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Local Beer Gifts

Michigan wooden magnet bottle opener sold Nature Connection, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 102.
Local gift ideas for the beer fan

Local artisans, retailers, restaurants, breweries and other beer-related businesses have been particularly hard-hit by Covid-19, with their futures depending to a great degree on a safe and successful holiday season. If you want to support local businesses and are looking for some great gifts for the beer lovers in your life, here are some of my favorites to consider:

Michigan wooden magnet bottle openers

If your junk drawer or silverware drawer is anything like mine, you always have to dig around for a bottle opener. This wooden “Drink Local” bottle opener from Pontiac-based Tangico will solve that problem, since it has a magnet to keep it fixed to your fridge, where the beer sits. It’s available at downtown Kalamazoo’s Nature Connection, but not for long. After 17 years, owner Laurie Russell will be closing her store at the end of the year. Keep an eye out for steep discounts throughout December, including on these openers. There are also Michigan cork coasters, koozies for cans, Michigan Beer Cap Maps and other items for sale there.
Cost: $10.98 each
Where: Nature Connection, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 102
Contact: 567-2873,

Celebrate Diversity’ beer T-shirt

For nearly every craft beer style, there is an accompanying glass type. IPA, stout, lager or sour? Try a nonic, tulip, snifter or Teku glass. In recognition of the various colors and shapes of glasses for properly served craft beer, Spirit of Kalamazoo has a slew of “Celebrate Diversity” T-shirts showcasing these distinct glasses filled with beer and “Kalamazoo, MI” written just underneath them.
Cost: $19-$23, depending on size
Where: Spirit of Kalamazoo, 154 S. Kalamazoo Mall
Contact: 382-6249,

Handmade drinkware

If you won’t drink just any beer, then you need a vessel as special as your brew from which to consume it. Consider picking up some
unique drinkware from these local artists:

Avolio GlassWerks

Longtime local glass artists Michael Fortin and Judith Konesni, of Avolio GlassWerks, produce some of the most visually stunning glass mugs and steins in the region. You’ve likely seen their brightly colored mugs on display at Saugatuck Brewing Co.-Kalamazoo (formerly Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing Co.) and Final Gravity Brewing Co. The couple’s showroom in the Park Trades Center, in downtown Kalamazoo, offers a few options to choose from, or, if you can give them enough time, you can request custom colors for your pint or stein.

Cost: $25-$75

Where: Park Trades Center, Suite 122, 436 N. Park St.

Contact: 385-3350,

Grayling Ceramics

Shay Church recently moved into his new studio in Kalamazoo, giving him more space to create and display his earth-toned ceramics. I own or have given as gifts several of his pieces over the years. You can go with his 16-ounce steins in a variety of colors, some with animal or nature stamps on them. If you want to go big, consider his 32-ounce howlers or 64-ounce growlers.

Cost: $38 for steins; $58-$75 for howlers and growlers

Where: 814 Palmer St.

Contact: 290-8138,

Eric Strader Pottery

This Plainwell-based potter’s work may look familiar to those who frequent Bell’s General Store, since Strader has produced Bell’s mugs for years. Paw Paw Brewing Co. also uses his handiwork for its Mug Club members. You can order Strader’s tumblers (14-16 ounces) or steins (16-20 ounces) for your home. He has a variety of colors available, as well as some with a Michigan stamp.

Cost: $26-$30

Where: 649 Marsh Road, Plainwell

Contact: 330-1274,

Kalamazoo coasters

Among the most popular items in Amy Zane’s store on the Kalamazoo Mall are the coasters from Iconic Detroit. The company produces a variety of thick and durable options referencing cities, sports teams and landmarks across Michigan. There is also a series of Kalamazoo-specific coasters to spice up — and protect — your tabletop.
Cost: $10 each (in store); $12 (online)
Where: Amy Zane: Store & Studio, 132 S. Kalamazoo Mall
Contact: 459-1409,

Beer toiletries

Since starting to make soap from beer in 2013, Damn Handsome Grooming, of Kalamazoo, continues to expand its line of grooming products using repurposed brewing ingredients. Jarrett and Bridget Blackmon often change things up with the seasons. Accentuate your shower experience with the Coconut Porter Shampoo and Conditioner or clean those digits with the Fresh IPA Beer Soap.
Cost: $15-$16
Where: Damn Handsome Grooming Studio & Store, 1501 Fulford St.
Contact: 275-7004,

Finally, if none of these gift ideas hit the mark, consider purchasing gift certificates or placing frequent takeout orders — for both beer and food — from local vendors if it’s within your means.

John Liberty

John Liberty began his professional career as a journalist, but now he’s “a craft beer ambassador” and says the two vocations aren’t really so far apart. Liberty, a former Kalamazoo Gazette entertainment writer, and Aric Faber created West Michigan Beer Tours in 2013 to allow people to experience the area’s growing craft beer industry.

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