Friendly Neighbors: This Brewer & Distiller Are A Match

By Mayra Monroy on September 27th, 2015 / Comments

Leonard Street wasn’t always a booming road for businesses and the community alike. Downtown Grand Rapids and the craft beer enthusiasts seemed miles away from this stretch of road, but in 2012, Max Trierweiler and Chris Andrus saw an opportunity to jump on a business plan that would tie together their three loves: vintage baseball, beer, and pizza. The Mitten Brewing Company would take over Historic Engine House No. 9, a firehouse located at 527 Leonard Street NW, with a brewery to produce beer and a central location on Leonard Street to draw the crowd.

The Mitten’s choice in neighborhood would only flourish once the neighbors moved in, circa 2013. Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor founded Long Road Distillery and the company would take up residence in the building next door. Their natural, “no shortcut” techniques would bring in the neighborhood with their spirits and The Mitten’s brews. Long Road’s promise to support the resources of the state brought forth this collection of spirits that are proudly served to the Grand Rapids community and beyond, with an “honor [to] the craft.” Long Road Distillery also holds a title that draws the crowd: it’s the one and only legal distillery in the state of Michigan.

“Grand Rapids didn’t have a distillery,” says O’Connor. “[Kyle] and I had a little too much whiskey one night and we thought, ‘this is a great idea, let’s do it.’ Max and Chris [The Mitten] had become good friends of ours and we knew the investment they had made in the neighborhood that we love so much and it set the tone. The building next door became available and we thought what a great opportunity to have a synergy between a distillery and a brewery right next door to each other.”

“Breweries and distilleries go hand in hand,” says Trierweiler. “Geographically speaking, we probably have the closest relationship.”

There is no bad blood or the generic competitiveness between the businesses, as one might think. The Mitten and Long Road live in harmony and have been coming up with collaboration opportunities, some of which include creating the perfect beer cocktail but also a community building process.

“We could take some of their barrels once their whiskey is done and do whiskey-aged beers,” explains Trierweiler. “We innovate ourselves and are the first to do it.”

“I think the biggest collaboration to start, even before the beer and distilled spirits, is the collaboration of us working together in the neighborhood. We really believe in this neighborhood and we want to see it vibrant and thriving,” says O’Connor.

“There will be some opportunities in the near future for us to do some distillation of beer,” says O’Connor.

As for creating the perfect love child between the Brewery and the Distillery, O’Connor, Trierweiler, and Van Strien urge the public to just keep their eyes open for future collabs. With a mere few feet of road separating the two, Long Road and The Mitten are promising to not only introduce new drinks, but also to keep building the community.

About the Author

Mayra Monroy

Mayra Monroy

Mayra Monroy is studying communication and journalism at Aquinas College. A Texas native, she enjoys studying communication culture and the arts in West Michigan. She currently resides in Grand Rapids and works as a editor-in-chief for Aquinas’ collegiate student newspaper and a freelance journalist.