batch. We served it in a keg at the reception and had several 22-ounce bottles, featuring our own label by Kalamazoo artist Heidi Weiss. We gave the bottles to members of our wedding party as a gift. We took a group shot with the bottles as a gift to Berthel for all his generosity.