GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — March 16, 2020, sticks in Scott Schultz’s memory. It’s the day the pandemic forced him and the other owners to close Creston Brewery in Grand Rapids, which heavily relied on revenue from events in its banquet hall.
“We had to make some major decisions just because there was no (Paycheck Protection Program) loans at that point, there weren’t anything. It was just about, ‘OK, how do we get our employees taken care of?’” Schultz said.
When Creston Brewery put its team on unemployment, Schultz said they thought it would be short-lived.
“We didn’t know what to expect, really. We just thought, ‘Alright, we’ve got to stop everything and then try to regroup.’ We thought it was (going to be) six weeks later, you know, when the thing passes, but yeah, it turned into a much longer, bigger ordeal than that, for sure,” Schultz said.
After 18 months, plenty of cleaning and some kitchen repairs, Creston Brewery is now gearing up for reopening on Oct. 14 under new ownership.
Saugatuck Brewing Company announced in April it had purchased Creston Brewery’s assets.
“We had a chance to save something in Grand Rapids,” said Michael Biddick, food and beverage director for Saugatuck Brewing Company. “We wanted something in this area. It’s a huge market for beer. We wanted to expand and it was a great opportunity to keep something going that was a really good, a cornerstone in this neighborhood. We had the opportunity to save it and we jumped on it.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
Biddick said not much will change at Creston Brewery. The new owners are keeping its popular beers and some of Creston Brewery’s original managers.
Schultz will also stay on as head brewer, making old favorites like Bokonon New England IPA and GRale, along with some Saugatuck Brewing Company staples, including Bonfire Brown and Neapolitan Milk Stout.
“I’m just excited to brew again. It’s been way too long,” said Schultz, who hasn’t made beer since March 12, 2020.
“It’s been the longest time of my adult life,” he said. “It’ll be a fun thing to get it up and running again.”
The neighborhood will notice new food. Biddick says the brewery’s new chef will keep the menu small to start “because as we know right now employment needs are tough.”
Options include hamburgers, a fried chicken sandwich and some Saugatuck Brewing favorites, including fish and chips. Biddick says pork wings also made the cut, partly because of the chicken wing shortage.
“And it’s a really good product. It was actually started here in Michigan. The people that came up with the pork wing idea was a Michigan company,” he added.
Saugatuck Brewing says the beer menu will also start small. Creston Brewery will eventually have about 20 beers on tap, as well as cider and draft cocktails. Biddick says wines served up at Saugatuck Brewing will also be available, along with a new West Coast-style cabernet.
Once Creston Brewery is back open and fully staffed, the new owners will focus on reopening the second-floor event space, which is already generating interest.
“We’ve got a couple of Facebook messages and phone calls and messages from people that we know like, ‘Hey, when can we book this,’” Biddick said.
ARTPRIZE BEFORE OPENING
The banquet hall has already been transformed for ArtPrize. Artist Nick Nortier dressed up the windows with a vinyl mural he spent more than 40 hours designing, cutting and applying.
Nortier is very familiar with Creston Brewing: he created the colorful floral mural on its patio.
“I love Creston Brewery. I live in the neighborhood. I did a couple of projects with them in the past, pre- pandemic. And so to have the opportunity to work back here again is great,” he said.
Nortier said coming to Creston Brewery also gave him many good friends, so he was “super bummed” when it closed. As months passed, speculation and optimism about Creston Brewing started brewing.
“It was a whole lot of, ‘So what’s going on with you guys over there?’ And we didn’t really have a good update for anybody. We would just say, ‘Hey, wait and see,’” Schultz said.
“We’d been wondering for months, because we heard a rumor that Saugatuck (Brewing Company) was buying it, but we didn’t really know for sure. And so when it was finally confirmed, we were very excited,” Nortier said.
“It’s been great. Everyone I’ve talked to, local businesses, are super excited that we’re opening this back up,” Biddick said.
Creston Brewery will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and party on Oct. 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The festivities will include free snacks and happy hour pricing all day long, owners say.
Creston Brewery will operate from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday to start. The new owners plan to expand Saturday business hours and add weekend brunch when the brewery is fully staffed.
Biddick says the brewery will sanitize surfaces frequently, set up sanitizing stations and follow health recommendations as the pandemic persists.
“It’s a little goofy, but overall, people are still wanting to go out and eat and they want to get out of their house. There are some new challenges that didn’t exist before, but you’ve got to fight through them and adapt and overcome,” Biddick said.
Saugatuck Brewing plans to reopen Creston Brewery’s outdoor patio next year.