Grand Rapids, MI
Style: Belgian Ale
Brewery Vivant is a throwback. They’ve done a wonderful job of blending
traditional and new brewing styles and techniques for the enjoyment of their
patrons since they’ve been open the past couple years. You can see this
immediately in their taproom, which is a nice European style long-table tavern
carved out of an old funeral home. People share tables. There are no
televisions and no loud music. The atmosphere is just beer, conversation, great
Writing this review, I realize that I’ve been neglectful of this brewery in this space. The place is truly one of my faves and many of their brews are
both interesting and above average. It was also the first LEED certified brewery in the United States.
One of their brewhouse trends is the aging of their beers in oak and casks.
Traditionally, brewers have always packaged – and stored – their beer in wood
kegs and a few places, especially in Europe, still practice this regularly.
There’s definitely a softness and a certain Earthy character about draft drawn
from an air pushed wood keg or firkin. Modern brewing, however, lends itself
less often to the practice. Steel kegs and CO2 draft systems are standard,
aside from a “firkin night” at some establishments, which are typically limited
in size to avoid spoilage and often served too warm.
Vivant has made an event out of many of their wood aged brews. They’ve
experimented with flavors, ingredients, source barrelage (whiskey, wine, etc.)
and temperatures. In fact, I recently attended their second “Wood Aged Beer
Festival,” which promised to “give me wood” as they released well over a dozen
concoctions all of which had been wood-cellared. I had wood.
A few weeks before, however, I had a chance to try one of the occasional
tap-house releases, their Oak Aged Farm Hand – a take on their flagship
Pouring blond orange in color, there wasn’t much of a head and only light
lacing in their beer clean glass. The nose was Earthy, with an acidic bite of
alcohol. Citrus tones of lemon and grapefruit accented a thin body and mild
fruity finish. It’s interesting, but not an overwhelming effort, particularly
when compared to some of the Festival releases a few weeks later and probably
would have improved with a little longer wait.