Drinks with Pat: Legends from the old country

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This week, we’re catching up with one of the staples of the Grand Rapids beer scene: Brewery Vivant.

I checked in with the team, including owners Kris and Jason Spaulding, to see what’s new at the original Brewery Vivant, at 925 Cherry St. SE in Grand Rapids, and Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits, at 2885 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. SE in Kentwood. The company always is doing fun stuff, from food to beer to its sustainability program.

Pat: In terms of beer, what’s new at the breweries? I really enjoyed the Farm Hand series. Is that going to continue in the future? Any other variation plans for other beers?

Brewery Vivant: We had so much fun working on these variations of our top-selling beer Farm Hand that I can see that exploration continuing.

We did choose a winner out of that experimental time and will be launching Tart Tangerine Farm Hand into our full-time line up this June. We have the label complete, and it will launch from the pub the last week of May, and it will hit stores statewide the first week of June.

Pat: I saw the Lange Wapper award news release (Monday), and I personally love the history of beer, so are there more historical styles in the pipeline?

BV: Lange Wapper is a pretty special beer and one that our head brewer Chris Mitus personally carried through from research to final product. He has done quite a bit of reading on these lost styles, and this one really seemed to fit Vivant really well, so we encouraged him to bring it to life.

One thing I love about beer is there is always something new to learn. There are a lot of advancements in modern techniques and styles, but then you can also learn by turning the clock backward. Look to the past traditional methods and styles that may have been lost along the way, and you have just as much to learn.

Pat: When I was gone, one of the few Grand Rapids foods I truly missed and would crave was the Brewery Vivant burger. The food has always been so great. What is the focus of the menu now at Vivant and Broad Leaf? How did the pandemic alter the path at both locations?

BV: At Broad Leaf, we are taking inspiration from street food from all over the world. Right now, we are really focusing on and influenced by Asian and Mexican cuisines. Since the pandemic, we’ve taken into consideration the rise in takeout orders and have tried to create a menu that travels well. We also had to pare down the menu a little bit due to staff shortages; however, we are getting closer and closer to running full bore everyday.

At Vivant, the menu certainly changed throughout the pandemic. We definitely found the popular items were leaning more toward comfort food and sandwiches, food that could be built for speed and which traveled well, as we had a large increase in takeout orders.

That being said, the roots of our kitchen are strong, and we still put a large focus on sourcing locally as much as possible, pulling inspiration from the countryside dishes of Europe, and we will always create everything from scratch as best we can.

Future menu items will see more of a focus on dishes built for the plate and less for the box. We want to rebuild the experience piece and that connection with our guests again. The burger did get an exciting facelift at the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve wanted to make some changes to it over the years, and this felt like my opportunity to do so. The previous version will be missed, but the new one has been very well received thus far, too.

Pat: It’s been a while since we’ve really been able to catch up, and I’ll take full responsibility for moving to Las Vegas for a few years, but what’s new on the sustainability front?

BV: We are still focused on many of the same things regarding sustainability — sourcing/spending locally, trying to minimize our utility usage, renewable energy, being a good neighbor through our partnerships with nonprofits and keeping a focus on safety for our team.

We recently announced new goals around reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint, and we’ve been spending more time advocating for change related to environmental and social justice issues and policies.

Pat: Any events or releases readers should be looking forward to this spring and summer?

BV: At Vivant, look out for our annual Duck Nacho Day coming up in early June where we celebrate how delicious duck is. We will have personal-size orders of duck nachos, as well as some other duck-focused features. It’s a super fun day every year.

Also, during the weekend of Father’s Day, we will be putting our attention to some grilling and smokehouse specials. It’s a great way to kick off summer.

At Broad Leaf, we have a new menu coming out May 4 and our annual Taco Showdown May 22. Also, keep up with our social media to see our weekly features and quarterly vegan weekends, including vegan features this weekend.

For beer, we are really excited to bring back our single-barrel sour beer program.

We are aging beer in barrels and constantly tasting them and deciding which ones we blend and which ones are super special and can stand on their own. When we find one of these, we are releasing them in hand-numbered bottles directly from the pub. Super special and rare beers that we want to get to our local fans who have supported our sour beer program over the years.

What Pat’s drinking

A few really fun things this week:

First one is Tea West, a new offering from craft beer pioneer Sierra Nevada. The brewery often is at the forefront of trends, and this really seems like it could be a big one this summer: hard teas.

Second was making a Moscow Mule with some Stoli and Betty Buzz Ginger Beer. Let’s start with Betty Buzz; it’s a trendy new mixer brand that recently launched a campaign with actress Blake Lively, so try it with the Ryan Reynolds-approved Aviation Gin.

For Stoli, I grabbed that, because a few weeks before the conflict in Ukraine, I mentioned Stoli, and then I felt bad because of its Russian ties. Well … it’s not Russian. It’s made in Latvia. This week, I was informed of a special-edition bottle and charitable cocktail program the company is releasing to benefit Ukraine.

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