There is a new shop in town called Beer and Skittles. We spied it as we were driving around town foraging for our weekly supplies a few weeks ago. They are located at 1912 Whites Road in Kalamazoo. The first time we spied the shop it was a drive-by and people were laughing how odd it seemed to have skittle-flavored beer, as we had made the fundamental mistake of confusing Skittles the board game with Skittles the candy. As it turns out, it’s actually an idiomatic expression in british english, “beer and skittles” which is supposed to be a catch-all phrase for going out and doing something.
The first time we stopped at Beer and Skittles they weren’t open yet, so we peered through the windows and the owner came out to talk to us. They were in the home stretch of opening and I was giddy with the notion that they turned a First National Bank of Detroit into an epicurean food and wine shop. What a reversal of banality for that building! We laughed and talked and wished them well and then a week or so later they were open, except for not having a liquor license to sell the beer, which is part of their name. Apparently Michigan has laws on the books that come from an earlier time when alcohol sales were strictly controlled. This state still has some blue laws on the books and from my understanding, Michigan runs a zero-sum-game with it’s liquor licenses. For one shop to get a liquor license another shop has to surrender theirs. There is only a fixed number of liquor sales allowed in this state and that sort of law has more to do with the troglodytes in Lansing than anything else. To keep a shop like Beer and Skittles wanting for a liquor license is just harming the local economy. It’s stupid.
As for the shop itself, in the beginning we noticed that they set up a sparse store. There is nothing wrong with that, but when you factor in the handicap of not having that liquor license it is a little worrisome. The products are all local, unique, or niche and play directly into the theme that Beer and Skittles publishes on their website. We found some notable treasures in this store that we really enjoy. They have deals with local food-preparers to distribute prepared pasties, pot pies, as well as bread, hummus, dips, mixes, spices, and a constellation of other products that appear to be an assortment of local food fare.
We tried pasties for the first time by buying two there and cooking them at home. We weren’t sure what to expect as we’ve never had pasties before. At first we were taken aback by how dry they were, but then we realized after talking with locals that what we experienced is what pasties are and that it’s not a flaw, it’s part of the design of the things. Scott wasn’t as awed by the pasties as I was, I would definitely buy another one since they are only $5 and one should be enough for a hearty lunch or dinner.
The meat pies are exceptionally good. Scott surprised me by swinging by Beer and Skittles on his way home from work as it’s somewhat on the way back home from Barnes & Noble in Portage. One pie is more than enough for a dinner for two and the price of $14 is excellent for what you get. The products at Beer and Skittles have very little carbon built up on them, as much of the food is from Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, or somewhere else in Michigan. There are some notable exceptions, but they are few, like Demerara sugar, which comes from very far away and has a lot of carbon attached to it.
The real draw for me is Beer and Skittles has a deal with a greek pastry maker in Grand Rapids and they sell little wedges of Baklava for $1.95 a piece. I’ve had Baklava from other places around town and while many locations sell okay Baklava, what they have for sale at Beer and Skittles is over-the-top-amazingly-good. I have plans to save up, and if Beer and Skittles is willing, buy an entire platter in one go. Whoever makes their Baklava makes little triangular wedges of sweet heaven.
One thing that I feel I have to remark upon is the hours for Beer and Skittles. The owners are pushing the envelope here, and going far above and beyond every other shop in town by being open until 10pm every night. This state is blue as hell and there are only a few places that are open after 8 or 9pm and Beer and Skittles is one of these places. I worry that their hours may reduce their chances for success but it’s what they have posted. Their dedication on running that business is notable and I think more people should go and give them a shot. Look in their cold cases, pick something out and try it. If you see the platter of Baklava, you have to buy at least one piece. You will not be sorry.
I hope that they get their liquor license soon and complete their namesake. It’s these sorts of shops that open up and play the risk that need attention from the buying public. It’s these shops we have to support. Excellent quality, fair prices, outrageous hours. What is not to love? Even if they don’t have their license yet I visit frequently and often times find something to buy there.