ADA — Matthew Michiels, owner of Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply, opened up his pub with one simple goal in mind — creating a space that is conducive to connectedness and making new friends over a pint — either brewing or drinking that pint.
Gravel Bottom is more than just a brewery — it’s a thriving homebrew shop that has been embraced by Ada residents and those who want to explore the world of homebrewing at all levels — novice or expert.
The concept for Gravel Bottom was always a combination of both brewery and homebrew shop, but not at the level it ended up becoming. “In the original business plan, we only had a 1/2 bbl brew house. However after moving back to Grand Rapids and experiencing West Michigan’s craft beer renaissance, it was clear we needed a bigger brew house to keep up with demand.”
Settling on a 3 bbl brew house provided a big enough a space big enough to support demand, but still small enough to experiment and play.
Play is important, and homebrewing is incorporated into the tavern — six ever changing taps provide customers a diverse range of styles and experimental beers. “One of those taps is always a homebrew recipe which is open source to anyone who wants to brew it or tweak it to fit their pallet better,” Michiels shares.
At the homebrewing shop itself, Michiels prides himself on having all the necessary equipment, supplies and ingredients to create a perfect beer. It carries a multitude of different varieties of grains, hops and yeast. The brewers who work at Gravel Bottom have definitely increased the selection options as well, because they are junkies for new ingredients to play around with.
Home brewers are a big influence on Gravel Bottom. Ada is a small town, and people become regulars, neighbors become friends. Michiels tells MittenBrew a story about one of the first Home Brewers to make a guest appearance on tap at Gravel Bottom — John Weicherchess.
“John is a neighbor of mine who showed up at my house as soon as he heard I was putting in a Craft Brewery & Supply. So, of course, I offered to take him down to the brewery and show him around. At the time the place was pretty tore up, but I figure it would be a cool place to have a couple pints of his (and Steve Waakes’) home brew. After the first pint, he grabbed the jackhammer and started helping me break up the concrete floor for our plumbing. Having fun and making new friends is why I opened this place. I could not have picked a better town and I watch this same story play out regularly. This story is also one of the things that inspired us to always have at least one home brew recipe on tap.”
Michiels and his staff are all brewers, bartenders and shopkeepers at Gravel Bottom. A well-rounded bunch, anyone can help you with anything you may need.
As for the beginning brewer? Michiels has some collective tips and tricks for getting started.
“It’s like anything you want to get better at. The more you do it, the more you will learn. You begin to hone in your processes, and each time you brew it gives you the opportunity to experiment with new ingredients or tweak a recipe. Don’t overthink your recipes — take great notes and be open to new ideas and feedback. You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it is to create your ideal beer,” he said.
“And GBCB is always here to help — feel free to bring in a sample for feedback and don’t hesitate to ask our brewers about anything you want to understand better.”