Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our Year(s) of Touring West Michigan Breweries ~ 2017 into 2018

33. Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery, 428 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids ~ 4/3/18
Black Heron held this corner for a couple of years and after they shut their doors, Jolly Pumpkin moved in.
They expanded into what was Black Heron storage area and more than doubled the seating capacity.
The first question we were asked by a guy behind a counter was whether we had been here before. And it's a pertinent question because the place is a little confusing. Here is the first instruction:
So it's probably best to find some seating, save your seats, and then figure out the ordering. We lost our initial seat selection due to confusion but ended up in the back room, the aforementioned former storage area.
We liked the beer label posters.
So, order your beer and bring it back to your table. Order your food and take a number. Food is then delivered. But pick up your own tableware. This brewery is customer-labor intensive :-)
When you walk in, you enter a large room, complete with the first order counter. Then a long hall with the another order counter/bar and the open kitchen leads down to the back room.
This is the 6th location for Jolly Pumpkin and they specialize in sour beers. Fortunately for us they also serve North Peak beer. But we did include a few sours in our beer flights, which were $13 for four 5oz samples.
We liked the menu and started off with the Korean Chicken Wings. Spicy good and accompanied by pickled vegetables.
While we waited for our food, we ordered a full pour of Roja du Kriek and the North Peak Siren.
And speaking of waiting for our food, none of it came out together. Our selections were ordered right in a row but alas, that's not how it was delivered.
But eventually it all arrived. A Cherry Walnut Salad (that came without dressing), Chicken Pizza, Jolly Pumpkin Burger, and a Turkey Gouda Sandwich.
We didn't care for the curry chips but other than the missing dressing and random delivery, the food was great. We then found our own to-go boxes and cleared our own table. Eventually we did see an employee clearing tables. Maybe they were running out of glasses :-) So if you go, be prepared for the full experience that is Jolly Pumpkin.
32. Long Road Distillers, 537 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids ~ 3/6/18
They have been open about three years and this was the first visit here for all of us. Long Road was Grand Rapids' first craft distillery, and our first distillery visit on our 'brewery' tour. So lots of 'firsts' tonight.
As luck would have it, the first Tuesdays of the month are always Oyster Night, $1.00 oysters, and the place was busy.
There are four flights of three available, and they are set with no substitutions allowed. Choose from Vodka, Whiskey, Staples, and the Botanical Flight (gin, aquavit, & wendy peppercorn vodka), pictured below.
There are no IDs for the flights but with just three drinks, you should be able to keep track of which is which. The rest of us chose from the extensive cocktail list: the Polish Falcon, the Lower Westside, and the Norman Cannon, pictured in order.
Interesting and creative, the drinks tended toward the sweet side, which our server readily admitted. Round two included the suggested AB Garden (for being less sweet, and it was), a vodka on the rocks (you know what that looks like), and a Whiskey flight (wheat, corn, and rye).
Along with the oysters, we snacked on this tasty charcuterie plate before ordering our entrees.
Gnocchi, a Turkey Reuben sandwich, the Acorn Fall Salad, and an Apple Blue Cheese Salad rounded out our food selections.
The food menu is interesting and all of our choices were great with only one complaint. The promised apple butter for the apple and blue cheese salad was found underneath the rest of the salad upon its almost-completion. A good tossing was required :-)

We can understand why this is a popular spot, even without oyster night.
There is another seating area upstairs, sparsely attended tonight.
With cloth napkins and a quietly-playing soundtrack, and the aforementioned drinks and food, this is a fascinating place to spend an evening. When we were finishing up, we were asked a question we've never been asked before. "Do you want a bottle to go?" Our server was Colleen and she was superb. This place is highly recommended.
31. Big Boiler Brewery, 318 E Main St, Lowell ~ 2/20/18
It's tough to spot the place while driving east on M21 because it has very small signage on M21. It does offer large off-street parking. The old Superior Furniture building has been completely refurbished with some office space on the upper level. And the boiler, which was part of the original building, is now ensconced in the dining room and gave the place its name.
And it's a big place. Booths wrap the place in an L shape and tables fill out the space between the boiler and the bar.
The tanks are visible from the dining area but are best viewed from the second floor where a private dining room could also be found.
We loved the creative flight containers with the erasable labels.
It's much nicer than trying to line up your beer choices with a soggy paper receipt.
For non-beer drinkers there are wine choices, more than most breweries.
The stuffed pretzel was our appetizer of choice and even if you don't like pretzels, you might go for this one. Stuffed with white cheddar and served with jalapeno cream cheese, this pretzel is worth ordering again. (This would actually be the perfect item for breweries that don't serve food to carry. Just this. It's enough of a snack to accompany one or two beers.)
From our flight choices, the Pilsner and the Wee Heavy were our favorites.
Our main courses were as follows: meatloaf on mashed potatoes with onion rings, one of the night's specials,
the 'Legendary Reuben,'
and two salads, steak salad with goat cheese and chicken salad.
The above photo is the first iteration of the 'chicken' salad - no chicken but with cheddar cheese. Oops! Here is the correct salad that arrived with a few minutes delay. The food was ok.
Other than the salad mix-up, we were ably served by Jessica throughout our evening. Unfortunately, they had no Big Boiler coasters or stickers. It's in a historic building and gives Lowell its second brewery.

30. Cranker's Restaurant and Brewery, 454 68th St SW, Grand Rapids ~ 1/30/18
Where do I begin? This was the worst brewery visit of our tour so far, and probably the only brewery with a drive-through window :-) But we had a hilarious evening nonetheless.
Before we could take a seat, the woman at the hostess desk proceeded to tell us that a truck delivery did not arrive and started listing the menu items not available. We finally asked what she did have and decided we still had to experience this place that felt like a fast food restaurant. According to our server, it was previously a Schlotze's Deli.
There's a bar along one wall that had one lone customer, or maybe two depending on who the resting woman was.
Our server informed us that they usually have six beers on tap but two beer lines were frozen so tonight there were four available.
I guess we had our flights selected :-) They weirdly didn't have enough of the same paddles for our flights so here's how they came.
Looking at the available appetizers, we started with onion rings, pictured in the menu here (oh, and the Saganaki was not available).
But here's what we got.
We also tried the fried mushrooms. The mushrooms and onion rings were fine but it's fried food after all. Hard to go wrong unless it's burned.
From the available entrees, two of us chose the hot turkey sandwich and two selected the Detroit Dogs. The hot turkey sandwich was supposed to come with vegetables but the vegetable truck didn't come today so a side salad was substituted. None of the food was great but it was ok, as was the available beer. There was no wine available.
So we have two asides here. Back in the summer of 2016 we stopped at Crankers in Big Rapids and totally enjoyed the beer, food, and ambiance (they seriously should shut down this Grand Rapids location). And back in 2013, two of us visited this location and reviewed it on another blog and had some additional history (EatingOurWayThroughGrandRapids).  The place was deserted tonight and we understand why. Not recommended unless you want to enjoy the absurdity of it all :-)

29. Brass Ring Brewing, 2404 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids ~ 1/23/18
This latest addition to the Alger Heights neighborhood opened January 11 so we were happy to check it out, and it is a gem.
Previous users of the building include an ice cream shop and a shoe store. It's long and narrow with an entrance on Eastern (locked tonight) and around the back where the parking lot is located.
Long communal tables run down the middle and end at the horseshoe bar.
Beyond that lie the tanks and a counter, which stretches down to the Eastern Avenue entrance.
The bar is remarkable in its construction and is beautiful.
Decor is simple but unique. Quotes from Charles Bukowski adorn one side of the room (more on that later) and on the other side, art depicting 'water' 'barley' 'hops' and 'yeast' hang on the other side.
The menu is small and interesting, and flights were available in sets of 5.
Of the seven choices, we choose six of them among us, skipping only the Alpha Roma IPA.
We appreciated them all but don't miss the Golden Ticket. Accompanying our flights was the well-presented Brass Ring Board. Charcuterie boards are among our favorite appetizers and we rarely pass one by. This one did not disappoint and it was a wonderful, culinary adventure.
Our entree orders were divided between the "Babe" and the Pot Pie but we were shortly informed by our server, Scott (who was great), that the kitchen was out of pot pies. It was only 6:30 and we were disappointed. But the "Babe" it was. And it was good: ham, apple chutney, smoked gouda, and muenster cheese on sour dough with tomato soup.
We have one non-beer drinker in our group and are always curious to see what breweries have to offer that person but we expect nothing. It is a brewery after all :-) The Brass Ring menu asks you to check with your server for wine availability and tonight it was Chardonnay but then they ran out. The second glass was a half pour, gratis.

The owners are attorneys by day and have poured a lot of attention and love into this place. One owner was behind the bar and another, besides being a brewer, was working the room. He stopped by our table and we had a great chat with him. Besides explaining the art and some of the brewery background, he let us know that they use no chemicals in their brewing.

Things we didn't like were the table leg design (at least on the tables for 4, they are placed too far in from the table edge - check it out) and the noise level. It is really loud. And American Express is not accepted. But overall, this is a great neighborhood brewery. It's friendly and communal, and we loved the beer and the food. Back to Charles Bukowski - if you don't know who he is, look him up, and if you have further interest in him, watch the movie 'Barfly.' Here are the wall quotes.
These are often quoted, many times not attributed, and rarely is the entire quote included. It's a bit of an aside but here it is for your edification. The source is a 1988 Life Magazine interview with some 49 people, of which Bukowski was one: "The Meaning of Life - The Big Picture." Life Magazine asked some wise men and women why we are here. You're welcome.

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
Grabbing the Brass Ring is a completely different phrase research project (fascinating). Kudos to Brass Ring Brewing!
28. HopCat, 25 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids ~ 1/2/18
HopCat has at least 16 locations now, many out of state, but this location was the original, opened in 2008, and it's been a staple on Ionia Avenue. It was number 28 on our brewery tour (there's no significance to the visit sequence).
It's a big place with a long bar. We were seated on an upper level on the street side and were ably served throughout the evening by Krista. Upon inquiry, she informed us that flights came in groups of three. So we made our selections:
There are no clever flight delivery systems or beer labels but this worked. We snacked on the Spinach Stout Artichoke Dip, drizzled with Fire Sauce, while we sampled our beer.
The dip is recommended over their highly touted 'crack' fries. Yes, the fries are good and seasoned well but really, 'crack'? Walk down Division Avenue and tell me how funny 'crack' is.
But I digress. Plan-C was our overall favorite beer from the few we tasted.
From the fairly large main menu, two of us chose the Mac & Cheese. The menu offers a huge list of items that can be added to your dish, and we both went with Bacon and Mushrooms, creamy and delicious!
The chicken salad wrap came with the aforementioned 'crack' fries,
as did the BLT.
Food, service, and beer were all good. The decor in the restrooms is worth further discussion, however. The women's room is cute and vintage.
The men's room is also vintage but on its walls are hung naked pin-ups and other pictures treating women as sexual objects. Can't we do better than this?

One thing they do right, which so many other restaurants/breweries do not, is their take-home containers. Thank you for not using Styrofoam. And about our bill - we asked our server to split the appetizer between the two couples and she split the cost, but put both halves on one tab. We got a laugh out of that :-)
Other decor is kitschy and entertaining, and their logo is one of our favorites.
If you're a Grand Rapidian you already know about this place, now open for 10 years, so we'll leave it at that.

27. Vander Mill Cidery & Restaurant, 505 Ball Ave NE, Grand Rapids ~ 12/26/17
As much as we love our breweries, visiting Vander Mill was truly refreshing. The owners beautifully converted a cavernous, old building just off Michigan Street. Unfortunately, they have no signage or visibility from Michigan.
It's divided into the main dining/drinking area, with a long bar, and the brewing portion/warehouse on the lower level.
Overlooking the tanks and warehouse is a small mezzanine that holds around 30 people, perfect for a small, private party.
Also available for events/parties is a portion of the warehouse.
We spotted an old Cadillac down here as well.
Back in the dining area, we selected our flights of five from their interesting list of ciders. And just so you know before you visit, in addition to the ciders, they offer four cider cocktails, one beer, and no wine.
Our flights arrived.
To accompany our ciders, we ordered the pretzel with mustard and cider cheese,
and baked artichoke and feta dip.
Both were entirely satisfactory and are recommended. With able and informative service from Olivia, we moved on to some main dishes. Macaroni and cheese, complete with bacon jam,
shredded beef sandwich with Swiss cheese on Texas toast, accompanied by pickled giardiniera,
and an apple salad with chicken.
We loved the food, the ciders and the atmosphere.
We each had a favorite cider, two of us voting for Chapman's Blend. The other two were Nitro Fluff and Hard Apple. And we couldn't leave without trying one of the specialty cocktails. Here is the Ginger Grant: Vander Mill vodka, ginger juice, peach puree, ginger peach, and lime juice. It was as delicious as it sounds and looks.
As large and open as this space is, even with a soundtrack playing, it was not overly noisy. Ciders and/or souvenirs are available to go, and don't miss seeing the cool bathroom sink.
After your visit, if you become completely enamored with ciders or with this place, their website lists events and classes. Great food, great cider, great visit.

26. Brewery Vivant, 925 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids ~ 12/5/17
Open since 2010, this unique brewery is situated in an old funeral chapel. With booths along both walls and tables throughout the rest of the brewery, it has a definite communal feel. The bar is located in what once was the apse.
We were ably served by Stephanie and appreciated her knowledge and great service. Flights came in sets of four and were identified by a disk placed below each beer glass. Sometimes the labels came up with the glass and we had also to keep lifting the glasses to see which was which. It is a clever system but not the most useful. Among our three flights, we imbibed on Farmhand Ale, Big Red Coq, Undertaker, Belgian Inspired Wit, Triomphe, Tart Side of the Moon, and Tower of Sour.
This Beer Cheese and Nantucket Bakery Pretzel paired perfectly with our flights.
The menu is small but unique in the brewery world. For example, instead of the pretzel and beer cheese, we could have ordered roasted bone marrow :-) But for our main fare we went a little more conservative, starting with 'The Burger.'
The sausage platter was creatively presented.
And the braised lamb sandwich was impressive both in appearance and taste.
Boar Bourguignon was irresistible and again, where else would you find this on a brewery menu?
We had an altogether pleasant experience here tonight. The soundtrack playing was quiet and no shouting was required in order to be heard. We were wondering, however, about their ever-present logo and found out from Stephanie that it was taken from the flag of Wallonia, a province in Belgium.
If you haven't been here, it's a must visit.
25. Harmony Brewing, 1551 Lake Dr, Grand Rapids ~ 11/28/17
This neighborhood favorite is tucked into a nondescript location that you'd probably miss if you didn't know it was there (there is a big sign on the corner, however, but not on the building). Since 2012, Harmony has been here in place of an old party store. It's small but they do have an outdoor patio for our three months of good weather.
When we walked in, a hostess promptly tried to seat us in the small, almost empty, upstairs room but we asked to be on the main floor, and she accommodated us. We've run into this phenomenon before when a host or hostess tries to seat us in an out-of-the-way location. Is it our age? Are we skewing the median age of the clientele in a negative way? We don't have an answer but prefer to be seated where the action is :-)
We were now happily in our booth along the window and were well-served by Morgan during our stay.
Flight decisions were made first.
We chose the non-IPAs: Erste Lager, Rodtoberfest, Tupelo Honey, Brownson, and Black Squirrel.
And we agreed that each and every one was eminently drinkable. The Black Squirrel was very intriguing with its smokey flavor (peat smoked porter).

More often than not, we like to try bread sticks and these were unique due to the addition of balsamic. Highly recommended.
Harmony is noted for its pizzas and three of us ordered the crispy pig. It was a tad salty but with ham, pepperoni, and prosciutto, that shouldn't have come as a surprise.
One of us went healthy and was rewarded with a salad chock full of fruit and nuts.
Pear and Apple Salad
Although we had requested our seating move, our booth was located below a vent intermittently shooting out cold air. It put a damper on our experience but we didn't want to ask to move again.
One funny thing occurred with one of our flights: one glass would not lift out. Our server applied a little more pressure and out it came. That glass was retired from the flight business.
So kudos to you, Harmony Brewing. The atmosphere is cozy, family-friendly, and warmer (not literally) than many other breweries. 

24. Waldorff Brewpub & Bistro, 105 E State St, Hastings ~ 11/7/17
Located in a historic building, this brewpub also has a historic name going back to 1911. The pub has occupied this space since 2006. (You can read the building's history on the pub's website.)
This large space runs long front to back and is divided into two areas, connected at the entrance and by an opening in the wall.
After three people at the front desk awkwardly ignored us for a minute, we were seated on the booth side towards the rear. And we were also informed that it was trivia night, which did not bother us.
So we sat and waited, and waited, and waited. After about 20 minutes, we flagged down a server and asked if we could be helped. An apologetic server showed up a few minutes later saying she didn't know our booth was hers. Fair enough, and Kailey was great to us for the rest of the night.

We ordered our flights, $5.00 for 4 tastes, and put in an order for Portabella fries selected from their list of Munchies.
It was a delightful choice, coated in parmesan and fennel bread crumbs and served with honey Dijon. They arrived, were consumed, and still we had no flights. Finally, Kailey delivered the flights and again apologized. We don't know where the hangup was but at least we had beer.
Our favorites from the long awaited beer were the Bistro Blond and Honey Rye.
Their menu is rather large and appetizing with some clever naming popping up here and there. The aptly named 'Meat' pizza had four meats plus mozzarella. For meat-lovers everywhere.
The 'Rachel' (don't know the reason for the name) arrived with its promised shaved turkey, melted Swiss, and French dressing.
The Blackened Salmon Club was an interesting item. Who knew that salmon and bacon would actually work together? But then again, everything is better with bacon :-)
Our final item was an entree so a nice side salad came along with it.
The Orange Chicken Rice Bowl was amazingly good. The orange ginger chili sauce was flavorful and mildly spicy but there was just too much of it and it resulted in a much too liquid dish.
One last note is that the restrooms are located up a level or down a level. And the staff has provided entertainment for you, whether you go up or down.
So it was a mixed bag for us this night at the Waldorff. Would we go back? Probably, if only to see what's new on the walls.

23. Open Road Brewery, 128 S Main St, Wayland ~ 10/10/17
This place existed as a coffee shop for ten years before the owner turned it into this local brewery. The bar holds about 14 people and the tables filling up the rest of the space have either been created from refurbished wood or old barn wood, or have unique stories/histories of their own.
The bartender had called in sick that night so the owner was behind the bar and was also waiting tables. He was a little reserved with us at first because we were not locals ~ he obviously knew everyone else there that night :-) But he relaxed as the evening went on and became very amiable and informative.
Flights of six are offered and delivered in one of the most clever flight holders we've seen, design based on the brewery logo.
There were plenty of beers to choose from, at these very flight-reasonable prices.
We were surprised to find Charcuterie on the menu and enjoyed it immensely while sampling our flights.
We chose our favorite beers, The Traveler and the Oktoberfest, and turned back to the menu.
It's an interesting and reasonably sized menu for a brewery and has something for everyone. Who could resist a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with jalapeno strawberry jam? (Unfortunately, it arrived without said jam and had to be added later.)
Chicken Salad Melt was up next, followed by a couple of Specialty Dogs.
Boston Terrier Dog
All American Dog
You will find thoroughly fine fare at Open Road and well-crafted beer. If you like old horror films, show up on a Thursday night. And any time you visit, step out back to look at the oldest structure in Wayland.

22. Hudsonville Pike 51 Brewing Co., 3768 Chicago Dr, Hudsonville ~ 10/3/17
If you're visiting breweries with someone who doesn't like beer, this is your place. It was a winery first (opened about 8 years ago) and then added a brewery about 5 years ago, becoming the second brewery in Hudsonville (see White Flame for the first).

The space is long and narrow, opening with the bar and cases filled with wine and beer to go. Walking past the bar, we found ourselves in the dining room, holding about a dozen tables, and after a few minutes we figured out that we had to order at the bar.
There was a very surly woman behind the bar who ignored us when we walked in and continued to ignore us and most everyone else throughout the evening, which was a shame. A friendly 'hello' and 'please seat yourselves' is a little thing that adds so much to the overall atmosphere of the place.

Menus are on the tables and apparently we had to circle what we wanted and return to the counter. As always, we started with flights, and this time was able to include a wine flight.
Along with our 4 oz flights, we snacked on these tasty potato skins.
Conveniently located but with a construction site feel, water was available but in really small cups.
Specials of the week were posted and we all went with the cheese burger.
If you like a really salty burger, this is the one you want. It was unfortunate because the burger was otherwise nicely prepared, coming out as ordered, medium and medium rare. There was no one around to ask us how our food was tasting so on our way out, one of us mentioned to the aforementioned surly woman behind the bar that it was overly salted (and this is a man who likes salty food). She did not take it well and snapped back that no one else had ever complained. A practiced restaurant person would have said, 'thank you for letting me know and I'll check into it' (whether or not she really would is immaterial at this point). Customer Service 101.

While we were eating, we saw a couple come in and drop off this equipment. It was bingo night!
Our first reaction was dismay but bingo ended up being really fun (even though we didn't win). There are two brewery owners and the caller was the wife of one of them. She told really bad jokes (freely acknowledged) but was super friendly. She told us about the history of the name 'Pike 51' (The road Pike 51 was built about 1924; in 1950 a divided highway replaced Pike 51 and became Chicago Drive.). They have an old photo of Pike 51 up on the wall.
If you walk down the hall, you can view the tanks and the outdoor patio.
And on your way out, you can grab some beer and wine to take home.
We liked most of the beer we tasted, particularly the Oktoberfest, and this place does beer and wine well. Our impression is that this is a place for regulars, and if you're stopping in for the first time, you will not feel that welcomed (bingo caller woman the exception).

21. Saugatuck Brewing Company, 2948 Blue Star Hwy, Douglas ~ 9/5/17
The day after Labor Day was cool but pleasant and we took a ride to Saugatuck Brewing where we found a few souls utilizing the patio. By the time we left, it was empty, as was the rest of Douglas and Saugutuck. We were early, hoping to spend some time walking around Saugatuck but the town was pretty much shut down.
This brewery is huge and we wandered around a bit before finding our seats.
What is this Barrel Room? It was not currently staffed but contained pinball machines, 'closed' dart boards, a bar, pool tables, and barrels.
We seated ourselves in the main room and were served throughout the evening by the very personable and able server, Alex. We were thankful we did not have this server.
When I walked over to take a photo of their social media sign, she was at the hostess desk and in order to let her know I was behind her I announced myself & that I was just going to take a picture of the sign. She snaps back, 'so that's your way of telling me to move' and she stalks off. No, I just wanted to let you know I was there. You weren't in my way. Yikes!
But that was the only bad vibe from this place where we found for the first time in our experience that flights came in 6's, and they arrived in very cool flight holders.
We snacked on wonderful Twice Baked Potato Bites during our flights.
The main dining area is huge, complete with a sign brought over from Ireland.
The menu has plenty to choose from and enough variety to please anyone. We selected one special of the night, a fish po'boy.
Two of us chose fish and chips.
And one of us enjoyed this chicken dinner.
Our favorite beer was the 'Third Bear' and there were no complaints about food or beverages. True to form, the aforementioned Alex warned us that the chicken dinner would take twice as long as the other meals. He promised not to put the other orders in until the chicken order was half way done. Twenty minutes later all of our food arrived together. We'll wait twenty minutes plus any day for our food. If we want five minute service, we'll go to McDonalds :-) But we appreciated his heads-up.
Taxi service information is taped up in the women's restroom (don't know about the men's).
They've been in business since 2005 and we'd like to visit again in the summer and have a brew on their patio.
The brewery is actually located in Douglas, not Saugatuck, and during our ride around we found this structure, which has a fascinating history dating back to the 50s, the now refurbished Root Beer Barrel.
There's not much more one could ask from an evening, and then a double rainbow emerged on our ride home. Cheers to exploring new places!

20. White Flame Brewing Company, 5234 36th Avenue, Hudsonville ~ 8/8/17
Considering that Hudsonville was a dry city until 2007, we were pleasantly surprised to find two breweries here, just down the street from each other. But White Flame claims the title of the oldest brewery in Hudsonville :-)
The parking lot is abysmal and I don't know how cars can maneuver without dinging each other. We moved out to the street to park.
We safely made it inside and found a place divided into two rooms, each containing a bar. Everyone was in the room at the front so we took a table there.
The sign indicated that we needed to order at the bar and as we made our way up to check out the offerings, a waitress came to take our order. Our flights came 5 (4 oz) for $9.00.
Golden Boy and Wermhat were the favorites.
To accompany our flights, we ordered nachos, which was a perfect appetizer. Unfortunately, we had to eat them on paper plates and that got a little soggy. All the silverware is plastic as well.
Tuesday night is taco night so three of us went for that and one tried the Hamtastic sandwich.
Other than the tacos having no cilantro, the food was fine, and it all came through what we called the little magic window.
The menu is large and varied enough for any brewery and many of the dishes have clever names. Their motto is "Blood, Sweat & Beer."
The ladies room is big enough to have a dance party in it & someone left a cute note about our server, Katie, and she was the best.
The room in which we first entered was available for seating but not service. It also leads back to the brewery workings.
Check this out :-)
White Flame does not have much for non-beer drinkers so be forewarned if you're taking a wine lover here.
But they do have the coolest logo around, and it's found everywhere.
In case you were wondering where the name comes from, here is your information. 'White' is the last name of the owners, and the female half of that partnership is nicknamed 'the flame.' Now you know. This is a warm, welcoming neighborhood establishment and worth the short ride from Grand Rapids.

19. Cellar Brewing Company, 133 E. Division St, Sparta ~ 8/1/17
The company recently moved into a large space in downtown Sparta that was vacated by a pharmacy.
'Garage doors' open to the street and have screens provided.
We liked the space as soon as we walked in. It's divided into two rooms, one of which was closed when we entered. That room has a wall made up of crates donated by local orchards.
The warmer room was the one we were in, which contained the barrels, the bar, and a currently non-functioning distillery (which is waiting for a license transfer).
There's cute, quirkiness everywhere,
and the interior was chosen with care. Bricks in the bar are from American Seating, overhead lights enjoyed previous lives in a bank and a theater, and the multi-colored chairs were chosen for their distressed look. We know these things because the owners stopped by to chat and answer questions, and our server, Shonda, was informative and personable, and the perfect server.
It's always interesting to see how flights are served and labeled and here is Cellar Brewing's take:
We needed to lift the glasses to see the label so we removed the labels to make it easier on ourselves. Out of these selections, our favorites were Irish Stout, Michigan Sunshine, and Leprechaun's Beard. Full pours were Michigan Sunshine and Leprechaun's Beard.
They did not have coasters or stickers but we were given beer bottle labels instead. How can you not love a label called 'Lighter Shade of Pale?'

The menu is diverse enough overall and we started with Reuben egg rolls for our share as they were the most interesting-sounding appetizer. They were served up with Thousand Island and Apple Walnut dressing and were a good choice.
Burgers are served up with one side and dinner entrees with two, and two of us went with the 3-piece chicken dinner, complete with potato side and a house salad.
The chicken was slightly over done but there were no complaints about the burger or sirloin.
There were posted specials that we did not choose and what looks like a healthy-sized mug club.
We were introduced to 'tagabrews' (not previously encountered) that were available for a small price.
All in all, this is a very welcoming and inviting place that ebbed and flowed with locals all evening, most coming in the back door. Someday the distillery may be open, and they have a fair selection of wines for a brewery but no ciders were available the night we were there. It's definitely worth a drive to Sparta.

18. Thornapple Brewing Company, 6262 28th St SE ~ 7/18/17
Just having opened this summer, this place is a welcome addition to Cascade Township. It's located in a strip mall that has been undergoing many changes in the past few years. The space is small but comfortable with hand-made tables and creative light fixtures (made from bourbon barrels).
Decor is cool minimalist and reflects the interests of the two owners, each of whom stopped by our table to chat for a few minutes. And there are plenty of friendly servers bustling about the place. So we started out with our flight orders. Unfortunately, three of our initial selections were out. But we persevered and ended up with these,
and these.
The cheesy bacon bread sticks were a perfect accompaniment to our flights and arrived unexpectedly looking like a pizza. We consumed every last piece. (On a previous visit we enjoyed the pretzel and hummus appetizers ~ both great.)
Our next beverage selections were the Gold-Digger Amber, a cider, and a glass of wine. There are two wines available, a dry red and a dry white, which are perfect for non-beer lovers. They have the aforementioned ciders as well as mead and house root beer. But beer is the thing and they have some great selections. Snowbird (out this time), Treway, and Gold-Digger are all highly recommended.
The menu is small but big enough, and versatile. And what they make, they make well. We went with pizzas, one split between Three Little Pigs and Hawaiian, and the other was a Do It Yourself: 1/2 barbeque and 1/2 alfredo, all with chicken and root vegetables.
The pizzas are well crafted and on par with those at The Mitten and Harmony Brewing. Our few minor complaints were that we had to ask for pizza plates and couldn't get our appetizer plates cleared away. But the place just opened.
They are also working on a distillery so stay tuned for that. The mug club does not get you an engraved mug but you will get a discount. Check this place out at your earliest convenience. It's a sweet spot with a lovely, friendly atmosphere and a wonderful neighborhood feel.
 17. Founders Brewing Co, 235 Grandville Ave SW ~ 6/27/17
The giant in Grand Rapids, Founders, has been with us since 1997 and has expanded several times, losing parking but gaining customer and business space. Parking is definitely a problem here but seeing that the place is usually full, people are figuring it out or using other means of transportation.
On a nice summer night we walked in and were told to seat ourselves. So we found open seats in the semi-enclosed outside area. Everything else outside was full on this Tuesday night.
Interestingly, on the far right in the photo below, behind the bar, was a smoking section. It's considered 'off property' and so meets legal requirements. Unfortunately for those of us sitting at this end of the place, the smoke wafted over to us. No food is served in that section and we are believers in making accommodations for smokers and not treating them as pariahs. But this was just a little too close.
A server showed up fairly promptly and was initially not very friendly but warmed up as the night went on. He later became very forthcoming with information, coasters, and stickers.  Servers can be picked out by their shirts.
We selected our flights (up to four can be chosen) and ordered Cheesy Garlic Bread to start (too light on the garlic).
The beer is served but all of your food has to be picked up by you at the counter. You know it's ready when your pager goes off. And don't forget to pick up your own paper trays if you're sharing. A credit card needs to be provided when you order (too much dine & dash?).
With a place this big, maybe it all makes sense.
There was plenty of beer to like for all tastes, and Founders excels at naming, both beer and food. Even their salt & pepper shakers are creative.
We ordered two Spruce Springsteens and one Honey Wheat to round out our beer tasting.
We split two sandwiches and they were well put-together and delicious, although with lettuce a little limp. The Dirty Bastard: pastrami, swiss, lettuce, red onions & horseradish on polish rye.
And the Blushing Monk: cranberry chicken salad, provolone, smoked gouda, lettuce, tomato, red onions on a french roll. If you want chips with your sandwich, you need to order them separately for an extra dollar.
They have a full store for your purchasing pleasure and great beer & food, but not full service. The atmosphere is festive and friendly and it's a lively gathering-place. And yes, we chatted up our neighbors (you can see the smoking section in the back/left of the photo).
Founders is now a huge business but still has a community feel to it, and it's currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Cheers to that!

16. Osgood Brewing, 4051 Chicago Dr SW ~ 6/20/17
This space occupies the old Elders Appliance store in Grandville, and part of the building still retains their sign, We're not sure if Elders still has a presence there.
There's a lovely, outdoor patio, which faces a parking lot but outdoors is outdoors.
The main entrance is on the opposite side of the above photos, and the door opens into a cavernous space.
The bar area is on the right, complete with high tops, and tables and booths fill out the rest of the space with visible tanks at the rear.
It was fairly empty when we arrived but filled up nicely, especially for a Tuesday night. It appears to have become a community gathering-place as we saw families and a library group make their appearances.
Flights are available in any number and there are no flight holders. Sticking to our usual method, we started with four per couple.
This first round consisted of Oakestown (named after Grandville's City Father, Charles Oakes), Bayliss, Nights Watch, and Sol Seeker. The second foursome was Farmhaus Cider, Sol Seeker, Nights Watch, and Bayliss (right to left in the photo).
We needed to keep track of the items by the order of the receipt ~ not as creative as other breweries but workable. Overall, this brewery has a great selection of beer and three of us settled on Oakestown for our main pick. Logo glassware is available only to mug club members and we borrowed this empty mug from a customer for the photo. Yes, we did that.
During our flights, we enjoyed this cheesy garlic bread (three cheese blend, cheese not identified), recommended by our server, Brittany. She was not friendly at first but warmed up and became helpful and as informative as she could be. She wouldn't bring us a mug for our beer photo but as mentioned above, we took care of that ourselves :-)
The food menu is quite interesting and diverse for a brewery. Pizzas, of course, but also this wonderful Asian Wrap and Harvest Salad, and many other unique items.
Their beer staples are 358 Journey, Oakestown, Sol Seekers, and Notley, and they have a full array of shirts and hats for your purchasing pleasure.
The brewery has no coasters and they were out of stickers but they have very cool, historic photos on the walls and they've taken their name from an 1830s Grandville tavern, Osgood Tavern, pictured here during a flood, courtesy of the Grandville Historical Society (the tavern was located a block down from Osgood's current location).
Someone here has a clever bent, as evidenced by this dessert.

Osgood partners with Fenn Valley for their wine and with Farmhouse for their cider and while not trying to be all things to all people, this brewery is doing their best to keep their community dropping by. And did I mention they have outdoor seating?

15. City Built Brewing Company, 820 Monroe Ave NW ~ 5/31/17
Last time we visited a 20 year old establishment and tonight we visited a just-opened brewery.
They are currently open several days for lunch, which is great for downtown workers.
The restaurant space is long and narrow with the bar; a row of booths; long, community tables; and high tops along the windows running the entire length.
There's a separate dining room off the entrance, complete with TV and masks on the wall,
but we preferred to be in the main dining area.
We could chose our flights from the nine available beers and they also had two meads, two ciders, and three wine choices. We started with four choices per couple and unfortunately they did not have flight holders. Creme de la Cream Ale, Drunken Uncle Dunkel Wheat, TKBY, and a Farmhaus Trocken Cider rounded off the first four.
Creme de la Cream Ale, Flower Power Pale Ale, Drunken Uncle Dunkel Wheat, and Fenn Valley Pinot Grigo made up the other four selections.
Our favorite was the very lengthy named Drunken Uncle Dunkel Wheat.
With our flights, we initially enjoyed Tostones, fried smashed green plantains,
and Queservesa, beer cheese with tortilla chips and city built 'spokes' (chicharonnes, fried pork belly or rinds). The menu is Puerto Rican inspired and these appetizers were intriguing and come highly recommended.
We chose tacos for our main dishes and there are plenty of varieties from which to choose. Two of us ordered a single Pork Taco, and the other two ordered two tacos each: Pork & Chicken and Chicken & Shrimp. And here's where it got weird. During our visit, our servers were prompt and attentive and kept removing all of the many small plates, sometimes prematurely. (But at our last brewery, we couldn't get our old plates removed so we dealt with holding onto our plates before they were whisked away.)

And then our tacos arrived, delivered together, three on a plate.
We first thought they were delivering the wrong order but together we figured out that all of the tacos were there, just grouped together. When we asked our server about that, she thought it was to 'save' plates but when we considered all of the previous plates that we had gone through, this didn't hold up. And...we needed additional plates so we could all enjoy our tacos on our own plates :-) But the tacos were amazing and as good as you will find anywhere in Grand Rapids. The menu is small but creative and everything we sampled was interesting and satisfying.
The Ladies Room is big enough for a dance party but holds only two stalls.
Wifi information is printed on the beer menu and they carry Brix Sodas. They also have a Selfie machine at the entrance. Very nice touches.
All in all, this is a great place and looks to become a very busy and popular neighborhood spot. Our bill was messed up by one taco and a beer but what's a taco and a beer between friends?

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 going to 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.

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