Signifiers

Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids, MI

As a new Belgian brewer in the historic East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids, MI, Brewery Vivant takes an impressive stance. Not only are they brewing some serious Belgians, but they’re experimenting with flavors, setting up shop in a converted funeral home chapel and even planning to can their beer to align with their sustainability mission. 

The space is like a great hall out of Beowulf — high ceilings, dangling light fixtures and massive common tables surrounded by stain glass windows. There’s something of the sacred and profane here that creates a rich, communal feeling. And the food is more than just the slabby fare popping up in trend-catching gastro-pubs lately — plenty of Flemish-style dishes and small plates, including some unbelievable Brussels sprouts.

The brewer, Jacob Derylo, brings some serious beer heritage to Brewery Vivant. He spent 10 years at New Holland Brewery while it expanded its repertoire to include the Heavy Gravity Series, barrel-aged beers and even a distillery. 

They offer a couple of samplers at Vivant, a set of four that cover the spread, and a build-your-own if you have something particular in mind, which I did of course. I started with the Farm Hand, a farmhouse ale with a bit of a wheat kick. The Sgt. Peppercorn Rye — a vibrant brew, including green peppercorns and dry spices in the kettle. The Vivant Tripel — a fairly straight-forward but accomplished belgian. But the Kludde Stong Ale showed what Derylo is really capable of. A fruity belgian (mostly raisin or fig flavors) with some dark, complex chocolate notes that made this a stand-out. It was rich and hearty while retaining its effervescence. This one would really sing on cask. 

Michael Kiser