GRAND RAPIDS — Brewery Vivant said cheers to two years Thursday night during its anniversary party.
“You take moments like this and you always think you’ve got this huge nostalgia built around it,” co-owner Jason Spaulding said. “But we’re so busy that up until a half hour (before the anniversary party), I’ve been too busy to think about it being our two year anniversary.”
Busy is probably a good word to describe the neighborhood brewpub and its Belgian/French-inspired brewery. Just in the past year, Vivant released a collaboration brew with New Belgium, the nation’s third-largest craft brewery. Additionally, the brewery helped Grand Rapids win the title of BeerCity USA.
During its first year, Vivant established itself as a niche brewery, one specializing in constantly rotating tap handles to keep patrons pleased, including sour and wood-aged brews. Part of that niche is being a true neighborhood brewery, all-the-while distributing throughout the state and into the Chicago market.
“There’s something about the warmth and personality of a place that’s in a neighborhood you just can’t get in other places,” Spaulding said. “Not to knock other places — there’s all sorts of different businesses — but if you’re a big place in downtown, you get people who come and go to the games and they could really give a crap if they’re in your business or not.”
“That’s not the kind of business we wanted. We wanted to foster that community feel in our brewery.”
To build the kind of brewery they wanted, Spaulding and his wife, Kris, spent more than two years dreaming up the right model for Vivant.
“Having a night like tonight reinforces that people do get what we’re trying to do,” Spaulding said, referring a standing-room crowd at 7 p.m. as the event began.
“It verifies to us we had a vision that was worth pursuing,” he added. “At one point we put our plan together and we said, ‘Well, why does the world need another brewpub or brewery?’ We started to think of how we would distinguish ourselves and we decided to follow this passion of Belgian- and French-inspired beers. That was really the biggest risk we had.”
Standing inside the brewpub two years later, Spaulding says the place is nearly exactly how he imagined it before he ever opened doors on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood.
“I’ve got one of those minds,” he said. “I walked into this place when it was a daycare center and in two seconds I’m like boom tables there, bar there — I had it all laid out.”
“It actually turned out really, really close to that. We’ve really just been trying to execute that plan. When we put our business plan together, we worked on it a lot of years. My wife and I thought a lot of stuff through.”
Having the right business plan has resulted in far fewer curve balls than most new breweries encounter.
“I feel like we’re more of a mature company than just two years,” Spaulding said. “It’s been really well-received and I always hoped it was well-received.”
During Thursday’s anniversary party, Vivant tapped two specialty brews, both versions of its Hubris Quadruple Ale — one regular and one wood-aged version. In addition, Mug Club members were celebrate with awards voted by the brewpub staff.
As the brewery moves into its third year, Spaulding looks forward to continued success and improvements. Amongst those improvements is a large outdoor beer garden.
“The neighborhood we chose to locate in, the reception of the beer has been good,” he said. “When you take time to stand back and reflect on it is pretty cool.”