GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — German beer and gemütlichkeit are now flowing inside a new beer hall on Grand Rapids’ West Side.

Küsterer Brauhaus began its soft opening phase Tuesday, giving staff a week to smooth out operations before the Aug. 16 grand opening.

The Munich-style beer hall has been a yearslong labor of love for Cedar Springs Brewing Company owner Dave Ringler who lived in Germany as an exchange student and spent about five years of his career there.

(In this Aug. 8, 2022 photo, Küsterer Brauhaus owner David Ringler points out German and brewing memorabilia he incorporated into the new beer hall’s bar top.)

“(I) just fell in love with the culture and some of the atmosphere. And a lot of that was conversations that took place in little beer halls like this. And when I moved back home, I wanted to share a little bit of that atmosphere and that culture that I fell in love with when I was over there with my home in West Michigan,” Ringler said.

Ringler envisioned a brauhaus in Grand Rapids even before he founded Cedar Springs Brewing Company back in 2015. After several years, he found his chance inside an empty storefront on Bridge Street between Gold and Lexington avenues.

‘AN ODYSSEY’ TO OPENING

The building at 642 Bridge St. NW originally operated in 1914 as the Alcazar Theater, according to the Grand Rapids Historical Commission. Over the decades, the site went through a series of ownership and name changes, becoming the Roosevelt Theater, then the Town Theater and Cinema Tropical before transforming into a grocery store then a church space. The storefront was vacant when Ringler first stepped through its doors more than three years ago.

(A 1988 real estate card provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library Historical Archives shows 642 Bridge St. NW in Grand Rapids.)

“I just love the arches. When you walk in and you see the arched ceiling and the natural skylights, I mean that’s what really reminded me of one of my favorite halls over there (in Germany). I kind of walked in and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s just like this place.’ And it just got my juices flowing, the wheels turning. So that’s really what… started the whole thing.”

(Left: A 2020 photo shows 642 Bridge St. NW before renovations. Right: An August 2022 photo shows the completed Küsterer Brauhaus.)

Ringler originally hoped to open his beer hall in late 2020 but the pandemic had other plans. Delays in construction, getting the German brewing system in house, other supply chain issues, worker shortages and obtaining the necessary approvals stretched out the opening to August.

“Obviously it’s been a bit of an odyssey, but we’re excited to get there,” Ringler said. “Everything is worth the wait. We’re really excited about to show people what we’ve done.”

BRINGING BAVARIA TO GRAND RAPIDS

Since News 8’s visit in October 2020, contractors poured new concrete floors, repaired the roof, installed new lighting, built out restrooms and added a bar and custom seating for 80 guests that features the Küsterer Brauhaus emblem burned into its wood.

“Everything here is new but hopefully it won’t look like it,” Ringler said.

Ringler says the décor and atmosphere are inspired by Ober Bayern or Upper Bavaria, which centers on Munich.

(A pair of red lederhosen hangs from the wall near a collection of steins at Küsterer Brauhaus in Grand Rapids.)

“(As Americans) most of what we think of… as German is actually Bavarian. So when you’re thinking beer halls, oompah band, lederhosen, this kind of thing, this is all part of Bavarian culture. Other regions of Germany don’t do that, don’t really have some of those traditions,” Ringler explained.

(In this Aug. 8, 2022 photo, Küsterer Brauhaus owner David Ringler points out German and brewing memorabilia he incorporated into the new beer hall’s bar top.)

Touches of Germany hug the surfaces of Küsterer Brauhaus, including flags and flooring that mimic the historical Bavarian flag’s diamond pattern, but in red and white to represent Cedar Springs. Some of Ringler’s collection of Bavarian steins line the walls. Küsterer Brauhaus also features lockers that’ll hold about 100 one-liter steins.

(David Ringler holds up a club member stein he pulled from the locker at Küsterer Brauhaus in Grand Rapids.)

“In a lot of beer halls over there, you would have a place where you can rent your stein and you have it right in a locker there, so when you show up, your mug is waiting for you. And this’ll be a no different. So for folks who choose to take advantage of that, they’d be able to have their own full mass, which is a one-liter mug, stored here. And they can fill it with a little nourishment,” Ringler said.

Küsterer Brauhaus has a brewing system separate from its sister brewery, Cedar Springs Brewing Company. Batches made in the Fronhofer system will be smaller, allowing for more experimentation.

“We’ll try to mix it up here,” Ringler said.

(Taps display the German beers available at Küsterer Brauhaus in Grand Rapids.)

Stammtisch members can enjoy Küsterer Brauhaus’ “liquid bread” at the group’s Stammtisch — a table built with coasters Ringler collected over the last two to three decades during his travels. There’s also traditional seating and long tables that were all built locally, according to Ringler.

“Beer halls and drinking places were the social media of their day. This is where people met and had conversations and caught up with friends. Part of the atmosphere here is to foster some of that conversation, so you may sit with somebody that you don’t know, and hopefully, by the end of your first half liter, you’ve made a new friend,” Ringler said.

(This Aug. 8, 2022 photo shows the Stammtisch for Küsterer Brauhaus club members.)

ON THE MENU

Küsterer Brauhaus’ homage to the German Bavarian culture also extends to how its beer is brewed.

“We’re drinking a Reinheitsgebot award-winning German Bavarian-style beer, so that’s a big part of it as well. And really the big difference there — we use four ingredients in all of our beers. So our beer is malt, water hops, yeast, that’s it. And so the entire rainbow of flavors that you’re getting from the glass here is really coming from a different combination and a little, a brewhouse magic with those four ingredients,” Ringler explained.

(An Aug. 8, 2022 photo shows the bar view from Küsterer Brauhaus’ Stammtisch.)

In addition to the Küsterer beers customers may recognize from Cedar Springs Brewing Company, the new beer hall will launch its own West Side Ale.

“That is a dampf bier, which is a historical 19th Century German beer, so that will be something a little different,” Ringler said.

Küsterer Brauhaus also serves up German deli-style shareable foods that’ll change daily, as well as its own spirits and wine.

BEER CITY USA’S ORIGIN STORY REVISITED

In a nod to local beer culture, Küsterer Brauhaus is named for Christoph Küsterer, a German immigrant who arrived in Grand Rapids in 1844 and teamed up with the only other brewer in town to open a brewery on the city’s West Side.

Bridge Street’s own Swift Printing created the mural of Küsterer and his team that hangs above the Brauhaus bar.

(A mural of Christoph Küsterer covers the back bar wall at Küsterer Brauhaus in Grand Rapids.)

“It’s really a wonderful melting pot now, but there were a number of German beer halls and breweries on this West Side stretch back in that day. And we’re really only a few blocks from the original Küsterer brewery on the other side of the river… prior to Prohibition. That location eventually became the original Grand Rapids Brewing Company,” Ringler said.

History may be repeating itself. Five breweries now operate in the area, with Broad Leaf Brewery slated to join the mix this fall just a couple of blocks east of Küsterer Brauhaus.

(Owner David Ringler rolls up the front window to Küsterer Brauhaus in Grand Rapids.)

“Some of the brewers here, we’ve kind of banded together to create a brewery alley down here where this really is your craft destination on the West Side,” Ringler said.

Küsterer Brauhaus will also be a destination for soccer fans, broadcasting the German Bundesliga and World Cup this fall.

WHAT’S NEXT

Küsterer Brauhaus’ grand opening celebration starts at 3 p.m. on Aug. 16. To start, the business will be open six days a week, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and longer hours on weekends, opening at noon on Saturdays.

Ringler’s goal is to eventually open the beer hall seven days a week and add live music. He hopes to eventually add a catering service and become a participating brewery in Bridge Street’s social district.

“I think it’s a tremendously exciting to what is happening here on the West Side,” Ringler said. “It’s a great community.”