Monday, June 25, 2012

Brewery Review: Harmony Brewing Company - Grand Rapids, MI

This was the first brewery stop I made as I got into Grand Rapids Friday evening. I called Eamon and we arranged to meet here to mark the start of the weekends brewery festivities. I had been here once before with Jen during her visit a couple weekends ago, but didn't have the chance to get a thorough experience. To start off, this is one of my favorite breweries I've been to this far since moving to Michigan over two months ago. But, lets examine the beers first:

Cranberry Wheat: Holding true to its expected color with a bright tinge of pink/red. Little head but still holding a ring around the glass. Carbonation remains to a minimum, similar with clarity. Fruity, tangy, crisp and tart. Everything I could ask for after a 27 mile bike ride. Biting carbonation.
Ale-Ian abduction: Black and extremely opaque. A brown ring caresses the glass. Rich roast and chocolate in the aroma. Seriously! The flavor has more of an astringent acidity, but gives you both of the elements of hops and roast you would expect, just to the extreme. Smells like a stout but bites like a bitter IPA. Interesting.
Black Squirrel: Dark with a brown milky hue around the edges. High turgidity. Strong roast at the front and finishes earthy, smoked and dry. Neutral bitterness, but quite strong. I dig the cloudiness it maintains, even as a dark beer.  Funny this is 4.4 alcohol, one would expect more.
Cranberry Wheat
Fiddlesticks IPA: Light golden in color. Cloudy. A long drawn bitterness throughout. Sweet honey and pine bitterness. Grapefruit kick and a pineapple spritz to it. End is run by tropical fruit complexities and a dry bitterness.
Heather beast: Deep cloudy opacity. Interesting spicy flavor of earth and floral undertones. No head. Nice caramel biscuit malt base. Some vegetal flavor with a peppery twist. Dry finish.
Black Squirrel
Grapefruit moon shandy: The Fiddlesticks IPA mixed with grapefruit juice. Citrusy, tangy, light and very refreshing.

1) FiddleSticks IPA - rich foresweetness and balanced with a grapefruit pine based bitterness
2) Ale-ian Abduction - brewed as a stout, hopped like an IPA. You get all the girth in the body and flavor from chocolate to roast, but with a rather strong bite of bitterness
3) Cranberry Wheat - Holding its color. Saving me from thirst deprivation.

The Brewery experience:
Harmony Brewing Company is the newest addition to the Grand Rapids brewing community. They are located on Lake Drive in Eastown, just across the street from Gojo's Ethiopian. My first experience with this place was just after Jen and I had eaten at the nearby Pita House, only to drive a few blocks down to find Harmony, not only serving good beer, but also concocting Wood Fire Pizza! That first visit was fortunately not as crowded as the following, so we were briefly able to check out their (5 barrel?) brew house and fermentation room.
Back to the present...
I arrived thirsty and dehydrated and was able to taste several beers prior to deciding on my first pint. The Cranberry wheat suited my overly parched palate the best. Eamon got there and ordered the Ale-ian abduction black IPA and I got one last pint of their Black Squirrel as we contemplated our next destination.
The Brewery:
The brewery itself has a simplistic front with aluminum and wood plating and an outside deck that has yet to be decided on its purpose. Upon entry, you are greeted with a small cedar looking bar with enough seating for maybe (just maybe) eight people. The bar has a single tap tower with oddly shaped bulbous wooden handles. The back bar holds a large mirror with what looks to be a wooden door behind it. The place also has a mediocre assortment of liquor for mix drinks and other alcoholic beverages (just their own beer though). There are three large six person booth's that line the front wall as well as several high top tables throughout the front room. I never did get a chance to experience the back room, but at a distance it seemed more dimly lit and quiet. The menu consists of a large chalk board that is visible to all in the room, as the same is written on one for the back room too. Beer-gharitas and beer based mix drinks take a side bar on the chalkboard, as well as a few wines. Below, a collection of posters/labels accumulate representing past beers that have been specially tapped at the brewery. I though that the overall theme with all of them came off looking very similar to garage band posters. The beer selection covers all the bases for the most part, as seen above, but they also incorporate several experimentals. The first time I was there they had a green tea beer on tap, while this time they had made an ancient interpretation of a Heather Ale. Pricing is typical with all pints standing at $4 and pitchers at $12. Sundays are brewery specials with pints only $3! The staff was very attentive and knowledgeable on the beer. There wasn't a moment where I suffered from a near empty glass without being asked if I wanted another one. Our final visit followed a long bike ride from the Hideout on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids. I arrived alone while Eamon was visiting a friend at another local pub. I ordered a Fiddlesticks IPA and a pizza (the good earth) with caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach, balsamic and a variety of cheese (perhaps the folks at Harmony can help me out with this?). It was devoured in 5 minutes. I know, I eat fast, but every moment was savored (with speed). After that, Eamon, and his friends Dave and Matt arrived. We briefly sat at the booth and contemplated our next stop.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that Harmony represents the pinnacle of the perfect micro/nano brewery. They appeal to the local community as a great watering hole as well as a supply of grub paralleled by few. This trip made me feel like East town would be my ideal living location if it wasn't for the distance to work.
I would like to also note that I have had my fair share of pizza. The best being from Australia. Closing in on a close second comes from Three Floyd's and matching them in a tie, Harmony Brewing Company. Keep up the good work guys, you'll go far!
Check them out:
Harmony Brewing Co.

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