In addition to entertaining ears with live music, Cellar Brewing Company's dedicated staff fills glasses with libations fresh from its microbrewery, winery, and artisan distillery. The restaurant's plush, leather sofas sit beneath its rust-hued ceiling, and at a blond-wood bar, bartenders serve house brews and signature cocktails, mixed with their top-shelf liquors. A glass of stout awakens taste buds craving a darker brew, and the cellar's servers pluck bottles of Michigan Apple Delight wine directly from in-house wine trees.
The sommeliers of the recently opened Rogue River Winery, under the management of Jay Johnson, want their guests to learn about and love wine as much as they do, even providing do's and don’ts of wine drinking on their website. They fill appropriate glassware with blends created on the premises, which are perched atop the wooded banks of the Rogue River, and also pour notable wines and sangria from neighboring Michigan vineyards. A tasting room with burgundy walls, a reflective double-sided bar, and soft contemporary lighting welcome guests for leisurely wine-and-cheese tastings, and visitors can also enjoy a spacious outdoor patio. The winery also hosts corporate events, as well as bachelorette parties where brides-to-be can blend their own wine.
Michiganders looking for local flavors might find more than they expected in Rockford Brewing Company's fleet of beers. In addition to being brewed locally, the team works closely with West Michigan farmers to source seasonally fresh ingredients for their creations. These flavors come to fruition in such beers as the Raspberry Duality, brewed with 150 pounds of handpicked raspberries and no artificial flavorings, and the Obsession beer, which is a session rye pale ale. The tasting room features much of the woody character of its beers, with guests sitting at Bavarian communal seating and filling its speakers with a soundtrack of radial saws.
Cherries from Michigan bedeck rainbow trout from a farm in Harrietta. Mrs. Dog’s Disappearing Mustard, from Grand Rapids, drapes across sausage made from lamb raised on a family farm in McBain. Though many of the ingredients at Bar Divani are local, the chefs draw culinary influences from around the world. They dunk Bay of Fundy salmon in walnuts and apple horseradish relish, and combine dollops of aged cheddar-cheese grits with small plates of cajun-spiced black tiger shrimp. The trio of lamb sliders prance through a range of flavors, from sweet cinnamon honey yogurt to pickled carrot and pistachio butter.
The earthy scent of simmering bourbon barbecue sauce suits the warmly hued dining room, where light dances off rich wooden accents. An illuminated wine cellar showcases 40 varieties, allowing patrons to find the ideal pairing for any dish or discretely cheat through the Wine Connoisseur Weekly crossword. Servers cut among bronze columns beneath exposed-brick walls, leaving a wake of aromas that hint at alligator and exotic grains of paradise as they visit curved booths swaddled in ornate fabrics.
January 30, 2013 was a big milestone for the team at Cranker's Restaurant & Brewery. The date marked the release of their first-ever bourbon-barrel-aged beer, appropriately titled the Barrel #1 Bourbon Porter. But Cranker's taps were no strangers to innovative beer or the high-pitched squeals of happy pint glasses. The brewery had already racked up awards at the World Expo of Beer for their Professor IPA, Crankenstein Amber Lager, 5th Voyage Coconut Porter, and Honey Kolsch.
That last brew, the Honey Kolsch, is the beer of choice when ordering a basket of Cranker's fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce. Indeed, the bartenders and servers are always happy to make beer-pairing suggestions for their homey entrees. For Detroit-style coney dogs, for instance, they recommend their Bulldog Red Irish Ale. Or if diners show up early, they pour Oakenshield Stout to go with eggs, sausage, and other breakfast staples. They also have the perfect substitute should diners want a less potent beverage: a cool glass of homemade root beer, either served by itself or as a float.
Jaden James Brewery isn't the Bonga family's first foray into the world of sippable fermentation. In the same space where they now create specialty beers, they've spent years crafting wines from the fruits of Michigan's bountiful vineyards and orchards.
"So many people come for the wine, but we often get one half of a couple who says, 'I like beer,'" says Bob Bonga. The brewery's current selection includes a cream ale to be savored between bites of pretzels, a Russian Imperial Stout, and an oatmeal porter that Bob characterizes as "wonderfully dark, with roasted tones of chocolate and coffee." The juice of apples harvested in northwest Grand Rapids goes into hard ciders.
The family also prepares a short list of snacks for visitors. In the future, the Bongas may grow their menu further by distilling their own liquors.