Old Boys’ Brewhouse
971 West Savidge Street
Spring Lake, Michigan
Visited on August 4, 2012
As I mentioned in the Odd Side Brewing review, I picked the worst possible weekend to visit Grand Haven for their breweries. The annual Coast Guard Festival draws some 100,000 people for a week-long series of shenanigans into a town built for 30,000.
Luckily, Old Boys’ Brewing is more than up to the task.
Having sat in their giant location for 15 years, they have plenty of production facilities to keep up with whatever demand might hit them. So on this busy, busy weekend following a busy, busy week, they still had 10 beers on tap in ample supply.
The beers here are everything I’ve come to expect from a Michigan microbrewery. Every sample was true to style, and expertly produced. No off-flavors, no weird additives, just straight-up expertly crafted brews. That’s not to say that they were boring, though. It’s tough to pick a favorite, as every beer was very tasty, though nothing really blew my mind. Perhaps the best of the bunch was their standard IPA, which features Centennial hops (I think) to give the beer a wonderful, floral and citrus taste that I prefer in my IPAs. Also of note was their 15th Anniversary Pale Ale, which I initially thought was a very good IPA. But no, at 5%, this guy is a wonderful regular pale. Almost everything was over 6%, which might be why I liked them so much. Even the “lighter” styles of kolsch and wheat were pretty flavorful and enjoyable.
As for the food, it’s a bit pricey but worth it. Most sandwiches come in above the $9 mark, and the entrees or pizza will set you back at least $15. However, they might have the best perch I’ve ever tasted. Granted, I didn’t pony up for the full perch platter, but the sandwich at least was the best of the style I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot, coming from a guy whose family owned a boat on Lake Erie and pulled in their own fresh perch on a weekly basis. Oh, and it came with an awesome side of cheesy mashed potatoes, which I’d put right up there with any fine dining restaurant I’ve been to.
Now, allow me to comment on just how big of a difference good service can have on a first impression. The beer might not have tasted so good and the perch might not have been quite so perfect if the service hadn’t been absolutely awesome. True, I was pretty much the only guy in the place, but the bartender quickly figured out I was in town just for the breweries simply by asking a couple of easy questions when I sat down. Once there, he treated me to an extra couple of samples, called over to Odd Side Ales to make sure they were open and had beer, and steered me in the direction of the perch sandwich when I originally was thinking barbecue.
Add to that a little light conversation, and it was quite an enjoyable experience. I didn’t even bother to pull out the computer I’d brought for entertainment while I was there.
All in all, this brewpub easily falls within the top 10 to 20 percent of places I’ve been to. And if I hadn’t lived in Michigan or been so close to the West Coast – and thus had been spoiled by all the amazing breweries in those states – it would easily have blown me completely away. But since I have been to all of those top tier establishments, this place settles into the upper echelons of the second tier.