By Peter Daining
When I turned 21 in the early 2000s, the West Michigan beer scene didn’t go much further than Founders, New Holland, and Bell’s. Bell’s was already a regional powerhouse, and Founders and New Holland were quickly making names for themselves outside their hometowns.
Fast-forward 15 years and all three are sold nationwide, while West Michigan has become one of the hottest areas in the country for microbreweries. These days, however, some of the newest breweries to join the scene don’t seem to have their sights set on national distribution or facilities the size of a furniture factory. Many instead promote themselves as neighborhood breweries with the mission of bringing neighbors together to partake in pints and conversations. There’s nothing wrong with growing a business, of course, but there’s something refreshing about being content with staying right where you are.
Here are some of the breweries I found that fit the neighborhood brewery bill. You’ll notice some are urban and others are situated in small towns, but all of these are striving to be a meeting place for neighbors, helping to bring people together in an era where emojis have replaced eye contact and fenced-in backyards have replaced front stoops.
Brewery 4 Two 4, 321 Douglas Avenue, Holland
Brewery 4 Two 4 owners Dave and Erin Miller had the neighborhood in mind when they opened in July 2017. The name comes from the last three digits of their zip code, 49424, which covers the area north of Holland and Lake Macatawa. It will surely attract people coming and going from the beach, but it will be the locals who help this brewery make it through the winter.
Creston Brewery 1504 Plainfield Avenue, Grand Rapids
Named after a near-downtown neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Creston Brewery took up shop in what was once the DeKorne’s Furniture store. It opened in 2016 at the corner of Plainfield and Quimby, in a neighborhood that has come a long way back in the last decade.
Harmony Brewing Co. 1551 Lake Drive, Grand Rapids
This little brewpub looks like it was established in 1932, not in 2012. Siblings Jackson, Heather, and Barry Van Dyke’s brewery fits seamlessly into the Eastown vibe, and the neighborhood has embraced Harmony as its own. The Van Dykes opened a second taproom called Harmony Hall on the corner of Bridge and Stocking on Grand Rapids’ historic west side.
One Well Brewing, 4213 Portage Street, Kalamazoo
Co-owners Chris O’Neill and T.J. Waldofsky want their K-Zoo neighbors to sit and stay awhile. Their goal is to provide great beer, naturally, but also to get folks to share a conversation, a board game, or a laugh. They offer live music and comedy, as well as vintage arcade games. More than that, though, they see themselves as part of the fabric that is Kalamazoo, providing a local product and local jobs in the community.
Our Brewing Co. 76 E. 8th Street, Holland
Although it’s right in the heart of Holland’s business district, Our Brewing Co. has taken the neighborhood brewery route. Although he’s new to town, owner Trever Doublestein’s tagline “Smaller on purpose” reflects his vision to stay centered on Holland, and in doing so differentiating himself from New Holland, that big brewery down the street.
Pigeon Hill Brewing Company 500 W Western Avenue, Muskegon
Although it’s right down the street and opened soon after Unruly Brewing Co., Pigeon Hill doesn’t share Unruly’s unkempt style. Pigeon Hill has a rustic taproom, and co-owners Michael Brower and Joel Kamp focus on celebrating Muskegon’s rich history and providing a community gathering space.
The Mitten Brewing Company 527 Leonard Street, Grand Rapids
The brewery took over the old Engine House No. 9 on Grand Rapids’ northwest side in 2012. It may be on a fairly busy street, but The Mitten is within walking distance for thousands of west-siders. Although it’s a rather large two-story building, the old fire station has a historic neighborhood feel. Owners Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler even kept the fire pole.
Unruly Brewing Co. 360 W Western Avenue, Muskegon
Unruly brought local beer back to downtown in 2013 after a more than half-century hiatus. But this is definitely not your grandma’s brewery. It’s got a unique style, with past events like a 90s dance party and a live burlesque show. Muskegon has embraced Unruly after watching the West Michigan beer scene from a distance for years.
White Flame Brewing Co. 5234 36th Avenue, Hudsonville
Bill White was the first to open a brewery in Hudsonville after the city ditched its alcohol ban. White Flame opened in 2012, and although White Flame may be more concerned with beer quality than drafting mission statements it is obvious from the multigenerational clientele and solid local following that White Flame has become a staple in the Hudsonville community.
Let us know if we missed any of your favorite West Michigan neighborhood breweries!
Peter Daining spent five years as a newspaper reporter in Michigan and Indiana, then six years as an elementary teacher. At age 34, he’s now embarking on his third career, this time as a stay-at-home dad.