Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our Year of Touring West Michigan Breweries ~ 2017

14. New Holland Brewing, 66 E 8th St, Holland ~ 5/9/17
Since it was Tulip Time in Holland, we thought we'd sample a brewery there. It turns out that most of them do not serve food so we chose New Holland, which is celebrating 20 years in business.
Our hostess first seated us upstairs, in a corner, partially covered by a curtain.
With plenty of seats available on the first floor, we requested a move and were accommodated. (Interestingly, Knickerbocker New Holland in Grand Rapids did the same thing to us. Is it something about how we look? I hate to think it's because we're not youngsters.) The main floor was active and became busier as the night went on.
Lighting over the bar is very cool and sound deafening boards along the ceiling help the noise level. The lights at the entrance were also very unique.
As usual, we started with our flights. Welkom, Dunkel Seites, The Poet, and Black Tulip (in honor of Tulip Time).
And Dragon's Milk, Whelp, Black Tulip, and Vander Mill Cider.
We wanted to like Black Tulip best due to the season but it had a strange after taste and the others were all much more palatable.
Our full pours ended up being Welkom and London Calling (out of the blue, based on the name and our 2015 London trip). New Holland brews great beer.
Pepperoni Pinwheels accompanied our flights and they were pretty fantastic but there were just too many of them, even for four people.
We each made our main selections from the varied menu and first up was a Whitefish Po Boy. Some would claim that a real Po Boy can't be had outside of Louisiana but this was a fair representation. The fish was fried and the bread was crispy.
The fried pork tenderloin sandwich is called Indiana Pork Tenderloin and is made with Michigan pork loin. I'm sure there's a reason for it. Unfortunately, it arrived slightly over cooked.
Being filled up on Pepperoni Pinwheels, two of us choose salads: New House Salad,
and the Roasted Beet Salad. Both were consumed with no complaints.
After dinner we wandered into their huge retail store, and passed through another large dining room to get there.
In between the two, we found a very fun, old school photo booth, old school only in the sense of its appearance as it runs with an iPad. You can send the photos to their site or to yourself. I don't think we managed to do either :-)
There is a large beer garden out back but tonight was a little chilly for its use.
Overall, our service was poor and it seemed to be from the place being understaffed. We weren't in a hurry but it took forever, and only upon request, to get our finished flight glasses and appetizers plates removed. Even when our food was delivered by the kitchen, those servers didn't notice the dirty plates waiting for removal. That being said, we'd still return, if we didn't have so many other breweries to visit :-) A re-visit to this historic building would certainly be warranted.
And cheers to the oft-maligned Tulip Time, which we enjoyed for a few hours beforehand. Tulips, Fat Balls, and Klompen dancers, oh my.
We even had our own private 32 second Klompen Dance Sample
See you next time, Holland!

13. Rockford Brewing Company, 12 E Bridge ~ 5/2/17
It was easy to locate the brewery downtown Rockford, but the entrance not so much. We walked to the front and found ourselves looking into their kitchen. So we walked back to the parking lot and found an entrance.
And we walked into a sweet space with a few tables along the windows, the tap room visible behind glass, and a great looking bar.
There's a much larger room upstairs that has its own bar.
And you can see Arnie's from the window at the top.
The kitchen is downstairs and located at the aforementioned front entrance and should really be closed off from the first floor bar as we could see directly into it. Each time a server would leave the kitchen to head upstairs, she would call out "corner!" Just a little collision avoidance.
Flights were available in any quantity but the flight holders held four so that's what we did. The flight order forms came back a bit soggy but we could still identify our choices. The flight servers are beautifully engraved.

Brown Ale and Cernunnos were our beers of choice.
To accompany our flights, we enjoyed Crispy Mashed Potato Dumplings, which were superb!
The menus are well-used and tap selections are also posted on the board.
We each chose something different from the menu and the first was shrimp and grits. It was very acceptable but was not as good as what we could get at the now defunct Ada Riverhouse.
A roasted Mushroom rice bowl was up next, complete with chopsticks.
A Ham and Mushroom sandwich and Braised Pork Belly BLT were also ordered with no complaints.

The food and beer were good and service was exceptional, particularly because of the one man server/bartender on the first floor, Jon. He was personable, informative, and hilarious. The brewery has a wonderful atmosphere and is getting close to its 5th year anniversary.   We wish them nothing but the best in the future.

On a random note, we walked across the street to the river afterward and took a short ride to find Dick York's grave site. Did you know the first Darren from Bewitched was buried here? Now you know.

12. Cedar Springs Brewing Company, 95 N Main St ~ 4/18/17
This was our second time here, the first being last spring (May 20, 2016) after we won a brewery tour at a local auction. Some of those pictures are posted here because we were able to sit outside. There's nothing better than enjoying our few months of summer outdoors.
Here are a few interior pictures from that visit as well, including panels saved from
the old Schnitzelbank restaurant. Kudos for that!

On this visit we were seated indoors, but know that their patio is waiting. Our flight orders were placed and they returned with our order forms.
To accompany our flights, we ordered the chicken and apple spring rolls. They were a great combination of ingredients topped off with a spicy chili sauce.
We like our German beers and settled on Pale Bock, Outdoorsman, and Original Weissbier for our full pours.
And one Kane Kola was ordered, old school cola flavor with real cane sugar.
Being in a German restaurant, three of us went with the Schnitzel of the day, and one of us chose the traditional, and always good, Wienerschnitzel.
The menu is very interesting and one item of note was ordered by some nearby people (2).
Holy moly, that's a burger!
In the German tradition, beer glasses are styled and marked for each type of beer, no more, no less.
Thanks for another great visit!

11. East West Brewing Company, 1400 Lake Dr SE ~ 4/11/17
So Bombay Palace moved into the old Italian restaurant space next door and turned the original Bombay into East West Brewing Company. The places are still attached and share restroom facilities and most of the kitchen. Many people walked through the brewery to get to the restaurant while we were there, and that was about the only activity in the brewery, except for us. There are long tables filling the space with a few booths along the wall and high tops along the windows. And it's counter service, not our favorite but it makes sense for a small place.
The lighting and decor is very cool so kudos to the designers.
Our one man at the counter was not very friendly but warmed up a bit as the evening went on.
We chose our flights from the board and they came in board order with no ID on the flight server.
Our first flight was American Brown, Vienna Ale, Belgian Golden, and Nitro Bock.
The other flight consisted of American Brown, American Pilsner Ale, Belgian Golden, and Nitro Bock.
For our full pours we chose Belgian Golden and Nitro Bock but they were all just ok for us.
The menu is limited and we were surprised to learn that there was no Indian food on it. Nor could we order from the Indian menu next door. So much for the 'East' in 'East West.'
But the food we ordered was good: a Hickory Smoked Turkey sandwich, delicious with apple slices and brie,
two Cheese Steaks,
and a Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Cheddar (BLTC) sandwich.
There were no coasters, stickers, or glasses with a logo but it's still a new place. What they do have is a fantastic deck for summertime and we will be back to experience that (and to pick up coasters/stickers). And maybe there will be a little 'East' thrown into the mix by then.

10. Kitzingen Brewery, 1760 44th St SW ~ 4/4/17 
What a great find! A German restaurant (remember Schnitzelbank?) tucked inside a strip mall, and you need to know where to find it because you won't see it driving by.
It opened in December 2015 and just recently added food. The name and the German influence all relate to the owner's service time in Germany in the late 1980s and the place is covered with interesting photos from that time, including a train travel schedule.
It's a warm space with a friendly bar and a side/game room to the right of the main area, and as we observed throughout our stay, it is a neighborhood favorite.
We were ably served by Michelle who started us off with our flight selections, 5 for $8.75. Our 'Guest Checks' came back with our flights so we'd know which was which, and the flight glasses were charming.
Joining our flights were breaded mushrooms, which held us over until dinner.
As you can see from the beer names, the military theme pervades throughout.
Our favorite beers were Jodie's and the Stinger Missile.
And to go along with the German influenced beers, there is a lovely, limited menu consisting of seven entrees, five of which are German. Have you been missing Weinerschnitzel? This is your place.
But if you just want a burger, this is your place as well.
Seeing as this was our tenth brewery visit, we thought a group photo was in order. Cheers!

9. Atwater Brewery, 201 Michigan St ~ 3/7/17
With two other locations in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, this brewery took the ground floor retail space of the newly renovated building on the corner of Michigan and Monroe.
The L-shaped bar kept original flooring from Olds Manor, turned doors from 40 Pearl into tables, and has otherwise used re-purposed wood, including some from Detroit, throughout the place.
Our beer selections were laid out for us and we selected our four for tasting.
We opted for Hacienda Brown, Whango Mango, Bockefeller, and Supermodel Stout for our first flight.
The next flight was Dirty Blond, MacDaddy Cider, Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale, and another Whango Mango.
(The method of keeping track of which was which got a little soggy.) To accompany our flights, we started with some appetizers: Vegan Buffalo Wings (cauliflower) and Brussel Sprouts with applekraut relish ~ both are highly recommended!
Our serving plates were interesting and very utilitarian.
The menu is unique and consists of items 'Between the Bread', 'Between the Greens', GR favorites, and pizzas. Three of our choices came from 'Between the Bread': Got Seoul Bulgogi, Blueberry Chucker Clucker, and Mai Thai. The fourth item was the Vinny Pizza.
We inquired why some of the glasses had logos and others didn't. Apparently Grand Rapidians are helping themselves to souvenirs and the brewery will be phasing them out because they can't keep them in stock. So take your last look.
Our server, Collin, was extremely helpful, personable, and knowledgeable. The soundtrack playing was quiet and the TVs had no sound. It's an altogether pleasant place to visit, offering good beer, food, and service. They don't have logo coasters, however, which is unfortunate, but this place has everything else going for it.

8. Grand Rapids Brewing Company, 1 Ionia Ave SW ~ 2/28/17
The business has a long history and has been in this location since 2012.
Flight selections are fixed, which we found unusual, but here they were: Silver Foam, Samarai Session, Rosalynn Bliss Blonde, Senator Lyon's Stout, John Ball Brown, and Fish Ladder IPA, served in a very cool tray.
No GRBC coasters were available but a fantastic pretzel loaf and some pretty good chicken wings worked well for our appetizers.
Our dinner selections were Mac & Cheese, Bacon Avocado & Tomato (not pictured, blurry), Vintage Burger, and Meatloaf. Food was fine as was the beer.
The restaurant is huge with multiple dining areas and bars, and a game room.
It doesn't have the neighborhood vibe that many other breweries have but it does have history.

7. Perrin Brewery, 5910 Comstock Park Drive ~ 2/13/17
It's an expansive space with the bar at one end and the 'food truck kitchen' at the other. Windows open onto the brewery.
Our flight choices were tiered, which determined their pricing.
As we sampled the flights, we partook of wings and onion rings, on what turned out to be a very tiny table for four but with an impressive onion rings presentation.
We picked our favorite brews: Triangulation, Perrin Pale Ale, Raspberry Blond, and Perrin Gold,
and then settled on our dinner choices. Cheesesteak,
Caesar salad with chicken,
Burger, and a Brisket Sandwich.
All the while, this artist/server was working on this piece of art, advertising one of their new brews, and we all had a taste of it.
Great space, great service, and good food and brews.

6. Knickerbocker, New Holland Brewery,  417 Bridge St NW ~ 2/10/17

A new addition to the West side, this huge building is impressive. Parking is all street and abysmal but as luck would have it we found an empty space right in front. We were first seated upstairs which felt like a dead and empty overflow area.

There were plenty of tables available on the first floor so we asked to be moved, and we were happy we did.
This place is massive with a circular bar and outdoor heated areas.
Our flights came back with our order sheets so we'd know which was which.
Whitefish dip was our appetizer choice and although it was a touch salty, the cracker crumbs were a nice touch.

Our beer of choice was The Poet.
Food selections did not disappoint:
Winter Vegetable Gratin
and Winter Squash Pizza
One last thing that is not to be missed is the bathroom, featuring a faucet that not only wets your hands but also dries them.
Service was superb and the facility is altogether amazing with so much going on, all under one roof.

5. Elk Brewery, 700 Wealthy St SE ~ 1/31/17
Located on the corner of Wealthy & Henry, this small brewery sports an outdoor patio for summer months. The 'ELK' name has nothing to do with the animal but is based on the initials of the owners, Eric & Lisa Karns.
The interior is minimalist and the beer selections are posted on the dining room wall and above the bar.
All orders are placed at the bar and flights were 5 for $8 so that's where we started.
Oatmeal Stout, Mud Wrasslin Brown, Brown, Porter, Red Ale
Cream soda ale, PB & J 'ale'y, Scotch Ale, Red Ale, and Mud Wrasslin Brown
Flights are identified in marker right on the board which works very well.

We started from a limited selection of appetizers, Bar Cheese Pretzels and Spinach Artichoke Dip. No plates or utensils were provided :-(  We also added the irresistible pickled egg and crackers, just because.
We then settled on our final beer selections: Brown Beer, Red Ale, & Mud Wrasslin Brown with one abstention.
The menu entrees were surprisingly interesting.

Three of us ordered the Biker Sandwich (pulled BBQ pork) but were promptly informed that there was only one left in the kitchen.
Red Lantern
The special, Sweet Chicken
and the Charles
The food was surprisingly great coming from such a small kitchen and the ingredients were inventive and creative. Live music was about to begin next to our table but we were on our way out. This is a sweet neighborhood brewery with no table service but interesting food and good beer. What's not to like.

4. Creston Brewery, 1504 Plainfield NE ~ 1/24/17
The brewery is huge and occupies a prominent corner at Plainfield and Quimby where DeKorne furniture used to have a showroom.
The interior is spacious and there is a second floor but we could never make out if it was seating, kitchen, brewery or what. All we know is that servers continued to go up and down the stairs. There's a nice bar but the space is mostly open and filled with tables, along with some booths along the windowed walls.
Our habit has become to start with flights and appreciate the unique ways each brewery offers them. Here were their offerings.
The coasters deciphered the clues for us. Very clever.
We settled on our selections & appreciated this serving/labeling method.
Appetizers consisted of Mini Chimis, which were exquisite ~ they were filled with goat cheese, bell peppers, and scallions, and were served with Habanero jelly. We could eat these every day.
The menu is interesting and large enough to satisfy anyone's taste.
Our choices were Beef Brisket,
Skirt Steak,
Chili and Beef Empandas,
and Pork Posole.
Up until then our service had been stellar but the Pork Posole arrived 10 minutes after the other three dishes. When someone from the kitchen brought out the other three, I said 'hey, where's mine?' thinking it was a joke and expecting mine any second. Our server came over 10 minutes later to see how we were doing and we mentioned the missing food. She retrieved it from the kitchen and all was well again.

Our favorite beer of the night was Lookout Beer, an Irish Red. They have a 20 barrel brew on the premises and the place is very worthy of a visit, at least to enjoy the most creative coasters in the city.

3. The Mitten Brewing, 527 Leonard St NW ~ 1/17/17
This is a renovated firehouse, with a sports theme, and is a popular spot on the west side. It's complete with a fire pole that doesn't extend up to the second floor but what a historic building, more than 100 years old.
Our flight selections were easily identified upon arrival.
And our beer reviews were easily recorded.
Label Up seemed to be the overall favorite beer. Then we had our pizza 'flight' choices.
Appetizers were superb: fish dip and bread, and cheesy breadsticks.
It was fabulous food, and service. Since the Mitten is known for its pizzas, we each ridiculously ordered our own, and we all ate the leftovers for a week: Garlic Pesto Chicken Portobello, Hawaiian, Pepperoni, and Da Meat Hook. Our server was Nicole and she was awesome.
Thanks for the stickers but please get some Mitten coasters!

2. Greyline Brewery, 1727 Alpine NW ~ 1/10/17
This is a small space tucked into a neighborhood with an outdoor facade you would probably drive by if you didn't know what you were looking for.
Decor is minimalist and we shared the space with very few people.
One person was at the attractive bar and more joined him before we left.
We started with a flight: Beehave, Schadenfreude, Roasted Cider, and an Amber Ale. How can you not like a beer named Schadenfreude (it's the dark one)?

Our chosen appetizers were Mushroom Bruschetta and Pot Stickers, both of which are recommended.
Sliders are featured and we chose a few. Here is a chicken salad slider along with a maple brisket slider, potato salad on the side.
A huge Chicken salad served in a lettuce head, along with a roast beef slider, was a favorite. It was a lot of lettuce that did better being chopped up with the leftover salad ingredients the next day.
Chili in a bread bowl was our last entree, with no complaints.
Most of the food is served on paper plates, unfortunately, but they were high quality paper. Ten barrels are brewed here on the premises and it's a sweet little neighborhood brewery. They named one beer after this Steamroller, found across the street.
Service was great as was the food and beer. Check it out if you're in the neighborhood.

1. Harmony Hall, 402 Stocking Ave NW ~ 12/29/16
We got a head start on 2017 by starting at Harmony Hall in December, located in the old Little Mexico location.
There's a lovely bar on the first floor that tonight was closed for a private event, so upstairs we went.
It's divided into three parts, the bar area and two dining spaces that are both treated to live music. But on to the beer and food. Our first appetizer was bacon cashew caramel corn - it tasted exactly how it sounds,
and next was Chicken fried meatballs (better as an appetizer than the caramel corn :-) )
Beer choices were Name That Beer, Schwarzbier, and Golden Lion Pale Ale.
We had many suggestions for Name That Beer but moved on to dive into the food. Sausage is the specialty and two of us partook. Here are the Polish Sausage Platters, with different sides:
Everything was great except for the huge buns. We both ended up eating the tasty sausage out of the bun. Our other two selections were Grilled Cheese (perfectly portioned),
and Korean BBQ Platter, still with the big bun.
Overall, a great venue with families galore, great beer, good food, and a comfortable, friendly setting.