The Rapidian

O'Connor's Home Brew Supply to celebrate grand opening Saturday

Midtown's newest neighborhood shop is about to be officially, officially open for business and looking to initiate novices into the popular DIY hobby of home brewing
Ben O'Connor, center, with Allison O'Connor and Mitch Ermatinger

Ben O'Connor, center, with Allison O'Connor and Mitch Ermatinger /George Wietor

Underwriting support from:

O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Online

So much grain!

So much grain! /George Wietor

Locally-grown hops

Locally-grown hops /George Wietor

The Pyramid Scheme isn’t the only brew-related grand opening this weekend as Midtown’s newest neighborhood business, O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply (613 Lyon NE), will host its official grand opening tomorrow morning. The O’Connors and co. will be serving samples of various home brews, homemade wines and other assorted snacks all day long from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply has technically been open to the public for several weeks in a lengthy “soft launch” that has already garnered the store favorable reviews on popular home and microbrew-related web communities such as But tomorrow morning’s grand opening ceremonially represents the culmination of months of hard work.

“We’ve been working it since October,” said Ben O’Connor who owns the shop with his wife, Allison. “It’s been a long process.”

One with a keen attention to detail. Rather than using store-bought metal shelving, they hired local carpenter Matthew Sutton to design and build custom oak shelving.

“We think people appreciate the fact that when you walk in, it looks like an old general store,” O’Connor explained.

Coming Home
O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply also represents a sort of homecoming for the O’Connors.  “I’m from West Michigan and I lived in Grand Rapids for five years, so I have a lot of friends here,” O’Connor said. “I love Michigan and I missed it. I went to North Carolina for five years; that’s where I met my wife. But I just wanted to come back home and Allison was cool with that. She met my family and friends and decided that this would be a good place to live and start a life.”

When they got back, the O’Connors weren’t exactly sure what they were going to do with themselves.

"We thought maybe we would open a brew pub or something like that, but then we saw a for rent sign in the window here, and we live two blocks away, so we were like, 'hey, why don’t we check that out?' It’s close to our house, it looks like a nice little shop area and so we came and we talked to the landlord and it was cheap. So we were like, 'let’s do it. Let’s open something up in that building.'"

As home brewers themselves, it didn’t take long to figure out a plan.

“It’s one of my hobbies, one of my passions,” O’Connor said. "We decided, 'well there’s no homebrew shop in the city proper' and we thought with all the people living around here who walk and ride their bike a lot, they would appreciate a store this close so they wouldn’t have to get in their car and drive halfway to Standale.”

Local Harvest, Local product
In the spirit of operating a neighborhood shop, the O’Connors are looking to carry locally derived products whenever possible, but the decentralized nature of the home-brewing industry can sometimes make that difficult.

“One of the coolest things we have are local hops,” O’Connor said, ”we actually found a guy who grows hops in Allegan, MI, so, pretty close to Grand Rapids. We bought all the hops he had.”

Hops are an essential ingredient to many beers, and are mostly grown in the Pacific Northwest and the United Kingdom. But, as he explains, “With the beer industry just blowing up here in the last 10 years, people are realizing that there is a demand for hops and that Michigan’s climate is conducive to growing them ... Hopefully in a few years there will be some major hop producers around here so that we don’t have to buy any hops from anywhere else.”

Novices Welcome
If there is one thing that O’Connor wants made clear, it’s that “people shouldn’t be afraid to come in here if they’ve never brewed before. We’re not going to make you feel stupid. We want you to come in and we want to tell you about the hobby that we love to do.”

To bolster that welcoming attitude, the O’Connors have prepared kits to make it simple for the beginner.

“I think our kits are really cool for someone who’s never done it before,” O’Connor said. “You can come and buy a basic kit and get everything you need to start brewing your own beer. It’s sort of like a one stop. You buy the kit and you buy an ingredient kit, and you are ready to go home to brew some beer. And a month later you get to try it.”

In addition, the supply shop will begin hosting a variety of “Brewing 101” workshops and seminars starting in May, where local experts will teach newbies how to brew like a pro. The first will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 and will focus on brewing with extracts. There is no charge for the class, and participants will receive a coupon redeemable for $10 off a starter kit.

“We’d like to get people who don’t know about [home brewing] and have never tried it, or have been afraid to try, or whatever, to come in and we’ll get them going ... Come on in, don’t be afraid, we’ll get you started.”

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Definitely have to visit. Ive just brewed a few batches and am ready to do my next.

It's nice to see a business open in that space, it's crazy to think that the old Dynamite space is going to look so different!