Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Retail

Brewery keeps flow going

After five years, Brewery Vivant’s innovation is still its cornerstone.

December 18, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Brewery Vivant celebrated its fifth anniversary this past weekend, but Kris and Jason Spaulding aren’t looking in their rearview mirrors.

Since opening Dec. 20, 2010, Brewery Vivant has been one of Grand Rapids’ most innovative breweries, with its Belgian- and French-inspired beers brewed and served in a former funeral chapel in East Hills, and has been nationally recognized for its sustainability efforts.

On Sunday, Brewery Vivant celebrated five years of innovative food and beer with specials all day and the release of its wood-aged sour Anniversary Ale, the brewery’s first bottled beer.

Jason Spaulding said the first five years have largely delivered on what he and his wife set out to accomplish.

“These past five years have been spent building out the concept of Belgian-inspired beer, a farm-style kitchen, and using business as a force for good,” he said.

“I feel like we’re in the sweet spot as we approach this anniversary date. We’re making good on bringing Michigan a unique experience that revolves around great beer, great food, and pairing them to elevate the enjoyment of both.”

The Spauldings drew on their love of the beers they had tasted on a trip to Europe but also wanted to create a community-centric establishment like those they visited in Belgium and France.

“We see our business as a vehicle to do good things within our community,” said Kris Spaulding, who serves as the sustainability director at Vivant. “We believe that a great business exists because of the support of the local community. Therefore, a business should be an active extension of the community and should strive to find meaningful ways to give back.”

Brewery Vivant was the first commercial brewery in the United States to receive Silver LEED certification. The brewery also is a certified B Corporation, 100 percent renewable powered and a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business.

This fall, the Historical Preservation Commission approved the installation of solar panels at the brewery, which will happen sometime this spring, Kris Spaulding said.

“Five years ago, we rehabbed this historical property to become the world’s first LEED-certified commercial microbrewery — keen on keeping an eye toward the future and working in a sustainable facility,” she said. “We’re excited to be contributing toward renewable energy with these solar panels coming in the spring.”

In November, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum named Brewery Vivant the Sustainable Business of the Year. Kris Spaulding serves on the Brewer’s Association’s national sustainability advisory committee, while Brewery Vivant has had a strong role in starting a sustainability board at the Michigan Brewers Guild.

As part of its fifth anniversary, Brewery Vivant will partner with neighborhood school Congress Elementary and donate $5,000 for technology upgrades.

“This partnership allows us to be integrated with the neighborhood in a deeper way than merely making beer,” Kris Spaulding said. “We get to make a broader impact on the future of our whole community through investing in our next generation.”

While caring for the community has stayed a main focus of Brewery Vivant, beer has always been at its heart.

Draft Magazine has rated Brewery Vivant’s Triomphe Belgian-inspired IPA a 93/100, and Paste Magazine named Pumpkin Tart a fall beer worth finding. Earlier this month, Brewery Vivant released its bourbon-barrel-aged quadruple Wizard Burial Ground, which the Brewer’s Association named a “winter seasonal treat.”

With an already innovative brewing program, Brewery Vivant has invested heavily in starting a sour beer program, which the Business Journal profiled in September when the brewery received a shipment of three large wooden tanks called foeders. The new tanks, along with a bottling set-up to prevent cross-contamination from the main brew house, has been established in a separate part of the building. The special bottling will contain the active wild yeasts that create higher CO2 volumes, much like a champagne bottle, Jason Spaulding said.

The Anniversary Ale will be the first from the brewery’s new wild and sour beer program that will help take Brewery Vivant to another level, he said.

“It’s always been part of our story to take an artistic approach to brewing beer,” Spaulding said. “After five years we’re in a place as a brewery that we can truly devote the attention and tank space to creating unique, yet traditional, wood-aged beers on a large scale. The complexity of flavor profiles in this series is really energizing, and I think that new energy will translate to all we do here at Vivant in our next five years.

“The hardest part is the waiting. Many of these beers will age for a year or more.” 

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