Among the many newly christened purveyors of self-produced liquid gold to join the ranks of Beer City, USA this past year is the third version of Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC), which opened in early December, just a little over a month ago.
The first version of GRBC was created by a merging of six German brewers in Grand Rapids in the late 19th Century – much of the pre-Prohibition history of the city was covered in our Braumeister series last year – and was located in downtown Grand Rapids on the corner of what is now Michigan, between Ottawa and Ionia (now the State of Michigan building). The brewers combined forces in 1893 and created a flagship lager, Silver Foam, to combat the rise of Anheuser Busch, which was rapidly expanding their sales territories beyond St. Louis and into the local “territory” through the use of local packaging facilities, refrigerated rail cars and pasteurization.
The Grand Rapids version met it’s demise during Prohibition (after attempting to survive making soft-drinks), although a second generation of GRBC, in partnership with factions of the former Furniture City Brewery, started in Muskegon at the location of a former brewery about there about 1935 and shipped product back to Grand Rapids, but it only lasted a couple years and was gone again by the end of the decade.
The third version of GRBC was formed by the Schelde Restaurant group in 1993, during the first “craft beer” boom. It was the second brewpub license issued in the State of Michigan (after Traffic Jam & Snug in Detroit) and the groups lawyers assisted with the decade long legislative effort to create brewpub & microbrewer licenses, along with Larry Bell of Bells Brewery (formerly Kalamazoo Brewing Company) and the folks at TJ’s. A restaurant first, they created an ale version of Silver Foam and survived on a busy 28th Street commercial district, among chain restaurants and shopping malls until about 2009, when their latest owners finally closed the doors and the building was razed by their shopping mall landlords.
Rights to the name and brands were purchased by Mark Sellers and his BarFly Ventures, who finally moved GRBC back downtown to the corner of Fulton and Ionia, mere blocks from the original location. To say the new location is stunning is to sell short the beautiful construction job and ode to history that has been paid by the newest version. It is simply gorgeous….and tremendously popular so far. Most of their beers are regularly sold out and they’re getting by with many guest brews to supplement the meager supplies they’ve managed to keep on hand. They’ve already added new fermenters in an effort to keep up with demand. Most of the new beers – when they’re in stock – are named after local historical figures, celebrities and, of course, a new version of Silver Foam, once again being produced as an adjunct lager.
We’ll wait on actual reviews of their beers until things are truly in order, but we’ve tried all of them that have been available over the past month, which has been about a dozen different pours, ranging from the Silver Foam, through a couple weissbiers, Stouts, several IPAs and a Belgian or two. The food has been good and the service has been outstanding in each visit. If you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll want to be sure to include the new location in your beer tour, and hope they have some of their beer to share with you.