Kate the Great greeted me warmly as I stepped up to the Brewery Vivant table at the Michigan Beer Food and Wine Festival. "You must be Kate the Great!" I said. "You must be Black Girls Brew!" she said. She then chidingly divulged that no one really calls her that, but she's trying to get the rumor started. I laughed, and am here to cosign. The Brewery Vivant marketing associate named Kate really IS great and so is this brewery.
Founded in 2010, this is a return to brewing by Jason Spaulding, a co-founder of of New Holland Brewing in the 1990's, who left to focus on brewing in the Belgian tradition. The owner's focus on the community aspect of the local pub, with the location in Grand Rapids as proof. If you're in the area, take your work and head on over to the Brewery Vivant Pub (with pints served in the refurbished chapel no less), pull up a chair and stay a while. Make plans to attend Brewery Vivant's annual Wood Aged Beer Festival, this is a great chance to experience the community in action.
Hand in hand with the community aspect is the brewery's focus on sustainability. Sustainability is more than just the commitment to people, profit and planning; it's also the use of cans (as opposed to bottles) which not only gives the beer better flavor, but makes pack in/pack out a snap. The fact that the brewery is a refurbished historic building, and boasts LEED certifications, making it a green space, really are at the crux of what the brewery's mission of sustainability is about. From focusing on "farm to table" concepts in using Michigan ingredients to enriching the community and employees through profit sharing, Brewery Vivant embodies sustainability.
The brewery is Belgian inspired, with all brews using a Belgian yeast strain. This lends to a different flavor profile than what is typically seen in Michigan and American style beers. With that said...the beer is...GREAT! Distributed throughout Michigan and Chicagoland, find the Farmhand, Triomphe, Solitude and Big Red Coq in stores.
I tried all four, and here is what I thought:
Farmhand: Slight sour note (nod to Belgian strain), crisp mouthfeel, citrus note (I got grapefruit)
Solitude: Walnut finish, crisp mouthfeel, light amber color
Triomphe: Belgian style IPA, finish is smooth vs. bitter, great sipping beer
Big Red Coq: Dry, pine and fruit scent, a bit of piney finish
My favorite? Farmhand. Great for summer or pairing with dinner.