Brewery taprooms inherently serve as gathering spots for their surrounding communities.
They’re the places craft beer fans and neighbors alike go to unwind after a long day, enjoy conversation and ruminate over their plans for the future. With pint in hand, they solve the world’s problems while making new friends and catching up with old buds.
But a couple of new-on-the-scene breweries in the greater Grand Rapids area take their community interaction a few steps further.
TwoGuys Brewing Co.
2356 Porter St. SW, Wyoming
twoguysbrewing.beer, (616) 552-9690
Tom and Amy Payne fit in as the owners of TwoGuys Brewing, likely because they decided to open a brewery a few doors away from where they live.
“This is our neighborhood. We wanted to open the kind of place where we’d go to drink if we didn’t own it,” Amy Payne said.
For the Paynes, getting into the brewery business was a 12-year journey of ups and downs.
Tom Payne, who started homebrewing in 1996, cut his chops professionally by brewing at Osgood Brewing in Jenison and 57 Brew Pub & Bistro in Greenville, but always had his sights on opening a place of his own.
The Paynes started writing their initial business plan in 2006, later attempting to open a brewery in Wyoming in 2014 before running into challenges at the local level. However, the stars finally aligned in late 2016 and put the wheels in motion for the couple to open TwoGuys Brewing in March of this year.
The goal, the Paynes said, is to offer “downtown Grand Rapids quality at a Wyoming Park price.”
The couple describes TwoGuys as a “hyper-local, community-minded” concept that focuses on bringing people together over traditional-style beers, as well as responsibly sourced, made-from-scratch food.
The beer menu leans toward hoppy varieties, including IPAs and pale ales made to showcase different hop varieties, especially in partnership with local hop growers.
“We don’t do glitter, we don’t do sours. We have no New England IPA, no haze. We just brew clean, old-school styles,” Tom Payne said.
That said, TwoGuys did brew one of the first craft hard seltzers locally. The brewery serves the base seltzer over ice in a tulip glass, then adds a range of flavors from there to create a variety of “cocktails” with the drink.
“We love to play with it,” Amy Payne said.
Brass Ring Brewing Co.
2404 Eastern Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
brassringbrewing.com, (616) 460-1587
When Brass Ring Brewing opened in Alger Heights in January of this year, owner Chris Gibbons wanted to reach out to the surrounding neighborhoods to introduce himself and the business.
That effort eventually morphed into handing out “Golden Tickets” to a different block each week. The company distributes printed yellow flyers inviting neighbors to stop by the taproom on Wednesday nights for a conversation with others in the community, along with a free brewery tour.
“It’s been a nice way to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood,” Gibbons said. “It gives us a chance to introduce them to what we do.”
The brewery focuses on locally sourcing as many brewing ingredients as possible, while also offering all-natural beers made without any chemicals in the brewing process. The chemical-free brewing technique is a nod to Gibbons’ days as a homebrewer, and he thinks the resulting beers are “easier on you” if you have a couple, or more.
“We don’t aim to reinvent beers. We like to offer our take on classic ales and make it the best possible example of recognized, historic styles,” he said.
By offering 11 simple and traditional styles, Gibbons thinks the brewery can stand out amid the “cacophony of noise” in the current craft beer sector. He remarked how the industry is coming full circle to embrace traditional styles, while also allowing room for experimentation.
Brass Ring serves as one of the many creative outlets for Gibbons, a writer, poet and musician who works as a lawyer in his day job.
“The business has taken on a life of its own,” he said of the brewery. “I love people, and this is still a people business.”