---- — KALAMAZOO (AP) — One could say opening Tibbs Brewing Co. in downtown Kalamazoo will feel like Christmas every day for Kevin Tibbs. Five years ago, he gave away his home-brewed beer as Christmas gifts for friends.
Tibbs, and his wife, Cindee, signed a lease last month to rent the former Barista Blues West location next to the State Theatre, and plan to open a small-batch microbrewery and specialty soda shop by fall, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette ( http://bit.ly/1bsWVvk ).
“One year, instead of buying presents (for Christmas) we had to make something, so I said either we make cookies or beer, so I learned how to make beer,” said Kevin Tibbs, 36. “Brewing has been a passion of mine and we’ve always been beer people.”
At first, Kevin joked that family members may have been re-gifting his beer, which he brews from home, but after a few years he began taking special requests during the holiday season.
The owners are working on obtaining a state micro-brewing license and permits from the city of Kalamazoo. They aim to open the brewery by October 2013. Renovations will begin this month and the Tibbs plan to invest at least $35,000 into the new microbrewery.
Kevin said he hopes frequently changing batch brews and experimental sodas, which customers can mix and match, will make for a fun customer experience.
The brewery will offer a simple menu with sandwiches, and Cindee Tibbs said her husband’s homemade root beer will make for some signature floats.
Besides rotating brews, custom sodas ranging from caramel cream, orange creamsicle to Tigers Blood are some non-alcoholic options. Customers will be able to mix and match 18 different soda flavors.
“We’ve always enjoyed craft beer but we want to have something that kids can enjoy, so parents like us can bring their kids,” said Cindee Tibbs, 36.
The couple has a 1-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
“We want an intimate environment for our customers and with downtown living picking up, I would expect more families who are there later in the evening would want to have a beer,” she said.
Tibbs Brewing Co. will brew on a one-barrel system and will have a handful of beers on tap. The Tibbs said they are trying to gauge which brews will become staples.
Last month, they opened their home to about 100 people in the community, including other brewers opening businesses downtown this year, for their first beer tasting event.
They received hundreds of comment cards of beer reviews and published a ranking on their Facebook page. Local beer tasters gave their Belgium Triple, Honey Citra, Imperial Red and the Strawberry Blonde the highest marks.
“We want to get a feel for what people like,” Cindee Tibbs said. “We want to interact with customers. If they want a strawberry beer, we want to have them write it up on the board.”
Kevin’s previous job as a general foreman working in the iron-construction industry required constant travel, so the couple said they hope their first business venture is one that will bring them closer to one another and the community. Cindee Tibbs said she is already brainstorming Kalamazoo Art Hop ideas.
Barista Blues West closed in March and was one of several businesses that opened and closed its doors at the highly visible corner location, earning the spot a reputation for high turnover. The Tibbs said the location is perfect for a small brewery.
“I know its small but I fell in love with that space,” Cindee Tibbs said. “I love the location right next to the State Theatre. I think Tibbs Brewing Co. will be a great fit, maybe that spot has just been waiting for us.”