Growing in GR: Arvon Brewing Co. opens Division Ave. taproom

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — What was once home to the first dealership of its kind in Grand Rapids is Beer City USA’s newest brewery.

On Friday at 3 p.m., Arvon Brewing Co. officially opened the doors to its first taproom, located at 1006 S. Division Ave.

“We really liked the location. There’s not a whole lot of craft breweries in this area. This area is really going through a refreshening I would say, a revitalization,” said brewery co-founder Brett Bristol.

Until now, Arvon Brewing Co. has been limited to distribution, selling brews like Jurassic Haze, Harbor Beach, Citra Drops and De Tour Reef at area specialty stores and businesses in the metro Detroit area. The brewery’s creations are occasionally on tap at restaurants and bars as well.

“We really focus on super intense flavors, super intense beers, so we try to really explore the New England-style IPAs and what we can really do with them. We try to explore kettle sours as well as imperial stouts and really pull in a lot of different flavors, do a lot of different things with the malts, the yeast and the hops to provide a unique experience,” Bristol said. “I think that really sets us apart from a lot of the other breweries.”

As the brewery’s popularity has grown, so has the drive to move out of its 700-square-foot space in Grandville.

arvon brewing company
A Sept. 4, 2019 photo shows Arvon Brewing Co.’s first 700-square-foot facility in Grandville.

“It became more and more cramped. And we wanted to be able to be able to do more different styles of beer, we wanted to do more with the beer, so we needed more space in order to do that,” Bristol said. “And then we also at the same time really wanted to be able to share our beer face-to-face with our fans.”

Bristol said that when a realtor alerted them to the 5,000-square-foot facility on S. Division between Franklin and Hall streets, he wasn’t impressed with the photos. That changed when he finally visited the site and peered through the windows.

(A Feb. 18, 2020 photo shows Arvon Brewing Co.’s new taproom on Division Ave. S. between Franklin and Hall streets in Grand Rapids.)

“When I did, and started mapping out where the tanks would go and everything in my head, it was a perfect fit,” said Bristol.

Originally built as an Oldsmobile dealership in 1948, the whitewashed brick building’s car service area had all the brewhouse necessities: floor drains, plumbing and an electrical system to support Arvon’s new brewing system.

“Which will be about 99.9% efficiency when you look at energy capture of the heat going into the beer,” Bristol said of the electrical brewing system.

“It’s not very common. I’d say definitely less than 10% of breweries across the country have them and I think we’re the only one in Grand Rapids that’s using an electric system (of this size) currently,” he added.

“Most of the heritage of both the auto manufacturers and the brewers is this mass-produced, fairly generic type of product. And then in recent years, you really see innovation and craft and individuality coming out of both the auto manufacturers as well as the craft beer producers. You have companies like Tesla who are totally taking the auto industry in a different direction, and then you have breweries like ourselves and others in Grand Rapids and across the country that are taking the craft beer industry in a slightly different direction as well.”

-Brett Bristol, co-owner of Arvon Brewing Co.

The building’s former vehicle showroom is now the taproom. Arvon embraced the industrial look and added its own twist. While the purpose has changed, the multilayered concrete floors, exterior walls, ceiling, many lights and glass wall now overlooking the brewhouse remain in tact.

“A lot of what we’ve done is use a lot of local materials to really make it feel like you’re getting a piece of the Michigan outdoors here,” Bristol explained.

He said group tables hugging the west side of the brewery were built by a craftsman in Ada who used Michigan oak collected near Cedar Springs. The backbar and shelves holding the brewery’s glassware are made out of Michigan walnut harvested just north of Cedar Springs. A local company was tapped to pour the concrete bar. On the walls hang prints of Arvon’s beer labels, originally created by a West Michigan artist.

(A Feb. 18, 2020 image shows the taproom inside Arvon Brewing Co., located on Division Avenue between Franklin and Hall streets in Grand Rapids.)

Between the group tables, lounge chairs and bar seating, Arvon can seat 74 people and hold up to six more.

But the brewery was expecting a much larger crowd at Friday’s grand opening, if the interest on Facebook held true. As of Friday morning, more than 2,800 people had said they were considering coming to the taproom debut.

“We thought we’d have 800 or 1,200 people kind of in our wildest dreams, and it just keeps growing from there. It’s been really overwhelmingly cool to see,” Bristol said.

On the menu are 15 Arvon favorites as well as five new releases:

  • An imperial stout conditioned on coffee and vanilla;
  • A traditional imperial stout;
  • A passion fruit sour with more than 7 pounds of fruit per barrel;
  • Amarillo Drops using cryogenically treated Amarillo hops for more flavor;
  • Their first triple New England style IPA that’s 10.1% alcohol by volume.

“Most beers like your traditional IPA will use probably a half-pound of hops per barrel, somewhere in there, half to one depending on the beer. And so we’re really blowing those flavors out with that much hops. Some say it’s wasteful. We say it’s pretty good,” Bristol said of the triple IPA.

He said Arvon has churned out about 62 beer varieties in the last 18 months using nine tanks. Now equipped with 15 fermenters, a more efficient brewing system and nearly double the staff, patrons can expect much more.

“We’re planning on brewing four or five times a week, smaller batches so that we can explore various different hop varieties, different malts, different yeasts, to be able to really explore the different styles of IPAs, sours, stouts, so that there’s always something different that we’re doing and coming up with,” Bristol said.

Instead of a traditional food menu, Arvon is turning to Grand Rapids’ food trucks.

“We wanted to create different experiences for people coming in,” Bristol explained. “It’s going to be really great to be able to get different food and beer combinations rather than just having the same menu all the time.”

Other options: a specialty pretzel from Beecher’s Pretzels, beer cheese and whatever visitors want to bring in to eat.

For those who can’t make it to the grand opening, Arvon will be open at the following times:

  • Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Friday, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, noon – 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.

In the springtime, Arvon Brewing Co. plans to open a 12-seat beer garden in front of the taproom along Division Avenue.

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