Wednesday, 30 September 2015 09:27

Lansing-based Craft Beer Aficionado Paul Starr Holds the Torch for Lansing

Written by  Rich Tupica
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Paul Staff Paul Staff PHOTO: Nicole Rico

While the Lansing craft-beer scene isn’t a booming mecca like West Michigan — there is some action sprouting up across Capital City and much of it involves one curly-haired, bearded man: Paul Starr.

For the past five years Starr, 33, has become the leader of the pack in Lansing-area craft-beer events and news coverage. His website, I’m a Beer Hound, is a resource for breaking news — but how many brew lovers know him is from his well-attended beer festivals and his ongoing series of beer and food pairings across Lansing. His professional life is wholly dedicated to craft beer, but it’s not all about business. Starr is the first to admit his line of work often finds him enjoying his favorite styles: Oktoberfest beers, Belgian Tripels and browns.

Here’s what Starr had to say about Lansing’s emerging beer scene and his passion for brews.

It seems like you were a leader in the craft-beer game early on in the Lansing area — do you think that helped with the success of your events?

Yeah, I think so. When I started, it was the time when craft beer first had resurgence. There was resurgence in the late ‘90s and then a whole bunch of breweries closed. Then, in the middle to late 2000s, that’s when the resurgence started and I was a part of that. It was the right place at the right time.

You’ve been covering craft beer and hosting events for five years now. How has the beer scene evolved?

It’s significantly changed because craft beer is so readily available now. From breweries opening all over the place, to having a ton of craft beer available at Meijer and other major retailers, it’s not just specialty beer stores that have it anymore.

What Lansing-area breweries should West Michigan beer fans make a road trip for?

For sure BAD Brewing in Mason, Old Nation in Williamston, Midtown Brewing in downtown Lansing and Eagle Monk on the West Side of Lansing. Lansing Brewing Company will be worth checking out — they’ll be opening soon. Aside from breweries, over the past five years, maybe 10 bars have opened in Lansing that specialize in craft beer. You’re looking at Zoobie’s, Taps 25, the Tin Can, Beer Grotto, Vine and Brew, the Creole just opened — a lot of places. But Lansing has always had good craft beer bars –breweries haven’t popped up until recently.

What are some of the beer events you host in the Lansing area?

I do Art & Craft Beer Fest, which is art, beer and music. It’s a pretty unique event in Lansing’s REO Town. You can go from venue to venue and see different art and music playing at the same time. I also do Beerfest at the Ballpark (at Cooley Law School Stadium, home of the Lansing Lugnuts) and then also Lansing Beer Fest. I was also a part of Beerfest on the Bridge in Portland, Mich., which was a success. All of the festivals I do are craft beer specific. Craft beer is a focal point. We have music and all that, but it’s more about the beer.

How about your smaller events? Are you still doing a lot of beer and food pairings?

Recently I did a beer and grilled cheese pairing. This month I’m doing beer and German food, so sausage, sauerkraut and potato pancakes — stuff like that. I’ll do beer and bacon, beer and wings, beer and soup, beer and sushi. There are all kinds of pairings I’ll do.

What all do you cover on

I’m a Beer Hound publishes articles all the time about what’s going on in the craft beer scene. We do news, reviews of breweries and event news. We talk about a lot of festivals. I’m obviously promoting all of my festivals, but I promote festivals across the state. We do the best we can to keep people informed about what’s going on in the scene. But, it’s a two-person operation, we can’t necessarily keep up. Things are changing and growing so quickly. It’s extremely challenging to stay on top of things because if you wait five minutes a new brewery opens.

Do you think the Michigan craft beer industry is in danger of becoming over saturated?

I feel that any town that can support a brewery, and the beer is good, they will stay in business. I think shelf space is getting pretty limited and competitive. Distributing breweries, I think it’s getting harder and harder to get in there if you haven’t been around a long time. Craft beer is a lifestyle choice. You choose to drink better beer and eat better food. It’s a conscious choice. I don’t know if there’s a saturation point. I think it’s the great wide open right now, really.

Over the years, have you noticed more people converting from Bud Light to craft beers?

I definitely have seen a lot of people converting. You also see a lot of people these days who start out drinking craft beer at 21. It wasn’t available when I was 21. You had to go to Bell’s, a specific beer store with imports and craft beer, or go to an actual brewery. It’s just so much more available now. Craft beer is becoming the standard beer to drink. It’s funny that people who’ve never had a beer before can now start out with an IPA — it just seems crazy to me. I got introduced to craft beer through Oberon. People that are 21 now might get introduced by Two Hearted Ale. It’s amazing.

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