You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids serves the best Belgian beer you're likely to drink in a former funeral home

By Patti Smith

Surely, if I ever walked into a church, the very foundation would crumble. Brewery Vivant certainly looked like an old church, yet the foundation... she remained standing.

Come to find out, it is actually an old funeral home, and the brewery is in the stable where the horses used to be kept (how cool is that?). Okay, that makes more sense! The world can keep turning.

As it turns, you should consider a trip out to Grand Rapids and check out this very unique brewpub. Focusing on Belgian beers and sustainability, the brewpub features some amazing beer and food.

Jeff and I were lucky enough to visit Brewery Vivant twice in about two weeks. On the second trip, we had snacks which included something absolutely amazing: deep fried avocado. Again, I ask: how cool is that? We also had pomme frites which, I think, are just kind of like French fries but full of awesome! They also have deviled eggs and bacon peanut brittle (which I did not eat because I do not eat por,k but again...awesome).

Oh, and the beer is pretty darn good too! Here are my standouts:

Thumbnail image for g0210dining02.JPG

Brewery Vivant

Farmhand Ale: They made this beer with raw, unmalted grains like old farmhouse ales. A quick aside: Back in the day, farms used to brew their own beer to keep their farmhands happy. Also, recall, water was pretty crappy and beer was often much safer to drink. But you didn't want Farmhand Fred getting wasted and, um, fertilizing the crops (if you know what I mean), so you kept the farmhouse ale pretty low in alcohol. This lighter beer was to style and would have kept Farmhand TeacherPatti really happy.

Solitude Belgian Amber Ale: This was a very malty beer, almost bock like, with hints of caramel and raisin. (Not lying, I could really taste those things!)

Triomphe IPA: Nice Belgian yeast gives this beer a slightly sweet flavor, but then it hits you with American (i.e. citrusy hops). I wouldn't have thought these two tastes would go together, but they did. Kind of like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups! (Hey, you got your Belgian yeast in my American hops! You got your American hops in my Belgian yeast! And on it goes).

Big Red Coq: Why yes, you do pronounce that third word the way your dirty little mind thinks! And yes, I did belly up to the bar and order it like that, but I was kind enough to comment that I'm sure they've heard that about a million times, and I'm sure people have said, "I'm sure you've heard that a million times" a million times! Me, I am quite savvy. That's how I roll. A hoppy red beer, it provides lots of citrusy tastes (I got pineapple) without losing its essential Belgianness (is that a word? It is now)

Brewery Vivant is one of the many brewpubs that is now canning. Ain't gonna lie — canning beer still does not thrill me. I can't drink pop out of a can because of the "can" taste, and I haven't loved the canned beers I've had. I am, however, very anxious to try their stuff because it is so good that I have to think it will overcome the "can" taste.

This is a beautiful place in a lovely area of Grand Rapids. The brewery also uses an online service that's quite cool... something called You see, this allows you to buy your friend a drink, and it will be waiting for them when they show up.

Brewery Vivant, in fact, has a board that lists names of people who are receiving their free drink. I don't mean to be bossy — as I know I can sometimes be — but I'd really love to see some local establishments partake of this, and I'd really love to see my name on that board at said local establishments! Come on! I took a huge pay cut at my job, and teachers need to drink, too! Just sayin'!

Patti Smith really really tries to get these posted every week but does not always succeed. She blogs at when not teaching special education in southwest Detroit.