Engine House No. 9 has been a fixture of Leonard Street in Grand Rapids since 1890. It has housed many businesses since being decommissioned as a fire station in 1966. Currently residing within its walls is the newest addition to the West Michigan beer scene.
Friends since kindergarten, co-founders and brewers Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler went into their separate careers, but wanted to find something they could do together.
"Max and I have been best friends since kindergarten," co-owner and brewer Chris Andrus said. "We played baseball together. Eventually, I was a musician and he was in marketing, and we started talking about something we could do together."
The two began homebrewing together and continued for more than four years with the intent of opening their own brewpub.
"We decided to make it a baseball theme," Trierweiler said.
The station was the very first location they scouted, and they looked at plenty.
"We found this place and came back to it," Andrus said. "It has the character and vibe we want."
The building needed a lot of work, and rather than trying to cover up the beautiful historical landmark, they worked on highlighting its original construction.
"Baseball is a national pastime," Trierweiler said. "It's fathers and sons; it has a lot of elements that other sports don't have."
Mitten is the only brewery on the Grand Rapids' west side, but it is also one of the only brewpub/sports bars in the state.
"At the end of the day, we wanted to have something that separates us from other microbreweries," Andrus said. "We wanted to make this place an extension of who we are. If you want a chill place to watch a game and have a beer, there has to be a place between Buffalo Wild Wings and Founders."
The bar itself is spacious and occupies the fire station's garage. The entry features three rows of Tiger Stadium seats, while the pub houses the original garage flooring, beautiful brick walls and a handmade bar constructed out of original wood from the station.
"We've got about eight recipes we're very happy with, and we're going to open with three:" Andrus said. "A Robust Porter (with peanut butter and Cracker Jack), a classic Hefeweizen, and the 84 Double IPA."
The 84 DIPA – another unique brew – is dedicated to the 1984 Detroit Tigers' World Series season. The 84 IBU and 8.4%ABV beer goes through an 84-minute boil and took the brewers multiple times to get right. Mitten also intends to release a Marzen Octoberfest, a Dortmunder, and a Rye Pale Ale in honor of the '68 Tigers season. In addition, the owners crafted a menu full of artisan pizzas.
"We designed them around the beers we're going to be offering," Andrus said. "We will also be selling pizza by the slice for lunch and late night."
The Mitten is also involved in supporting local and national charity organizations and will do monthly beer dinners to support the community-chosen charity of the month.
The Mitten's mug club, "The Clubhouse," has been open since mid-September, and already accrued more than 50 members by the beginning of October. Membership is $68 for a new membership, $50 for renewal and involves pint and growler discounts and member-only events.
"This place hasn't been at its potential for 40 years," Trierweiler said. "The character of this place, just wait until you see it."
Beer of the Month: Founders Bolt Cutter Barley Wine
Founders Brewing Company is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year and they've released a beast of a brew. Bolt Cutter is one of the biggest and most extreme styles – barley wine – in the beer world.
This brew clocks in at 15%ABV and is heavily malted with notes of sweetness and some soft spice. It is also dry-hopped heavily with Cascade hops and has been aged in bourbon and maple barrels. The beer pours deep copper with an off-white head, and I encourage you to allow this beer to warm as you drink it.
Bell's Brewing Company in Kalamazoo renamed its pale ale "Midwestern Pale Ale," on shelves now. On Nov. 4, Bell's hosts All Stouts Day, when the Eccentric Cafe turns over its taps to focus on the stout style.
Right Brain Brewing Company opened its new pub at 225 E. 16th Street in Traverse City's Sofo District.
On Nov. 17, Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids celebrates its 15th anniversary with a party featuring The FBC All Stars. The 21-and-up party starts at 11 a.m.