GRAND RAPIDS — There is likely a reason they call it BOB’s House of Brews. Emphasis on “house.”
Tucked away in the basement of a four-story building in downtown Grand Rapids, the brewpub is much like stepping into a modernized basement. It’s complete with a sizable — but small — bar, modern furniture, sophisticated decor and artwork to match.
BOB’s ‘house’ is intentionally dark with some natural light peaking through from a sky light atop the building (the room only gets darker as the day goes on into the night).
“It’s a nice place to hangout,” general manager Alan Riehl said. “It has a relaxed, forward feel that is attractive to all types of crowds.”
BOB shares his basement with another restaurant/bar, Monkey Bar, which serves up Asian small plates with items like duck, pork tenderloin and seafood. Patrons can grab a seat at a high-top table, booth or the bar, all having comfortable, soft padded chairs with backs.
The seating area is mainly lit by candle light. It would be difficult to read the Monkey Bar’s menu if it didn’t light up when you open it. The bar, which seats about 16, is lit by a back light near the taps with some florescent light coming from the brewery behind and to the right.
The brewery typically keeps 10 beers on tap with space for up to 12. Its brews are also served at other restaurants and bars inside the building, known as the B.O.B, which stands for Big Old Building. The building and its eight restaurants and bars are all owned and operated by the Gilmore Collection.
“(Serving our own beer) creates the artisan factor — it’s local, we’re doing it ourselves,” Riehl said. “We don’t have to pay to ship it from California. It allows us to have the freshest product possible.”
The man behind the brews is John Svoboda. The brewmaster keeps a steady rotation of classic ales and stouts, but doesn’t hesitate to push the envelope with brews like the Mango Chipotle ale.
“John’s very good to staying true to the true form of beer,” Diehl said. “All his beers are very drinkable and true to quality. He tries to represent a little of everything.”
Some brews, like the Mango Chipotle, are specially brewed to pair with Monkey Bar’s menu. Pairing the food and beer is still new for the almost 15-year-old brewery (the Monkey Bar opened just one year ago).
During our recent visit, eight beers were on tap, including six traditional brews, the twice-mentioned Mango Chipotle and a seasonal. Unfortunately, the seasonal ran out just before we ordered.
- Afterglow Amber — This reddish brown concoction smells nutty and roasted. Malty through and through, the smell carries into the flavor with a creamy mouthfeel and light carbonation.
- Full On IPA — Less bitter than most IPAs, this dark brownish orange brew has average carbonation with good overall flavor that brings lots of citrus taste.
- Platinum Blonde — The light gold looking brew is perfect for those seeking the clean, crisp and refreshing. Not much to the smell, but definitely enough flavor and it goes down smooth.
- Orange Lotus Hopsun — Hazy yellow orange with obvious orange smell and taste with a watery, soft mouthfeel that makes for a refreshing drink.
- Nautical Dawn Pale Ale — Saison yeast makes this fizzy brew hop. The scent of sour orange tastes more like grapefruit — not bad.
- Bourbon — With a light foamy top layer, just beneath is the smell of vanilla, caramel and sweetness with a taste that matches. Yum.
- Mango Chipotle Ale — Hints of mango scent carry into a strong initial mango taste that turns into chipotle by mid drink and carried to a burning end (not for the wimps who can’t handle the heat).
BOB’s House of Brews is located inside the Big Old Building in downtown Grand Rapids at 20 Monroe Ave. NW.