GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
Inside an ivy-vined red brick church (with green trim) on Cherry Street at the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Belgian-inspired BREWERY VIVANT fits perfectly within its quaint neighborhood. Open since December 2010, this sacrilicious stain-glassed sanctuary with a 20-barrel system serves not only a wide variety of in-house tapped beers but also a bunch of canned versions (for sale on-site or at local beer stores).
Accesssing the chapel entrance, my friend Paul and I reach the 12-seat altar bar through a promotional lobby (where canned beers, clothing and ephemera are sold). Several rustic community tables, hanging lanterns and corner booths decorate the cozy oak-framed cathedral. A Belgian flag hangs from the front balcony and three more community tables and other furnishings adorn the outdoor beer garden. Rooster-laden wood boards provide beer menus and the projection screen at the front wall shows Michigan State football at noon this brisk Saturday in November ’12.
Our friendly hostess leads us to the altar to take our food order. We try the deliciously humungous pretzel-bunned 8-ounce tenderloin burgers (with caramelized onions and bacon). Soon after, attentive bartender Shawn Hudson brings me the five in-house beers I couldn’t buy in cans for the ride back to Jersey.
Head brewer Jacob Derylo, formerly of famed New Holland Brewery, delivers some stylishly hybridized brews, many of which rely on citric soured tendencies this initial autumn visit.
For a soft-toned starter, Wit Knight offered fresh-watered lemondrop souring over orange-oiled wisps. Whiskey-soured 2nd Annual Sgt. Peppercorn Rye brings lemon-pitted orange rind bittering to caramelized rye malting and subdued peppercorn spicing. Colliding a sour ale with a harvest ale, Grand Pumpkin allows lemon-rotted souring to overwhelm vegetal pumpkin spicing, white-wined green grape esters and tealeaf earthiness. Lightly beechwood-smoked Ancho Rauchbier places its soothingly soured citric mantra across ancho-peppered mocha and peanut-shelled soapstone.
Smoothly aggressive Rye Porter lets pumpernickel-rye breading infiltrate tobacco-roasted chocolate nuttiness and peanut-skinned dry coffee undertones. And mocha-bound Organic Brown Ale sidles cacao-seeded stove burnt coffee notes next to walnut-charred hop oils.
In the Beer Index, find Brewery Vivant’s Big Red Coq, Escoffier Bretta Ale, Farm Hand French Farmhouse Ale, Solitude Abbey, Triomphe Belgian IPA and Zaison Imperial Saison.