Fork, knife and pint_ why breweries are stepping up their food game

Just a few years ago, most breweries could get away with treating their food menu as a greasy afterthought — maybe a few token appetizers or sandwiches to keep the regulars warming the barstools.

But breweries in Beer City and throughout West Michigan are learning, sometimes the hard way, that a successful operation needs more than just good beer to distinguish itself in 2016. Easy homemade christmas ornaments for kids to make Apple pork chops It’s a field that seems to become more crowded with every passing month.


How to cook pork chops uk Now that the region is flush with craft beer and cider, what emerges from a brewery’s kitchen is just as important as what comes out of its taps.

Brewery Vivant set an early standard, serving farm-to-table entrees and desserts along with its menu of Belgian and French-inspired beers when opening six years ago. Easy homemade biscuit recipes Making pork chops So many other Grand Rapids breweries have followed suit: Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Perrin Brewing Co., The Mitten Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co., Harmony Brewing, etc. Easy homemade biscuit recipe without shortening Crock pot pork chops with potatoes and carrots The latter’s new West Side location, Harmony Hall, offers a high-end take on sausages and was voted favorite new restaurant (yeah, restaurant) in Revue’s Best of the West survey earlier this year.

When Rockford Brewing opened in 2012, it had no kitchen of its own, instead partnering with a local pizzeria for delivery. Easy homemade biscuit recipe from scratch Smothered pork chops gravy But Rivard said he always planned for the brewery to offer its own food once it was established as a beer destination.

“The few years that we’ve been open, our customers have been telling us, ‘We really want you guys to have food,’” Rivard said. Vegetable soup homemade recipe Crock pot pork chops stove top stuffing “They’d say, ‘Hey, we just went out to eat and came here afterwards.’ … It makes a lot of sense to offer both.”

After a summer of construction, Rockford Brewing this month will open a spacious new kitchen on the north end of its building in the city’s cozy downtown. French onion soup homemade recipe Smothered pork chops and gravy in oven In view of outdoor passersby, the new staff prepares charcuterie and cheese boards, chorizo Scotch eggs and ramen bowls under the leadership of Ryan Bolhuis, the brewery’s first executive chef.

A Hudsonville native, Bolhuis studied at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and spent years working in the kitchens of some of New York’s most prestigious restaurants, including Nobu Fifty Seven, Babbo and The Modern. Chicken soup homemade recipe Broiled pork chops After returning to Michigan, Bolhuis worked briefly at Pike 51 Brewery before Rivard hired him to build Rockford Brewing’s new menu, which will emphasize local produce. Chicken noodle soup homemade recipe Cook perfect pork chops Bolhuis said he’s eager to blend the worlds of fine dining and craft beer.

“Almost like that appreciation for wine and food, people are starting to realize beer and food pairings open you up to a whole new world of flavors and textures,” he said.

In Grand Rapids, where the market is more competitive, ambitious food menus are the new normal for anyone opening a craft taproom. Tomato soup homemade recipe Grilled pork chops temp The new Creston Brewing and the upcoming City Built Brewery Company feature menus of Latin and Puerto Rican-inspired cuisine, respectively. Pizza homemade recipe Baked pork chops 350 New Holland Brewing’s Bridge Street location in Grand Rapids opened in mid-September with a food menu trendily described as “focused on mindful sourcing, scratch cooking, rustic traditions — including heirloom produce and whole animal butchery of heritage breeds.”

Vander Mill went big when the popular Spring Lake hard cider maker opened its 40,000-square-foot Grand Rapids taproom and brewing facility in the spring. How many calories in homemade meatballs How to best cook pork chops Owner Paul Vander Heide recruited Chef Justin Large — a veteran of hip Chicago establishments such as The Publican, The Violet Hour and Big Star — to craft the food menu, which he’s built loosely around a French farmhouse concept. Best homemade christmas gifts for dad Ideas for cooking pork chops Large said opening with a strong menu was crucial, since Vander Mill, despite its name recognition, is located in a part of Northeast Grand Rapids that does not attract much foot traffic.

“I think food has to be a serious part of the conversation right out of the gate,” Large said. Simple homemade christmas gifts for friends Recipe for pork chops and potatoes “You’re going to see the paradigm really shift in Grand Rapids, in that people are going to want all facets. Healthy homemade brownies from scratch Crock pot pork chops ranch They’re going to want great beverages, great food, great service, not just one of the three. Best homemade brownies from scratch Cooking pork chops in oven I think the consumer is becoming a little more savvy.”

Also at their fingertips: hot wing poutine and ham and doughnuts, two starters that have caught on among Vander Mill customers looking for a sharable snack, or easing into a multi-course dining experience that might also include a pork chop, char-grilled chicken, mushroom bolognese or pot roast entree — all upscale twists on hearty farm-style dinner fare.

“We wanted to play up the farm scene and what’s happening agriculturally in this part of Michigan,” Large said. Easy homemade brownies with cocoa powder How to cook shake n bake pork chops “I want to bring something a little more high-minded to the city, not because I think it’s better or cool, but because I think people will genuinely like it if they give themselves up to the experience. Best homemade biscuits and gravy Bbq pork chops I like sandwiches as much as the next guy, but I would like to see this town grow up a little bit and not have a sandwich with every meal.”

Now that brewers have proved their capabilities in Grand Rapids, culinary risk-taking is going to be a key to surviving in a still-growing craft beverage scene, Large said. Easy homemade biscuits and gravy recipe How to make pork chops in a pan Along with a second Elk Brewing location in Comstock Park and New Holland in Grand Rapids, openings loom for Atwater Brewing and City Built in Grand Rapids.

“I think we’re going to see the bubble burst here soon on the brewery scene,” Large said. Simple homemade biscuits without baking powder Over baked pork chops “We’re still not talking about that big of a city. Simple homemade biscuits without shortening Pork chops in oven I think that Grand Rapids, mentally, thinks it’s bigger than it truly is. Easy homemade biscuits with self rising flour How to cook pork chops on the grill You’re competing for 250,000 people as well as against openings of every other size, shape and color. Funny easy homemade halloween costumes for adults Easy recipes for pork chops in the oven It’s not necessarily open season — it makes for a very hyper-competitive market.”

It also opens a window for brewers outside Grand Rapids who want to step up their food game. Cheap easy homemade halloween costumes for adults Crock pot pork chops with apples Newaygo Brewing Co. Cute easy homemade halloween costumes for adults Recipe for baked pork chops President Nick Looman said that since opening in 2015, the majority of his brewery’s weekend food sales are to visitors from Grand Rapids who are either numbed by the abundance of the city’s dining scene or eager to see how nearby towns stack up.

When he added a kitchen to his brewery plan, Looman hoped food would account for 40 percent of sales, but “because of the local demand for great food to accompany great beer, we now have a 100-seat taproom with 60 percent food sales, and we run a higher-end farm-to-table restaurant.”

Newaygo Brewing’s kitchen manager, Chris Brandmiller, is a former Grand Rapids resident who moved to Newaygo to build the brewery’s menu and found he missed the culinary variety of the city, so he began experimenting. Simple homemade biscuits from scratch Smothered pork chops pioneer woman When his Oktoberfest plate last year became a local hit, he saw it as a sign Newaygo was ready to try new things. Best homemade biscuits from scratch Recipe pork chops in oven “They went crazy for it. How to make easy homemade biscuits from scratch To cook pork chops That kind of gave us a cool opportunity to keep pushing Newaygo and seeing, what’s their threshold?”

The taproom now boasts a menu of farm-to-table specialty pizzas, pastas and gourmet desserts, which, along with the brewery’s diverse beer list, performs a difficult task.

“We have to provide approachable beer and food for people up here who are still getting into craft, but also provide excellent beer and food for those who have already come to expect that in craft,” Looman said.

As the market expands and evolves, there are opportunities as well as challenges. Simple homemade halloween costumes for men Ideas for pork chops Rockford’s Bolhuis foresees teaming with brewers in and around Grand Rapids on collaborative beer dinners or guest-chef dishes.”

What I love about working for a brewery is the beer culture in and of itself. Best homemade halloween costumes for men Recipes for pork chops with apples How much brewers collaborate with each other is awesome, and I definitely want to bring that to the kitchen here,” he said. Simple homemade halloween costumes for couples Shake n bake pork chops “We’re all here to help each other, teach each other, learn from each other and push the industry forward.”

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