Established breweries that have survived the blood, sweat and tears faced by opening in a saturated market need to make a decision — stay the course, or make some changes. Grand Rapids Brewing Company chose to change its direction by no longer being a certified organic brewery as of 2015.
“We did that mostly so we could use more local products – that was the biggest thing…We want to support local business and use local ingredients,” said Jake Brenner, Head Brewer of Barfly Ventures – which owns GRBC, Hopcat, Stella’s Lounge and The Waldron Public House.
Holding the certification of “organic brewery” limited GRBC to acquiring ingredients that held the same certification, which in Michigan is very little. This prevented GRBC from getting ingredients from local farmers who are producing high quality but are not organic certified, such as Pilot Malt House and most of the local hop farms. Organic is important to Brenner, but he’s excited to have less restrictions on where he gets the ingredients for his beers.
“Now we can go to the farmers market on any given summer morning and pick up produce. It opens tons of doors,” said Brenner.
GRBC’s change in direction also inspired them to find unique ways to give back to those who support and work hard for GRBC. Something they have been doing for almost a year now is a staff concept beer. Once a month, a staff member gets to meet with the brewers to come up with a beer recipe, spend the day brewing the beer, and then name the beer. It is a great way to educate and involve the people working for the company that don’t spend their days down in the basement brewing daily.
Currently you can stop by the tap room and check out El GoseRita — the brain-child of the Kitchen Manager, Brendan. It is a German-style Gose with a margarita-like quality from being brewed with sea salt, limes and grapefruit.
The staff concept beer is just one of the ways you can familiarize yourself with GRBC’s rotating beer list. With GR Beer Week underway, GRBC will have another new beer on tap to celebrate, as well as a bottle release of the beer. This year they brewed, Polish Eagle, an Imperial Porter, and aged it Wild Turkey Barrels.
And, of course, the talk around town this week is this weekend’s Winter Beer Festival — and GRBC will definitely be in attendance. Bringing eight beers, all with an ABV over 8.2%, you’ll want to pace yourself if you swing by their booth. A couple to keep an eye out for are — Batch 300, a Russian Imperial Stout that will be making its first appearance at the festival, and Decadent Eagle, a sour Imperial Stout with cherries and when its gone, its gone.
Photography: Steph Harding