Beer City, USA [Guest Post]
Greetings and Salutations!
As you know, our fearless heroine is off storming castles and carving wooden toys for orphaned children and neglecting her blogging duties. At least that’s the line she fed me when she asked me to write today… My name’s Derek and I live in Michigan. Paige and her cohort Kevin visited my wife and I many blags (past tense for these new fangled internet words eludes me) ago and we visited just about every brewery in West Michigan. Unfortunately for them, the Grand Rapids Brewing Company had yet to open.
GRBC is old and also new, so let me explain. No, there is no time to explain, let me sum up (Inigo Montoya, top five fictional drinking buddy). The original brewing company first opened on New Year’s Day in 1893 as a merger of 6 smaller breweries. Like a lot of breweries it closed down after prohibition. In 1993 it was reopened and had a good run, but sadly closed in 2010. The wonderful people of Barfly Ventures snatched up the name and brought the famous brewery back to the heart of Downtown Grand Rapids. Barfly Ventures are the creators of the #3 Beer Bar in the world, HopCat. Needless to say they have brought their A-Game to GRBC
Before I get to my night at GRBC, I need to preface one of the reasons I love beer, especially craft beer: the conversation to be had with friends. I was listening to an interview with Jerry Seinfeld not too long ago and he was talking about coffee. He said, “meeting someone for coffee suddenly seemed like a wonderful, compact, accessible and portable social interaction. You don’t even really need a place. But you feel like you’re doing something. That is what coffee is. And that is one of the geniuses of the new coffee culture.” This is exactly how I feel about going to any brewery. It’s an opportunity to be with friends and sit and talk. You have the “excuse” of an activity to overcome any awkwardness of “finding something to do” with friends in order to talk to them. I always find it funny when conversation starts to dwindle at a brewery and someone suggests doing something else, and the new activity we decide is… wait for it… another brewery. But it always works. We feel like we’re doing something, and the next thing you know we’re actually doing something.
One of the drawbacks to the surging popularity of craft beer is that it’s so damn popular. It’s why there are so many coffee shops around, we love having a good time with friends. Unfortunately, it means that most breweries are packed to the limit and finding a table or even a place to stand with a beer and talk is extremely difficult. Paige and Kevin took me to Dangerous Man Brewing Co. a few weeks ago. It was a fantastic place with great beer, but seating was in short supply. I distinctly remember standing awkwardly near the door, beer in hand, attempting disjointed conversation until a table finally opened up.
While their beer is killer, I think one of the primary goals of GRBC was to provide as much quality space to their patrons as possible. The amount of seating is just staggering. Two long community tables run half the length of the building and are surrounded by high tops. Additionally there are several standing bars that also serve to guide foot traffic. Behind the main area is another bar with more seating than most other breweries. If there’s a wait for a table there is plenty of space to grab a beer from the bar and still stand around and do what you came to do, drink beer and converse.
Claire (my amazing wife), Tyler, Katie and I did just this. We put in for a table and were told it would be about 30 minutes. We grabbed beers and found some padded chairs with a small table in the queuing area. When our table finally was available, we actually canceled it because we were having such a good time where we were. It was at this time that I remembered I promised Paige I would write this post and the full weight of the great social atmosphere hit me.
Then I remembered, “oh yeah! The beer!” The one that really stood out was their Imperial Saison, Meyer May’s. It was 10 ounces of summer in a glass. While it’s a heavier hitter at 8% ABV, the citrus in this beer makes you wish you could drink it all day. There are pink peppercorn notes in the finish and the overall spice of the beer does not overpower your taste buds by the end of the beer. I thought I should be adventurous and get a different beer, but I loved it too much and was more concerned with good company to worry about branching out to another selection.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some beer to drink.