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.”

Author’s note: The following entry is a personal documentation of my experiences while attending the Dark Horse Brewing Co. 4 Elf Release Party on December 8, 2012.

We approached the Dark Horse parking lot in Marshall and immediately saw the sprawling line of people. I spied license plates from neighboring states like Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and others. I knew immediately that my wife and I were grossly unprepared.

I heard rumors prior to arriving that people would be camping out overnight to get in line for drink tokens, but I didn’t believe it. “How could that be?” I asked myself. Tokens were to be handed out that morning at 11 a.m.

I should never have underestimated my craft beer brethren.

Here is the play-by-play from the day as I experienced it.

11:15 a.m. Made it to the end of the line. The line starts inside the biergarten. We’re in the parking lot.

11: 22 a.m. People are seriously bundled up. It’s cold out here.

12:05 p.m. We’ve been waiting in line for about 45 minutes or so. Minimal progress made.

12:10 p.m. Overheard that the brewery had only 200 tokens and they’re printing more right now. It’s delayed the line. Guessing that probably pins us around the 350 mark.

12:16 p.m. Received word that there is “plenty” of beer to buy. Seems that our waiting will not be in vain.

12:22 p.m. Toes are borderline frozen. Shouldn’t have worn the Chuck Taylors. But the line appears to be moving again.

12:26 p.m. Finally inside the biergarten. I can see the end of the line!

12:37 p.m. Passing empty bottles on the picnic tables. CBS, Zombie Dust, Batch 9,000 amongst others. Remnants of a bottle share. Jealousy.

1 p.m. Waiting for them to print more tokens. Again. Toes officially frozen.

1:07 p.m. Finally have a token in hand! #374. Bummer.

1:18 p.m. Made it inside the brewpub. Tres Blueberry Stout in hand to warm me up. Place is jammed.

2:45 p.m. Patrons already getting back in line for bottle purchases.

3:27 p.m. Too Cream Stout in taproom. Feeling great about things.

3:40 p.m. Headed into the draft line. Can’t wait to see the 50 beers on tap.

3:50 p.m. Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th Imperial Stout. Bam.

3:52 p.m. They’re playing National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in the cooler area. Score!

5:30 p.m. After lots of back and forth in the taproom, we see the bottle line is still too long and nowhere near our number. Food provided has been ravished already. We head into town for dinner.

6:30-8 p.m. Lots of talking with folks and drinking more beers. We see the end of the bottle line and decide to jump in.

8-10 p.m. Standing in the bottle line, holding out hope that there will be something decent left to purchase.

10:15 p.m. We receive the devastating news that BBL Plead the 5th and BBL Monster are gone. Disappointment. Anger. Depression.

10:20 p.m. We make our purchases and head out. Leaving with MMMM, Ginger in Your Pants and Monster 29.

After 12 hours of waiting in line for tokens, drinking beer, waiting in line again, and then being shut out for the beer we came for, we were officially spent. We decided to make the two-hour trek home.

It had been an extremely long and crazy day. And while we were disappointed to a certain degree, we truly had a blast. It was our first 4 Elf party and we didn’t know what to expect. We definitely didn’t expect that kind of turnout. And it was clear the brewery didn’t, either.

But our trip was definitely not in vain. We got a chance to meet and talk to some good people and drink some amazing beer by one of our favorite breweries. You can’t ask for more than that.

Next year, we will be prepared.

GRAND RAPIDS — Lines are a bit of thing at Grand Rapids Brewing Company.

Since opening its doors last week, beer lovers have waited as long as two hours to snag a table at the downtown brewery.

“We’re thrilled,” co-owner Mark Sellers said. “There was a lot of chatter online (about the brewery opening), but we did not expect this much. “

Although he was enamored with the early response to GRBC’s opening, Sellers hopes the pace continues and grows. With seating for 370, patrons lined the walls Friday evening, sipping on beers as they waited an average of an hour for a seat.

“Now that we have opened, yes, I’d like to see us keep this pace,” Sellers said. “If it doesn’t (keep pace), it means we’re not doing something right.”

During its grand opening — the first day mugs went on sale for its Mug Club — more than 200 of 500 mugs were claimed. Club members will enjoy $2 off all brews each Monday — if there’s any beer left at that point.

According to Sellers, Wednesday’s grand opening had patrons line an entire street block from the brewery on the southwest corner of Ionia and Fulton— the historic Hawkins and Gunn Company buildings, 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW — all the way past HopCat beer bar (also owned by Sellers) on the southeast corner of Ionia and Weston streets.

During the past year, three Grand Rapids-area breweries have opened and run out of beer not too long after — a mistake GRBC was hoping to avoid.

“I wish we would’ve had more time to brew,” co-head brewmaster Jake Brenner said Friday. “The trend right now is new breweries running out of beer — we’re on track for that. I’m fine with that.”

Although running out of beer shows demand is high, Sellers preferred to play it safe, opening GRBC one month later than it was ready in order to have an extra week’s worth of beer on opening day.

Perhaps Sellers planned ahead because GRBC had a fan base going into last week’s opening. In fact, this is the third time GRBC has opened its doors. The historic brewery originally opened six blocks north of its newest location 120 years ago on the southwest corner of Michigan and Ionia streets.

In December 1892, six Grand Rapids breweries consolidated their individual operations to form the Grand Rapids Brewing Company. The brewery closed during prohibition.  The downtown location was torn down in 1964, and the brewery eventually opened on 28th Street SE.

However, doors closed at its 28th Street location last year and Sellers bought  the rights shortly after.

“As soon as we bought the rights, bought the system, Stu was there dismantling it,” Brenner said of his co-head brewmaster, Stu Crittenden.

Crittenden, an East Lansing native, has six years of brewing experience, including stints at Michigan Brewing Co. in Webberville and, most recently, the former GRBC.

In April, the brewing duo started preparing for the opening. Brenner, a homebrewer for eight years and brewmaster at HopCat for the past two and half years, said they had to start from scratch. All of the former GRBC recipes were scrapped to focus on brewing organic beers — GRBC touts itself as the only all-organic brewery in the Midwest.

“It’s a smart business move (being all organic),” Brenner said. “As beer consuming humans, it’s going back to our roots.”

The only “original” recipe is the brewery’s flagship beer, Silver Foam, a lighter lager. However, with organic ingredients, even Silver Foam is not exactly the same.

GRBC features six of its beers on tap, mostly session pales and ales with a couple of mainstays. In addition, the taproom features eight guest brews from various Michigan breweries.

“We’re trying to keep the beers in style, more to the season,” Brenner said.

Current GRBC beers on tap are: Silver Foam, Brewer’s Heritage, Rosalynn Bliss Blonde, The John Ball Brown, Senator Lyon’s Stout and The Fish Ladder.

Eventually, at least one of those brews may be available beyond the taproom, as Brenner and Crittenden are “scheming to sell some 40s of Silver Foam.”

ROCKFORD — Prior to Prohibition, there were more than 2,000 breweries in the United States. Without adequate transportation, they were all essentially neighborhood breweries.

Now, as the number of breweries surpasses the 2,000 mark, breweries are left with an interesting quandary on how to survive as the shelf space of beer stores shrinks.

As Rockford Brewing Company sets to open Dec. 20, it will focus on its neighborhood.

The brewery is a partnership of Jeff Sheehan, Seth Rivard and Brian Dews, who all have very similar ideals for the company and its direction.

Dews, who also is Rockford’s mayor, said the focus will be very similar to how England’s brewery system is set up.

“You have a few (breweries) that are huge and a few regional and the neighborhoods and it’s very successful,” Dews said. “Our approach to this is we want to be the local flavor of this little town.”

That flavor was on display Nov. 21 for the Rockford Brewing Co. Pub Crawl. Six Rockford establishments carried the brewery’s beer and allowed future patrons to taste the beer.

“Nobody even questioned when we asked them about carrying our beer,” Rivard said. “Nobody even tried it, and they were like, ‘Of course we’ll put it on tap.’ It was easy. It was an organic, natural thing.”

Dews said he doesn’t like to leave Rockford, especially to drive to Grand Rapids for brewery visits. So in an interview after being elected to city council several years ago, he said what Rockford needed most was a brewery. Sheehan, then a brewer at New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland, saw the interview and quickly partnered.

“I want to create a cool place where people can hangout and stimulate the economic growth of community,” Dews said.

Rivard was shopping around to start a brewery when he called the city manager of Rockford to give him the heads up. The city official alerted him of the Sheehan-Dews partnership and the trio was formed.

The local crowd will be fed with the outdoorsy feel of Rockford. Sheehan said outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to breweries.

Dews said Rockford has the second-most public park space per capita, behind Portland, Oregon, a craft beer Mecca.

Aside from outdoor enthusiasts, the trio wants to create a vacation-like atmosphere in their rustic brewery. With dark-stained wood finishes, and views of the Rogue River and trail on either side, the task is fairly simple.

“A lot of people already see Rockford as a place to come and check out the boutique shops, like a mini vacation, they come to enjoy what we have to offer,” Dews said.

Sheehan is confident Rockford Brewing will stay around, even if the craft beer market plateaus and sends some craft breweries packing.

“We’re going to have face-to-face relationships,” Sheehan said. “At some point in time it will plateau, the ones who have expanded far out will have to retract. We really stress that we want to be the local flavor of Rockford and I think Rockford will really embrace it.”

CHICAGO — New Holland Brewing Company was awarded a bronze medal for its entry into the 2012 Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers. The brew, Charkoota Rye, took third in the Strong/Double/Imperial Dark Beer category, which had a total of 24 entries.

New Holland was the only Michigan brewery to be awarded at the event.

Charkoota Rye, a smoked rye doppelbock, is a malt-forward brew balanced with “tones of deep molasses and caramel,” according to the New Holland website.

The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers is put on annually by the Illinois Craft Brewer’s Guild, and was held at the Bridgeport Art Center Skyline Loft on Saturday. Goose Island Brewing Company (Chicago) and The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, Calif.) took home Best of Show honors.

GRAND RAPIDS — It’s only fair that the brewers and beer geeks, who can attend a festival somewhere in the state almost every weekend, let the wine and food people have their own party once a year. Still, it’s nice to be invited.
Michigan breweries graciously shared the stage with wineries, meaderies, restaurants and even the big beer companies at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, now in its fifth year.
Actually, brewers essentially had their own stage, the makeshift “Craft Beer Hall” cloistered behind a wall in the rear gallery of DeVos Place. And though one had to navigate a sea of suit coats and Italian leather shoes to find it, neither the brewers nor the patrons seemed to mind.
When asked if they felt “quarantined” in the back, most brand reps strictly denied it. Chris Lasher, a salesman for Dark Horse Brewing in Battle Creek, imagined the division as something of an honor, a nod to the sense of community that binds Michigan brewers.
Matt Cebula of downtown Detroit’s Atwater Brewery agreed: “They make this feel like a beer event,” he said, referring to the beer hall; “they make that,” referring to the rest of the convention center, “feel like a wine event.”
It’s true that the air changed as one wandered to the back. The attire grew more casual, as ties and blazers disappeared among sellers and buyers alike. The music and conversation grew a little more raucous: A band with a blues harmonica replaced the mellow jazz trio of the main hall, and the concentrated chatter threatened to drown out even that. The sample fees changed, too, becoming less steep.
For a taste of beer, one had to surrender only one or two sample tickets, while a trickle of wine might cost three to five. (For further reference, a lamb slider from Bar Divani or a filet slider from the Fire Rock Grille required 10 tickets — though both were well worth it.)
Despite the barriers — physical and cultural — the two hemispheres weren’t entirely separate. The beer vendors deferred to the customs of their neighbors, pouring conservatively.
As Jim Brown of Arcadia Ales noted, the event was “not a drunk-fest, but more of a sampling-fest.”
In exchange for the tickets, a guest — even one with a media badge — would receive enough to appreciate but not quite enough to savor. And these samples were poured from bottles opened, capped and iced, like the wine bottles next door. Gone were the coolers and nozzles and ocotopodal hoses of the portable draught system.
None of the breweries seemed to begrudge the temporary culture shift; to the contrary, they embraced the chance to appeal to a wider audience and perhaps surprise a few new customers.
Jim Brown said the event “exposes [craft brewers] to a whole new demographic,” a more affluent, “on-tap” crowd. Dark Horse’s Lasher agreed and spoke of it as an honor to have so many wine-drinkers wandering back into the beer hall.
John Green, partner and Managing Director at Founders, playfully objected that brewers weren’t “front and center” as they should be, but still appreciated the chance to meet a more diverse segment of the Grand Rapids population, explaining, “This is our base.”
Even with all of the changes, most brewers altered nothing in their preparations. Most brought their staples and one or two seasonal offerings. As autumn turns to winter, “seasonal” means fewer IPAs and ambers and many more brown ales and porters and stouts. Trends this winter involved coffee and vanilla, sometimes in a stout like Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love Breakfast Stout, sometimes in a porter like Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter.
Wine drinkers and beer drinkers alike seemed to appreciate these darker, cozier beers.
At the end of the day, Michigan brewers can be confident, even among upscale clientele and top industry representatives. As Brown from Arcadia said, “We let the beer do the talking for us.”

GRAND RAPIDS — It’s only fair that the brewers and beer geeks, who can attend a festival somewhere in the state almost every weekend, let the wine and food people have their own party once a year. Still, it’s nice to be invited.

Michigan breweries graciously shared the stage with wineries, meaderies, restaurants and even the big beer companies at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, now in its fifth year.

Actually, brewers essentially had their own stage, the makeshift “Craft Beer Hall” cloistered behind a wall in the rear gallery of DeVos Place. And though one had to navigate a sea of suit coats and Italian leather shoes to find it, neither the brewers nor the patrons seemed to mind.

When asked if they felt “quarantined” in the back, most brand reps strictly denied it. Chris Lasher, a salesman for Dark Horse Brewing in Battle Creek, imagined the division as something of an honor, a nod to the sense of community that binds Michigan brewers.

Matt Cebula of downtown Detroit’s Atwater Brewery agreed: “They make this feel like a beer event,” he said, referring to the beer hall; “they make that,” referring to the rest of the convention center, “feel like a wine event.”

It’s true that the air changed as one wandered to the back. The attire grew more casual, as ties and blazers disappeared among sellers and buyers alike. The music and conversation grew a little more raucous: A band with a blues harmonica replaced the mellow jazz trio of the main hall, and the concentrated chatter threatened to drown out even that. The sample fees changed, too, becoming less steep.

For a taste of beer, one had to surrender only one or two sample tickets, while a trickle of wine might cost three to five. (For further reference, a lamb slider from Bar Divani or a filet slider from the Fire Rock Grille required 10 tickets — though both were well worth it.)

Despite the barriers — physical and cultural — the two hemispheres weren’t entirely separate. The beer vendors deferred to the customs of their neighbors, pouring conservatively.

As Jim Brown of Arcadia Ales noted, the event was “not a drunk-fest, but more of a sampling-fest.”

In exchange for the tickets, a guest — even one with a media badge — would receive enough to appreciate but not quite enough to savor. And these samples were poured from bottles opened, capped and iced, like the wine bottles next door. Gone were the coolers and nozzles and ocotopodal hoses of the portable draught system.

None of the breweries seemed to begrudge the temporary culture shift; to the contrary, they embraced the chance to appeal to a wider audience and perhaps surprise a few new customers.

Jim Brown said the event “exposes [craft brewers] to a whole new demographic,” a more affluent, “on-tap” crowd. Dark Horse’s Lasher agreed and spoke of it as an honor to have so many wine-drinkers wandering back into the beer hall.

John Green, partner and Managing Director at Founders, playfully objected that brewers weren’t “front and center” as they should be, but still appreciated the chance to meet a more diverse segment of the Grand Rapids population, explaining, “This is our base.”

Even with all of the changes, most brewers altered nothing in their preparations. Most brought their staples and one or two seasonal offerings. As autumn turns to winter, “seasonal” means fewer IPAs and ambers and many more brown ales and porters and stouts. Trends this winter involved coffee and vanilla, sometimes in a stout like Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love Breakfast Stout, sometimes in a porter like Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter.

Wine drinkers and beer drinkers alike seemed to appreciate these darker, cozier beers.

At the end of the day, Michigan brewers can be confident, even among upscale clientele and top industry representatives. As Brown from Arcadia said, “We let the beer do the talking for us.”

GRAND RAPIDS — There is a place for those who know how to pronounce — and how to eat, in tiny portions — things like pâté, rillettes (which does not rhyme with Gillette) and escargot. It is called France, and there they drink wine. In this country, if you order those things with your beer at the pub, you might be called a few French-sounding words, but then you’ll have to settle for your customary burger or wings or nachos or whatever else is actually supposed to go with beer.

Unless you’re dining at Brewery Vivant, in which case your waiter might suggest a beer that pairs well with your garlic-drowned snails.

Yes, at Brewery Vivant, they use the verb “pair” with beer, not wine. It’s not a mix-up. It’s not irony.  One of the brewery’s favorite things to do, declares Vivant’s website, is to pair beer with food to “uplift the enjoyment of both.” In fact, the brewpub provocatively claims that “in many cases, beer is a better choice than wine to pair with food.”

This seems like the stuff of scandal, not to mention entrepreneurial suicide. One would expect the wine connoisseurs to turn up their noses and silently take their business elsewhere. One would expect beer lovers to snort and then do the same. But that hasn’t happened. As many in Grand Rapids already know, Vivant makes great beer and great food, and makes them work together in ways that keep people coming back.

The man behind the food is Drew Turnipseed, whose last name alone is proof that he belongs in the culinary world. Other proofs include his training at the Art Institute in New York City, his tenure at Chateau La Gatte in Bordeaux, and his success in restaurants across the country, from the East Coast to Alaska.

What is an advanced sommelier — indeed, a man who learned his charcuterie on the banks of the Dordogne — doing in beer country? Drew says he was “on his way out” of Michigan when the owner of Brewery Vivant, who had attended his wine-pairing dinner for Michigan’s Hickory Creek Winery, offered him a job, a job in which Drew has been able to combine his classical training and his knack for producing exciting new food.

“The place you work is a kind of medium for your art,” says Drew, and the position at Vivant has allowed him to expand the purview of that art.

Drew does many things as the head chef at Vivant, but perhaps the most important is planning the season’s menu. He brags that it is a group effort because his staff is so talented, but it’s not hard to see his influence in this fall’s French-, Belgian-, and Bavarian-themed menu, a virtual roadmap of his time in Europe. Vivant’s menu also reflects Drew’s classical training; he explains that although the fall menu is not as creative as some of the previous selections, it is as authentic as possible, “straight from the book but really well researched, really well executed.”

“From the book” means continental favorites such as chèvre chaud (hot goat cheese) salad, escargot, and a pâté which Drew describes as the fruit of “two trips to France and a bunch of years of heartbreak.”

The pâté is both traditional and approachable, and diners who resist burying it in the delicious mustard and cornichons that accompany the dish are rewarded by the figs and walnuts within. And although pâté is sometimes served in upscale American establishments, one rarely finds rillettes, much less rillettes that balance the delicacy of France and the heartiness of America.

This balancing act is extended to beer-food pairings, which Drew also oversees. In more ways than one, the food often begins with beer. “I pick apart and conceptualize the beer,” he says, “and then build a menu from that.”

The menu items are often physically built from beer as well — there is “a tremendous amount of beer” that goes into the food, as much as possible, according to Drew. This means that where a classically trained chef would use wine, Drew uses ale. He’ll poach a meat, such as Vivant’s foie gras, in beer, or he might deglaze a pan with beer (though he admits that they do keep a little wine around to use when they can’t avoid it).

 

A marriage between food and beer

While Drew is at the center, the beer pairings at Vivant are no solo effort. Drew spends a lot of time tasting beer with Vivant’s head brewer, Jacob Derylo, and he then holds meetings to collaborate with the kitchen staff. But Drew relies on the brewers to help him detect nuances in the beer, tastes that Drew’s palate absorbs as undertones but might not register as distinct or recognizable flavors.

The language Drew employs — “art,” “conceptualizing beer,” “nuances” and “undertones” — affirms the complexities of his work in pairing food and beer. Still, the fundamentals of a good beer-food marriage are simple and easy to grasp.

The first principle of pairing is commonality. For example, Drew describes a Bohemian dish in which foie gras is studded with truffles, poached in beer, and put inside a trussed pheasant, which is then roasted. He would recommend the Escoffier beer with it, noting that the gaminess of the pheasant complements the similar “barnyard” characteristic of the beer.

The second principle is balance, often achieved through opposition. Sour beers, for instance, are complemented by something sweet, such as cherries or another fruit. In Vivant’s Bohemian pheasant, it’s the foie gras that is “just sweet enough” to balance out the sourness of the Escoffier.

Of course, determining that fattened-goose liver complements sour beer isn’t the finish line for Drew and the Vivant staff. They still have to convince people — stubborn, Midwestern people who might otherwise eat tater-tot nachos with their beer — to try that goose liver.

Understandably, Vivant has encountered what Drew calls “serious roadblocks” in introducing such a sophisticated cuisine, and not just because many Americans find foie gras and bone-marrow tartine strange or even repulsive.

In addition to the sometimes formidable sophistication of the menu, the portions are small. And because of the quality and provenance of the ingredients, the prices are high. Finally, there’s the extra challenge of converting some foodies — the people that already like traditional French cuisine — into beer drinkers.

By now, though, it is clear that any major “roadblocks” are in the past. Vivant might have to fight a few individual skirmishes from time to time, but they’ve won the war. Drop in at just about any time, even at 3:00 in the afternoon as we did, and you’ll find the place humming with customers both eating and drinking.

Drew isn’t surprised. He credits persistence and supportive management for his success. Because the ownership and management are resolved on making Vivant excellent, not big, its product is remarkably authentic. Drew also knows that such a menu is not only possible but normative in other countries. He explains that where the best beer has traditionally been made — that is, Europe — endives, pâté, and Gruyère are standard fare.

The pub’s new general manager, Joel Medina, isn’t surprised either. From the beginning, he witnessed a zealous commitment to quality from everyone involved with the restaurant. The result is satisfying, according to Medina: “We’re achieving a level of experience that is unexpected.”

That means happy customers, very happy customers.

“As long as they’re willing to try it,” says Medina, “I guarantee they’ll leave pleased.”

So if you haven’t tried Vivant, you should. If you have, you should try something different, something braver, something difficult to pronounce. And if you want to try your own hand at pairing or impress your friends before they can ask the waiter, consider the following options, which were suggested by the chef himself.

Try Solitude, Vivant’s trademark abbey ale, with the braised Bavarian pot roast and house-made egg noodles. Or try the Big Red Coq (you may have to wait until this intermittent offering reappears) with the goose-liver-stuffed mushroom caps or something with bleu cheese (a pairing that is strange and inexplicable, according to Drew, but still delicious). You might also consider the Peppercorn Ale with either the braised pork or some form of poultry (perhaps the roasted half-chicken). If none of these pairings attract you, try any food with any beer and you’ll still leave happy.

Whatever you try at Vivant, you can be confident that the craft in your food will match the craft in your beer. So save the tater-tot nachos for your supermarket beers and try some duck confit nachos instead.


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