Nicholas Scott knew he was on to something when he unlocked the door to Wild Side Brewing Co. on St. Patrick’s Day for a soft opening.
“I could only see three people standing there, but the line wrapped around the building,” Scott said. “I got hit in the face immediately.”
At one point, Wild Side was operating out of Scott’s pole barn on his Bowling Green property. He would sell his barrel-aged fruit ales to syndicate members to fund his brewery in exchange for limited releases and other perks.
Nick Scott, owner of Wild Brewing in Grand Rapids, says he's converting people one drink at a time.
But the business plan changed when he found Wild Side’s new location on Front Street in downtown Grand Rapids. His first day for the tasting room — the soft opening — was on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Downtown Grand Rapids is really crafty, a lot of boutique stores. It’s beautiful and the river and park draw people to town in the summer. It’s really a little town inside a big park,” Scott said. “But nothing is open past 8:30 or 9 o’clock. People have to drive 25 miles to get a beer, and there is no live entertainment.”
Wild Side has changed that. It will be open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. There will be live entertainment every Friday and Saturday.
It’s the beer that makes Wild Side truly unique. When he was producing beer on his property, Scott would use fruit that he had grown. With a tasting room, it has been impossible for him to grow produce fast enough to support the business, but he still gets his strawberries, cherries, apricots, and barley locally.
He has several local guest taps, but he rotates his wild fruit ales frequently. Last week, he had Sugar Kriek, a wine barrel, cherry wild ale; Brynn, a cherry and currant wild ale, and a hibiscus and lemon saison.
“We’ll get people in here who say they are not into craft beer, so I’ll start them with something approachable [from a guest tap]. I’ll start them nice and easy, then slide something weird in front of them,” Scott said, chuckling. “If I can get people past the third sip, then I have a chance. Your palette just isn’t ready the first couple sips, but then it really opens up to new flavors. I’m converting people one drink at a time.”
He has also had to convert his wife, Noelle, when it comes to going all in with the business. In January, Scott quit a full-time job to work full-time on his private venture.
“I’ve slowly dragged [Noelle] reluctantly into this business. She gave me the pole barn for my brewing hobby, which was a big victory. But when this got rolling downhill, it couldn’t be stopped,” Scott said. “She’s the stable, level-headed person in the relationship. I’m the guy who’s just like, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
But the big crowds, especially on Saturday, have slowly won her over. The couple has two daughters: Reese, 3, and Brynn, 1½. Noelle is expecting a son in May.
“It’s a lot of hours. It has been all about finding that balance between this and having two kids and one on the way. Noelle is getting more pregnant by the second. I’ll put the kids to bed at 8:30, then head down here to work.”
That hard work will be celebrated beginning April 20, with a series of grand opening parties. Wild Side’s first public bottle release will follow about a month later on May 27. Until April 20, soft opening hours can be found on Wild Side’s Facebook page.
“There are some people who are set in their ways and don’t want to try different beer. That’s fine. They can have some of our other local beers. But for people who want to step out of the box, we have beer to try,” Scott said. “We have been changing a lot of minds.”
Catawba Island brewery is on the way
A second brewery is coming to the Catawba Island-Port Clinton area. Twin Oast Brewing is hoping to open by the end of May, co-owner Cory Smith said.
The brewery will be on the Smith’s 60-acre farm on Northeast Catawba Road and will use fruit, including apricots and peaches, from the family’s orchards.
“We have a farm-to-fermenter philosophy. Our overarching mission is to keep Catawba Island agricultural and preserve green space,” Smith said. “Rather than putting up more condos, we want to utilize the farm. A brewery seems to be a perfect fit.”
Additional information about the brewery, including fund-raising efforts, can be found on its Facebook and Instagram pages or at its website, twinoast.com.
Hens celebrate opener with beer festival
The Mud Hens will be hosting Opening Day Brewfest on Thursday at the Home Run Terrace inside Fifth Third Field from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event includes a ticket to the game against Pawtucket, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and 12 3-ounce beer samples from local and regional brewers.
For ticket information, call 419-725-HENS or go online at hensvilletoledo.com.
Cleveland brewpub named nation’s best
Cleveland’s Collision Bend Brewing Co. has been voted America’s top brewpub in a fan poll in USA Today.
The brewery’s beer list is lengthy, including top sellers Lake Erie Sunset, a blood orange American wheat, and Old River Kolsch, a German-style amber ale. The double IPA, Gullnado, is solid. And there is also a grisette, similar to a saison, named Miner’s Lady. It is definitely worth trying.
Unlike traditional brewpubs, Collision Bend’s food menu is much deeper than wings and chips. There is a full appetizer menu, but also full-course dinners such as a delicious roasted eggplant melt, salmon, stuffed chicken, sauerkraut balls, and a lengthy list of pizzas.
Collision Bend is an anchor in the revitalized East Bank of the Flats entertainment district. Around the corner, is a large Thirsty Dog tasting room, which opened last year and has at least two dozen Thirsty Dog brews on tap. A restaurant backed by country group Rascal Flatts is scheduled to open soon nearby.
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