Chris Michner passed on a stable career in accounting to brew beer, something he started as a hobby in college, hoping just to break even. A decade later, his Odd Side Ales has garnered national medals for the beer, grown to include canning operations and distribution throughout the Midwest, and an expanded a taproom just a block from the waterfront in downtown Grand Haven.
Housed in the historic Story & Clark Piano Company factory, Odd Side Ales started as a cozy brewery — the first in Coast Guard City — in a small space on the first floor. Now, the taproom has an immediate wow factor, taking up 7,000 square feet with Washington Avenue frontage, garage doors, outdoor seating and a Side Bar that serves coffee drinks.
“Back in 2010 there was no plans; it was just kind of break even,” Michner said. “There was no plan for a production facility or canning or any of that stuff.”
Michner said it took a while for the right factors to come together. The owner of two clothing stores decided to retire, and the owner of the former Coffee Grounds agreed to sell. Odd Side stayed open during the remodel and completed the pub’s expansion in May 2019.
New and old customers continue to walk in a little shocked when they see the large, open-concept taproom with seating for 500 people. The pub builds community year-round, harbors locals during the off-season, and draws tourists during Grand Haven’s peak summer months.
Odd Side’s taproom has more than 50 taps, offering over 40 beers plus house-made cocktails, hard ciders, wine, root beer, cold-brew coffee and iced tea. The Side Bar serves coffee and other beverages, attracting remote workers during the day and blending in with the pub at night.
“It’s been super cool,” said Front of House Operations Manager John Motz. “Part of what we’re all about is the engagement of the community, too. We’ve got this enormous space with these gigantic tables, and it’s all about a community feel. We can open at 6:30 in the morning and people can come for the coffee, and people come to work, and they come to hang out.”
As for the beer, Michner started out homebrewing during his years at Michigan State University, where he earned a master’s degree in accounting. He grew up in Holland and tested early recipes with childhood friend and college roommate Kyle Miller, who oversees the lab and quality control, and plenty of college friends.
The entire staff continues to come up with ideas for new beers — and memorable names. Odd Side Ales is known for its unique flavors that incorporate all sorts of ingredients: fruits, chocolate, coffee, bacon, maple syrup, peanut butter and more.
“The whole company is almost like a big think tank when it comes to that,” Motz said. “That’s the biggest thing we’re known for is kind of pushing the boundaries and trying to be creative and still, you know, do it in a quality way.”
Odd Side has a few flagship beers, but developing new ones is part of the fun. Odd Side brews everything from bourbon barrel-aged stouts to New England IPAs, traditional Belgium and French styles, fruity kettle sours and now hard seltzers.
Trends come and go, Michner said, and that includes more people wanting to buy a six-pack to drink at home or parties rather than sit at a brewery, prompting Odd Side Ales to expand its production facility and canning capacity.
The brewery took home two medals at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival, claiming gold for Sweet Potato Souffle Rye Ale and silver for Rye Hipster Brunch Stout in the specialty beer category. Rye Hipster Brunch Stout, probably the brewery’s best-known stout, won the gold medal in 2019. It is an imperial rye stout with coffee, maple, and bacon, aged in rye whiskey barrels.
The taproom constantly rotates its taps, and serves small-batch brews people won’t find in a can, which keeps it interesting and worth the trip to the pub. Visitors can take a peek at the original brewing equipment in the back corner, lounge on the couch and read, or play darts and board and arcade games.
Odd Side Ales doesn’t have its own kitchen but partners with area restaurants on delivery, and customers are welcome to bring in their own food.
ODD SIDE ALES
41 Washington Ave.
Summer taproom hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. Sundays.
(616) 935-7326; oddsideales.com