This Grand Rapids microbrewery opened in December 2010 and is a rare example of a craft brewer specializing in Belgian beers. Located in what may seem an odd site -- the chapel of a former funeral home -- the pub's exposed ceiling timbers, stained glass and Gothic-style arches help the building feel European. Half of the brewery's tables are end-to-end picnic tables, the better to strike up conversations with other guests.
It was no small task for Brewery Vivant to set up an eco-friendly brewery in Grand Rapids' up-and-coming East Hills neighborhood, having to renovate to meet not only health department codes but also the restrictions of a historic district and a residential neighborhood. The proof that this brewery was not only dedicated to good beer but also a healthy environment lies in its success as being the only microbrewery in the world awarded Silver LEED status.
All of Vivant's brews are made with Belgian yeast, creating that signature yeasty smell and taste that you'll associate with the best Belgians. But you'll still find a lot of variety on tap. Farm Hand is a rustic, unfiltered beer; Vivant Tripel is classically Belgian, golden, sweet. Can't decide? We enjoyed tasting several with the Vivant flight for $8. The Cambier flight (a Belgian brewer is a cambier) includes any four beers and/or Vander Mill ciders (produced in nearby Spring Lake) for $10. A dozen beers are always on tap, varying by the season, and all crafted in the adjoining brewery. Tours cost $5 and are held every Saturday at 2p and 3:30p, no reservations required.
At lunchtime, try a lobster corn dog, Yesterday's Soup (after all, soup is always best the next day) -- we liked the Winter Vegetable Soup on our autumn visit -- or a Monte Cristo sandwich with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, mustard and cinnamon anglaise on brioche with black currant preserves on the side. That was our choice, a savory meat and cheese blend accented with the sweetness of cinnamon and the punch of currants. If the meals seem a little pricey -- lunch will set you back $12-14 and dinners of mussel frites or farmhand cassoulet will cost $16-24 -- take comfort in knowing that all the ingredients are local and the menu is specially designed to pair well with that beer.