Connecting with others
Whether it’s traveling to other Michigan breweries to trade 144 pounds of hops at a time, listening to some of the other big players in town share their advice, or just sitting down for a beer with fellow brewers, the Mitten staff treasures the bonds made with other beer professionals in West Michigan. Brewery Vivant
is especially inspiring, Evans said, as they’ve been a leader in the sustainability charge for years now.
“They’re trying to inspire people to be better neighbors and better to the earth, and even promote local business,” Evans said of Vivant. “They’ve got great sustainability ideas and work with numbers to show cow neutrality (how many burgers consumed vs. how many cows fed with the brewery’s spent grain). It’s really inspiring to see. These people are doing it, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing it.”
Rockford Brewing Company
’s Seth Rivard is a member of the local Beer City committee
admin team, giving him a view from 30,000 feet when it comes to the brewing community. He said West Michigan businesses in general, and moreover the breweries, have long worked together.
“There has always been a brotherhood of sorts between all of us,” Rivard said. “Not only has it has been mutually-beneficial to do so from a business-standpoint, but there is this overall feeling of being a part of something really cool and exciting, something that we are all equally passionate about, that drives us all to hang-out together and talk beer.”
Evans sends an email blast out to the 300 mug club members every so often and entreats them for help. Recently, Mitten took on the task of helping clean up
the West Leonard neighborhood with along with Rockford Brewing and several other Westside organizations.
“Any little thing helps and our mug club group is very involved. If you just ask them to do something, there’s a good chance that even 5 percent of them will say, ‘Why not?’” Evans said. “A lot of our mug club members are from the Westside neighborhood, so if they go out and just clean up their neighborhood, that’ll do.”
The next aim is to get the members and Mitten staff to help a nonprofit or neighborhood project at on a regular basis, Evans said.
“The community involvement group’s numbers are great but numbers only do so much,” he said. “We’re trying to get our staff and our mug club out and preferably volunteer at a nonprofit at least once a month.”
The brewery is fostering mentorship and helping its staff move on to bigger and better things through its employee internship placement program.
Evans said it’s unlikely that any cook or server at Mitten intends to stay in that position all their lives; they’re typically in college and trying to make a career of their own. Mitten wants to help them get that career started, and more importantly help start it in Grand Rapids. When a Mitten staff member has been employed there for six months, Evans and team gets to know more about the employee’s career aspirations and specific skill set with the intention of placing them in a valued position on another local team.
“We’re starting to really cultivate relationships with OST
and Rockford Construction
and Ferris Coffee
and all these other bigger companies on the west side,” he said. “They love the idea of saying, “we need an intern, Pat,” and I’ll look at what they might deal with—marketing or sales possibly—and I’ll direct them to a great employee at Mitten who is really good at that.”
The Mitten team shares its passion for being a good neighbor with other businesses on the Westside, and it’s starting to create valuable partnerships.
“We’re trying to be OST’s source of beer and food and interns and they’ll help us with all our community projects,” Evans said. “We’re just trying to be good neighbors and become one of the great Westside businesses.”
Mitten Brewing allows a group of investors to pick a nonprofit organization each month and then markets the opportunity to customers, setting aside a portion of its monthly sales and 50 percent of the food receipts the last Monday of every month for the chosen NPO.
“Last year we raised more than $30,000 for the area nonprofits, which is great for our first year being open,” Evans said. “This year, we’re going to shoot for more than that.”
With the “barrel grant” program, a new philanthropic idea the brewery is trying out, Mitten will add a dollar from every barrel sold to a monthly pot, typically adding up to over $500. Students or other interested community members can apply for the grant by submitting a project proposal, and the Mitten staff will vote on which project most deserves to be funded.