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Cultivating a culture of its own, craft beer has given a rise to this Beer City. Dried taps and equipment once belonging to the Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) are being resurrected as preparation begins for re-opening in October as Michigan's only organic brewery.
Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is the newest addition to the BarFly Ventures family. BarFly is owned by Mark Sellers and currently includes HopCat, McFadden's, Stella's and The Viceroy.
“There's a demand for more brewpubs, and the movement towards local- locally brewed things, locally made things is continuing to pick up steam and will continue to pick up steam over time,” says Sellers. “There are 170 bars in the city limits of Grand Rapids and only six or seven brewpubs: there's still a lot of room for growth.”
GRBC, located at 1 Ionia Ave., has committed itself to an all organic beer menu with roughly eight “mainstay” beers being brewed in-house and four specialty rotating guest taps.
“Organic beer tastes just as good or better but it's also not got any chemicals, hormones or pesticides in it and that's what concerns me,” says Sellers. Food offerings on the menu are to be announced at a date closer to opening however vegetarian and gluten free options will both be available. Meanwhile, Sellers adds that while it is not going to be all organic, the food is going to be as natural and from as many locally produced products as possible.
“We're going to be using organic malts from Briess Malting and organic hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance,” says Jake Brenner, head brewer at GRBC. Brenner and co-brewer Stu Crittenden will be crafting recipes for beer at GRBC.
“We'll have a nice basic Pale Ale. For the most part we'll try to stick to more basic styles. We will probably have a porter, definitely have an IPA, definitely have a Hefeweizen very similar to the Zugspitze, and we're planning on doing a fruit beer,” adds Brenner. The team's recipe for the Zugspitze Hefeweizen, currently being served at HopCat, has just been awarded a Bronze Medal in the “Wheat Beer” category at the 2012 World Beer Championships.
“Silver Foam is probably going to be our biggest beer,” says Brenner. “That's an old beer that GRBC was producing 100 years ago, it will be nice and light but it's going to be more flavorful than what people perceive as a light beer.”
Complementary to the main restaurant floor, the renovated concept and building will house a private event space capable of seating roughly 130 guests, a deck overlooking the Van Andel arena as well as large glass windows which will create an open view of the brewing equipment. Guided tours will be provided of the brew house. “It's going to be a lot more interesting in terms of a more historic look, a lot of exposed brick, wood ceilings, wood floors. Some really interesting vintage Grand Rapids.” says Sellers. “People will just have to see when they come in.” GRBC will also be re-instituting the Mug Club providing a one year long fee-free membership to previous members.
“When I was younger I said to myself that I would never move back here but you start to get sick of the rat race in the big city. My grandpa used to say that it's better to be a big fish in a small pond than a whale in the ocean,” said Sellers.
“The quality of life is better in Grand Rapids; there just aren't as many choices for restaurants and bars,” adds Sellers, who has lived in Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago. “Like all of my places, this is just going to be a place that I'm creating for me to hang out in and I hope that other people like [it]...I figure if I do, so will others. I'm not always right but that's my philosophy on opening bars.”