|Sovengard owner Rick Muschiana|
It wasn’t that long ago that the West Side of Grand Rapids was generally shunned by entrepreneurs looking to start innovative restaurants and pubs that offer eclectic food, fine wine, hand-crafted beer and quality spirits.
While I found this puzzling I surmised it had something to do with the West Side’s perceived reputation as being a bit stodgy and capable only of supporting traditional party stores, take-out pizza joints, family run ethnic eateries and bars with macro tap lists, common liquor and basic eats such as burgers, fries and the ubiquitous wet burrito.
As a longtime West Side resident and business owner I was always a tad miffed by what I considered to be this rather jaundiced viewpoint. A comment made by a representative of a local beer distributor back when I first began stocking craft beer at Siciliano’s offers proof of the existence of this mindset. “You can’t do what you’re trying to do in this part of the city,” he bluntly told me.
Well it turns out that we could, and the number of flourishing pubs and restaurants that have recently established roots on the West Side is proving that the area is fertile ground indeed for interesting and, in some cases, envelop pushing businesses.
Among those establishments are The Mitten Brewing Company, Long Road Distillery, Two Scotts Barbeque, Greyline Brewing Company, Harmony Hall, The Black Heron and the Blue Dog Tavern. And this fall New Holland’s brewpub, distillery and restaurant will be opening a block from the Sovengard, the latest in the list of innovative and interesting eating and drinking establishments that have opened on the West Side of the city.
The Sovengard is located in the basement of a historic building on Bridge Street and will eventually feature GR’s first official European-style outdoor beer garden. In the meantime it’s serving Scandinavian influenced cuisine, craft beer, fine wine and quality spirits in a beautifully renovated indoor space. Visit their website for more details.
New and Returning Beer
- Alaskan Smoked Porter '15, $8.49/22oz - "The first release of this now vintage-dated beer was called “Alaskan Seasonal” in the late 1980s – a hearty winter seasonal brewed as a nod to the malting and brewing practices of the turn-of-the-century brewers in Alaska who had to malt their own barley using local alder wood for direct-fired heat. While the name officially changed to Alaskan Smoked Porter a couple of years later, the Alaskan Brew Crew still employs the same smokehouse used for the first batch those many years ago" (source).
- Arbor Old #22, $1.89/12oz - "A surprisingly easy-drinking dark ale. Smooth, malty, and well-balanced; dry without being too bitter; and full-flavored without being too heavy. Very subtle smoky hints" (source).
- Arbor Mafka Sour, $17.39/750ml (1 per) - "The staves were then pitched into a vat of specially blended beer (58% Khatta Kala Sour Stout, 36% Hothaus Harvest Ale, 6% Velvet Hammer) and left to age for 18 months. The results proved to be wildly successful (pun intended!). The scent of rich, black cherries on the nose carries through to a delicate mouthfeel on the palette, and a mild, sweet-tart finish with newly unleashed oak tannins" (source).
- Dragon's Mead Oktoberfest, $2.89/12oz - Fall seasonal from Drago's Mead.
- Founder's Breakfast Stout, $3.99/12oz - "The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever" (source).
- New Holland Carhartt, $1.69/12oz - "Celebrates craftsmanship and hard work. Locally-grown Cascade hops bring a brightness to this barrel-aged American pale ale. Malt sweetness and toasted oak combine for a smooth, refreshing finish" (source).
- North Peak Hooligan, $1.89/12oz - "With North Peak’s Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale you will never have to choose between your favorite pumpkin beer and IPA again. Hooligan is brewed with real pumpkin and fresh spices to give you all the spicy pumpkin goodness you could ask for. And did we mention the hops? Hooligan is brimming with hops! It is brewed in Traverse City, MI, on Old Mission Peninsula incorporating locally grown hops" (source).
- Sierra Nevada Narwhal, $2.59/12oz - "Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come" (source).
- Kona Pipeline Porter, $1.69/12oz - "Hawaii is home to the North shore of Oahu, a seven mile stretch of coastline where big wave surfing was born. The Bonzai Pipeline is a particularly revered surf break that serves up steep, curling waves with a rush that leaves surfers wide-eyed and grinning. Kona Brewing Co. honors this mecca of surfing with a beer that delivers a little kick and thrill of its own. Brewed with Hawaiian Kona Coffee, Pipeline Porter has a boost of flavor with a smooth style that makes it as awesome as the waves that inspired it. The dark chocolate color, rich roasted malt flavor and smooth coffee finish takes the edge off when the waves are high and the wind is blowing. Pipeline Porter’s pronounced roasted malt character and rich Kona coffee flavor and aroma will curl around your tongue like Hawaii’s famous Pipeline surf break itself" (source).
- Avery Beast, $8.99/12oz - "The Beast is a seducer—accommodating, complicated, powerful, dark, unfiltered and created to last the ages. Beyond this, it’s futile to describe him. He will unveil himself differently to each of his followers. The mark is in his constitution" (source).
- Avery Chia High, $2.09/12oz - "American brown with local, fair trade, organic chai" (source).
- O'Fallon Vanilla Pumpkin, $1.99/12oz - "We decided to add some locally produced cold-pressed Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla to our most popular season– O’Fallon Pumpkin. The vanilla adds another layer of flavor to the “pumpkin pie” theme of this amber ale and balances well with the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove" (source).
- B. Nektar Death Unicorn, $8.19/500ml - "A hard cider with black currant that screams METAL" (source).
- Great Lakes Nosferatu, $3.29/12oz - "Often referred to as Burning River Pale Ale’s big brother, this stock ale is remarkably balanced for such a highly hopped beer. A rich deep blood red color makes this beer scary enough to be served every Halloween and a few other times of the year" (source).
- Greenbush Unicorn Killer, $2.19/12oz - "With a lore all its own, this Pumpkin Ale is chock full of brown sugar, cinnamon and more" (source).
- Oddside Pineapple IPA, $2.29/12oz - "Fresh cut pineapples brewed in an IPA…need I say more?" (source).
- AleSmith Lil Devil, $2.59/12oz - "Gold color, fluffy white head of foam with good head retention. Clean malt flavors with a hint of tangy hop tones. Belgian candi sugar, coriander, and orange peel add a twist, along with the Trappist yeast strain. Refreshing, quenching and easy to drink" (source).
- AleSmith Anvil, $6.49/22oz - "Anvil ESB is our interpretation of a traditional British-style pub ale. Deep amber in color, a toasty character from British malts and a touch of kettle caramelization blend seamlessly with a mild English hop profile. Its delicate balance of flavors will keep you coming back pint after pint, making it a complex creation we’re proud to call our flagship beer" (source).
- Short's Nobel Chaos, 1.69/12oz - "Noble Chaos is an Oktoberfest/Marzen (German-style amber lager) with a subtle hop bouquet and toasted caramel malt flavors. It is a well-balanced beer that finishes fresh and clean. With a pleasant nose and medium body, this brew is a taste of the fall season" (source).
- Bear Republic Apex, $8.99/22oz - "Apex: The Highest point, the culmination or climax. In racing, the apex of a turn is approached differently as conditions dictate, but always with a forward looking mindset. This beer is a culmination of years of brewing and drinking hop forward IPAs. We reserve the right to move forward, to advance the style to the next Apex" (source).
Video of the Week | Brewery Vivant
Mark your calendars for Wood Aged Beer Fest, Sept 17.