As they finish their third month of being open to the public, we checked in with City Built Brewing Company to see what they have learned along the way.
Though the brewery had been slated to open in September 2016, it actually became open to the public in May 2017. Brewery Co-Owner Edwin Collazo doesn’t see that as a failure.
“I think we had a really strong opening because we had lots of time to prepare and change our minds, and change our minds, and change our minds again. In hindsight, it was a blessing,” Collazo said.
City Built is located in Grand Rapids. It occupies 6,800 square feet at 820 Monroe Ave, just north of the Sixth Street Bridge–an iconic structure in Grand Rapids. City Built is owned by Collazo, the brewery’s general manager, and Dave Petroelje, chief brew officer. The two have over 25 years combined brewing experience. Petroelje is accompanied in the brew house by Rob Qualls, a seasoned homebrewer who used to work in a local home brew shop.
The largest change Collazo and Petroelje have made is that they are now open on Tuesdays and have Happy Hour specials. From now on, guests can celebrate “Taco Tuesday” at City Built. Additionally, they tweaked their hours a bit to make them less confusing. City Built is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11am-11pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11am-12pm and Sundays 12pm-10pm. Happy Hour is during the week from 3pm-6pm, offering $2 cream ales, $2 off all full pours, 50% off drinks for lifetime members of City Built’s mug club, and a special Happy Hour food menu.
Collazo and Petroelje consider City Built a restaurant first—one that just happens to also make beer. They serve Puerto Rican-inspired food, beer brewed in-house, locally made mead, cider, wine, and pop.
Speaking of the menu, Collazo is fully aware that tacos are not a Puerto Rican thing. Collazo is, in fact, Puerto Rican. Sometimes, he said, he’s too Puerto Rican for his own good.
“I have never been accused of not being Puerto Rican enough. If my grandma walked in, she would ask what did you do with the food?” said Collazo.
Tacos and tortas are on City Built’s menu, two things that traditionally are not found on the Puerto Rican dinner table. Collazo’s wife Karen is the mastermind behind the menu. Though not Puerto Rican herself, Karen Collazo spent many hours learning from Edwin Collazo’s uncle, aunt, and sister on what Puerto Rican food is and how to prepare it. The menu at City Built is a combination of what she learned, the ingredients we have available in West Michigan, and her own Dutch twist.
The Bori Balls, for instance, were created by having leftover rice—and in the Dutch culture, nothing should ever go to waste.
City Built Executive Head Chef Elizabeth Ebel and Sous Chef Kyle Murray have taken the base flavors Karen Collazo learned and freshened them up.
“It is really a Puerto Rican-inspired flavor in a very familiar vessel in West Michigan,” said Collazo. “I wanted to open a place where Hispanics could come to in a nice part of town. I knew that if we had it they would come. They are coming. For the most part, it has been really positive. They dig it.”
City Built was made to be a home away from home, allowing guests to use the taproom how they want to—including families with children.
“We both have kids, and we would like to bring our family out. It isn’t as prevalent in the U.S. that people bring their families to the brewery.” Petroelje said.
Petroelje believes that allowing people to bring their children helps encourage a better drinking culture. City Built doesn’t have a lot of high-ABV beer. It is a place where one can enjoy a couple beers and still get themselves and their family safely home. Just like there are plenty of beverages for adults to enjoy at City Built, there is also a kid’s corner overflowing with kid activities. There is also a kid’s food menu.
City Built is all about showing the love for craft beer by making the strange become the familiar, and the familiar fresh and bold, while making their beer with strength through diversity.
Photography: Steph Harding