So the latest incarnation of Grand Rapids Brewing Company has announced plans to be “all organic.” Neat.
As Grand Rapids is now home to a bursting beer scene, with at least 7 breweries within the city proper, a dozen including the near suburbs and another half dozen in various stages of planning, one wonders how many will survive. Obviously, it won’t be all of them. They’ll need to have some sort of edge or draw to set themselves apart from the crowd, a concern not shared by places like Founders and Vivant.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company actually has roots going back over 160 years to the original German brewing family in the River City, Kusterer. His brewery and site (located where the State of Michigan building now sites, at the corner of Michigan and Ottawa/Ionia) was eventually part of the six German brewers who merged to form GRBC just before the century and created their Silver Foam, which grew to become a regional brand before Prohibition, competing with Anheuer Busch’s Budwieser (which also had a packaging facility in Grand Rapids).
Prohibition knocked them out of the game, as it did to many others, and a reincarnation located in Muskegon after the Noble Experiment was short lived.
The GRBC building became home to Fox Deluxe, brewed in the city, along with other locations, including Chicago, until 1958 (this company is also the roots of Fox Distributing, a beer/wine/spirit wholesaler in West Michigan). It was razed in the 60’s to make room for the Interstate 196 and “urban renewal” downtown.
GRBC was dormant until the early 1990’s when Schelde Enterprises, a Michigan-based restaurant chain, jumped at the new brewing laws in the state (initiated by Larry Bell’s Kalamazoo Brewing Company and a Detroit brewpub called Traffic Jam & Snug) to snag the second brewpub license issued in Michigan for their restaurant, located in the heavily trafficked shopping district on 28th Street. They re-launched Silver Foam as their lightest ale and survived nearly two decades under numerous brewers and management, until it closed permanently in 2010.
We look forward to the new incarnation under BarFly, but hope the finished product is more than an organic “gimmick” and we can look forward to more great beer on the shores of the Grand.