Feb 26, 2012

Neighborhood Success

Roving Beer Czar Corespondent Uncle Gary continues his tour of Central Michigan breweries with a stop at Harmony Brewing in Grand Rapids! Recently opened (recently as in a few weeks ago recently) they were kind enough to spend a little time with my Uncle, so take a moment to read up on (and hopefully stop by) this brand new member of Michigan's impressive beer family.

Neighborhood Success

by Gary W. Morrison
My intended trip to visit three brew houses in the southern middle part of Michigan was sidetracked because of the opening of Harmony Brewing; the newest brewery to open in Grand Rapids.

Visiting just days after opening, I found a brewery immediately immersed in success.

Owners Barry, Heather and Jackson

Harmony Brewery is owned and operated by brothers Barry and Jackson Van Dyke and their sister Heather Van Dyke-Titus. They are also the owners of a successful property management company behind the development of two cafes and a bar in the Grand Rapids area.

“Now we’re here running our own brewery,” Barry said. “If you’re a beer fan, Michigan is the place to be; especially Grand Rapids.”

Barry and Jackson have been home brewing for about 10 years, Barry said. In that time they have developed their own distinct styles.

Jaskson, next to thier 5 gallon brew kettle
“Jackson and I take turns brewing,” Barry said. “We each brew three different styles on separate days.”

They have no plans for a bottling line; that enables them to constantly change styles, Barry said. It’s one of the joys since they do not distribute their beer they do not have to adhere to having the same beers on tap all of the time.

“We were looking for another business venture,” Heather said. “Because Barry and Jackson have been brewing for years, we thought a brewery would be a good fit.

“It was a light bulb that went off in our heads.”

Harmony opened with beers such as Black Squirrel (a smoky peated porter), Star Stuff (a Belgian dubbel), Golden Lion Tamarin (a mild pale), Brownson Pinchot (an American brown), and Crossroads (a rye pale ale).

On any given day, you’ll find the small neighborhood brewery busy with people drinking its beer and eating any one of its signature wood-oven pizzas. That combination has resulted in the Van Dykes experiencing the side effects of their success.

Server Fran Buss, serving up a glass

Within days they began running short of their beer, but rather than leave customers with just one or two beer choices they filled in the gap by substituting Michigan craft beers from other local breweries.

“It has taken us by surprise,” Jackson said. “We’re working practically every night just to keep up; it’s been that good.

“But we don’t want to leave our customers without a choice of good beer, so we fill in when we have to with other crafts.”

They attribute that success to being “neighborhood centric” enabling them to keep tabs on whatever their customers want. Besides their beer and pizza, they also serve wine, mixed drinks, and desserts.

Harmony is located in a neighborhood where walking to the brewery is an easy option for many of its customers. They plan to utilize an upper level dining area in the afternoon for neighborhood classes in everything from cheese making to philosophy.

“We will have a topic and a date when it will be discussed,” Barry said. “We want to see this become a gathering place for people in the neighborhood.”

"Big Beer" drinker Adam Schmitt

Drinking a Golden Lion, Adam Schmitt was enjoying his first visit to Harmony seven days after it opened its doors. A “big beer drinker,” Scmitt said that he was enjoying what he was tasting.

“This will not be the last time I come here,” he said. “It feels like a good place to visit with friends and hangout.”

That pleases the siblings. It tells them they got it right.

“We’ve been happy so far to see a full range of ages stopping at the brewery,” Barry said. “It is what we want: a comfortable place for people to come.”
Harmony Brewing Company is at 1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, and can be reached at 616.233.0063, or like them on Facebook.
Gary is the older brother of my father, Don. He resides in Grand Rapids Michigan with his wife Linda. Gary is a writer (working on finishing a book) and Power lifter. If you are interested in WWII History, and/or Theater, please check out my Uncle's Website Morrison-TG and check out his info on his one man show "Hi, I'm Ernie Pyle", or even check out a show that may be near you!!!

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