Beer and Loafing in Kalamazoo: Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery

By Colin Smith

Bigg Dogg: The restaurant/brewery combo is conveniently located on the corner of Academy St. and Westnedge.

We were somewhere roaming around Westnedge and Academy St. when the thirst began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit famished; maybe we should go to Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery.”

Gonzo’s, which has no affiliation to the style of narrative journalism of Hunter S Thompson, is a relatively new restauran-bar on the corner of Westnedge and Academy St. Its aesthetic is a minimal one—the bar fuses rustic and industrial ambiances while still keeping a casual yet slightly “posh” atmosphere. One could come in a tie or t-shirt and not feel particularly over- or underdressed, respectively. However, while the stools and chairs in the restaurant are metal and seem to fit well with the rustic feel, they are far from comfortable.

As the third of many canine-referencing bars just outside of downtown Kalamazoo, Gonzo’s is the creation of Gregory “Gonzo” Haner. Haner has been brewing since the early ‘90s, both in his garage and through Siebel Institute of Technology, where he graduated with degrees in both microbrewing and brewmastery. His impressive craft becomes quite clear after sampling some of Gonzo’s namesakes, such as their Vanilla Porter Ale, which contains hints of both chocolate and vanilla.

As a restaurant, Gonzo’s offers the usual assortment of American bar cuisine. Patrons are sure to be delighted by the appetizers: hummus, poutine, fritters, nachos and breadsticks, just to name a few. The menu also features the typical burger, sandwich, and pizza choices including a make-your-own pizza. That said, while the food is a satisfying companion to the various beers, the menu doesn’t offer anything noteworthy. This is not a bad thing, as Gonzo’s main strength is its craft beer.

Gonzo’s sports a wide variety of craft beers (sixteen are listed on the drink menu), ranging from softer and hoppier light beers to more malty-dark ales and porters. I ordered tasters of the Burning Sun Redd, the Unloosened II experimental ale (an original concoction, and there are more to come), the Geyser Brown Ale, and the (aforementioned and house favorite) Vanilla Porter. As I am not particular about my taste in beer, I thoroughly enjoyed each sample. However, be warned—the prices are slightly higher than other local bars such as Rupert’s, with beers typically priced at $4.50

Gonzo’s is a great place to grab a drink every now and then with a close friend or two. The prices are stacked a littler higher than competitors–($9.95 for a sandwich and chips). The aesthetic is simple but slightly cold and, as one anonymous K professor thought: “a bit too much like a chain restaurant-bar.” But if the aesthetic doesn’t bother you, I would highly recommend taking a stroll off-campus and grabbing a great beer at Gonzo’s to watch spring unfold.

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