GRAND RAPIDS – A storied name in the city’s brewing history will return to downtown by late summer when Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) opens next door to the Van Andel Arena.

BarFly Ventures, owned by Mark and Michele Sellers, announced the brewpub will be the ground floor anchor tenant inside the historic Hawkins and Gunn Company buildings, 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW.

BarFly owns some of downtown’s best-known bars, including HopCat, Stella’s Lounge, The Viceroy and McFadden’s.

“Grand Rapids Brewing Co. will be a casual, family gathering place creating approximately 60 new jobs in the heart of our city,” Mark Sellers said. “This will be a great spot to grab dinner and some homemade beer before and after events at the arena. We envision it becoming a popular spot for watching a game with friends and family members.”

The brewpub will be open seven days for lunch and dinner, employing 60 people in a variety of jobs ranging from managers and brewmasters to servers and bartenders.

The new GRBC will offer a unique food menu, 8-10 of its own house-made beers and soft drinks. A selection of liquor, wine, and hard cider will also be available.

The original GRBC, once located at the corner of Michigan Street and Ottawa Avenue, closed on April 26, 1918 due to the Prohibition Act. It was once a dominant player in the regional beer market thanks to the popularity of its famous Silver Foam beer. BarFly plans to pay homage to the original Grand Rapids Brewing Co. with a new formulation of Silver Foam.

BarFly purchased the assets of a second incarnation of GRBC after it closed last year on 28th Street. Much of the new GRBC’s brewing equipment will come from that location. Members of the 28th Street GRBC Mug Club at the time it closed also will be given a free year’s membership in the new GRBC Mug Club.

BarFly plans to invest more than $1.5 million to renovate and combine what are currently separate store fronts in the Hawkins and Gunn buildings into a 10,000-square-foot space capable of seating up to 450 customers. An event space in the lower level will be able to accommodate parties of up to 100 people.

The western side of the building facing Van Andel Arena and a historic brick-paved alley will bring excitement and visual appeal by opening up what had been loading dock doors. BarFly plans to install a deck for open-air seating and, during summer months, will open the three large garage doors facing VanAndel Arena.

“This location is the corner of ‘Main and Main’ of the city’s entertainment district, and I couldn’t be more excited about locating GRBC here” Mark Sellers said. “We are excited to create another unique, locally owned anchor to what we think is becoming one of the most interesting entertainment districts in the Midwest.”

GRBC will occupy most of the ground floors of both buildings. It will be an integral part of the $7.5 million 616 Lofts on Ionia mixed-use project announced last week. That project will put 26 market-rate apartments on the upper three floors of the buildings and offices on the second floor.

GRAND RAPIDS — An estimated 4,500 people filled a downtown street Saturday, braving wind and cold temperatures to enjoy local beers in the first Hoptoberfest.

A collaboration between HopCat and seven other local breweries, Hoptoberfest featured local beer, art, music and a celebration of the German Octoberfest tradition. The event closed Ionia Street between Weston and Oakes streets from 2-11 p.m. as eight local breweries served up brews.

“It’s great to see the support that HopCat gets for this,” said event organizer Shane Philipsen of BarFly Events. “For a first year, I’ve been really happy with the outcome.”

HopCat, Founders Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, The Hideout Brewing Company, White Flame Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Jaden James and Schmohz Brewing Company were all present. In addition, HoptoberFest had a German beer garden, a HopCat food tent, local artists displaying artwork and a full-day’s lineup of blues music.

HopCat brought out some of its best, pouring its Zugspitze Weizen, Roggen Bitch, Fornicator and Black Mamba beers. It also highlighted a festbier, called Hopfenkatze (6.3% ABV). The beer featured minor hints of nutmeg and spice, and had a good burnt orange color to it. Its moderate hop presence was apparent throughout each drink and left a clear and strong aftertaste. The beer could’ve been more falvorful, though it made for a good beer to start with.

The Hideout Brewing Company also brought a fall brew of its own — Oktoberfest (7.5% ABV). Its smooth finish and moderate amount of spices made for a good seasonal beer. With minimal hops and a hint of sweetness at the tail end, it was a perfect way to celebrate the fall season.

But the surprise for me came from the Sparta-based Michigan Beer Cellar. Its Dunkelweizen (6% ABV) brew was my favorite of the night. Its brown body held a rich, nutty flavor with minimal head, as well as a nice aroma with a hint of spice.

Philipsen already has high hopes for the future of the event, hoping to bring in more unique brews and additional breweries.

“We’ll be back, with a bigger and better blueprint next year,” he said.

Grand Rapids is prepping up for what could be one of the largest beer celebrations in West Michigan. Celebrating the German Oktoberfest heritage, Saturday’s Hoptoberfest will feature great beer, art and entertainment.

Six of the eight breweries have confirmed their line-ups for the event:

  • HopCat: Hopfenkatze Festbier, Zugspitze Weizen, Roggen Bitch, Fornicator, Black Mamba
  • The Hideout Brewing Company: New World Ale, Abbey Ale, Oktoberfest
  • Schmohz Brewery: Oktoberfest, Treasure Chest ESB, Hopknocker Imperial IPA
  • Founders Brewing Co.: Dirty Bastard, Centennial IPA, Breakfast Stout
  • Brewery Vivant: Farmhand, Big Red Coq and a special wood aged selection
  • Jaden James Brewery: Oktoberfest, IPA, Porter

Also pouring at the event are Michigan Beer Cellar and White Flame Brewing Co., but the two have yet to release their offerings.

And if the local beer wasn’t enough, a German Haus will also be available, featuring beers from Kostritzer, Unertl, Hofbrau and Brauerei. In addition to the wide array of beer, Hoptoberfest will feature “Art Avenue,” a section of the festival devoted to showcasing Grand Rapids-area artists.

Gates open at 2 p.m. Saturday, and the festival music starts soon after with Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues playing at 2:30. Big James & the Chicago Playboys as well as Stacy Mitchart follow. Finally, headliner Lonnie Brooks caps off the night at 8 p.m.

The 77-year-old blues player, originally from Louisiana, will take the stage with songs “Don’t Answer the Door” and “Sweet Home Chicago.”

The event closes down Ionia Street SW between Weston and Oakes streets, running 2-11 p.m. Advance tickets are $10, and will be available at the door for $15. Tickets can be purchased from HopCat, Brewery Vivant, Stella’s Lounge, McFadden’s, The Hideout Brewing Company and Jaden James Brewery.

Oktoberfest is hitting the streets of Grand Rapids in a whole new way. And it’s going to be “hopping.”

Together with HopCat and Barfly Events, several Grand Rapids-area brewers are bringing some of the best tastes of October to a new event called Hoptoberfest. The Oct. 15 festival closes Ionia Street SW between Weston and Oakes streets for an outdoor beer and blues celebration 2-11 p.m.

“The success of our St. Patrick’s Day event, Irish on Ionia, inspired the concept for a fun new beer festival downtown,” said BarFly Ventures owner Mark Sellers. “It’s the perfect opportunity to team with other local breweries and highlight the variety of choices this area offers in craft beer.”

Breweries slated to have brews on tap are HopCat, Founders Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, The Hideout Brewing Company, White Flame Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Jaden James and Schmohz Brewing Company. In addition, HoptoberFest will feature a German beer garden, a HopCat food tent, local artists displaying artwork and a blues lineup featuring the legendary Chicago bluesman Lonnie Brooks as headliner. Other acts include Big James and the Chicago Playboys, Stacy Mitchhart and Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues.

BarFly Ventures operates downtown Grand Rapids bars HopCat, Stella’s Lounge, The Viceroy and McFadden’s, and is also part owner of The Pyramid Scheme, a live music venue. According to event organizer Shane Philipsen, a crowd of 3,000-5,000 is expected.

“This is the first year for Hopfest and it won’t be the last,” Philipsen said, adding that the event will piggyback off of the city’s ArtPrize event, which should “keep the ball rolling downtown” and give the feeling “Grand Rapids never sleeps.”

College football fans aren’t being left out either — there will be four 60-inch HDTVs showing the MSU vs. U of M game.

“Come out and watch the game and enjoy some good craft beer,” Philipsen said.

Tickets are available for $10 at and at participating local breweries and bars, including HopCat, Brewery Vivant, Stella’s, Viceroy, McFadden’s and Hideout. Tickets purchased on the day of the event are $15. By liking Hoptoberfest on Facebook, users are able to access an interactive application with plenty of extra information about the event.