The Rapidian Home

Elk Brewing envisions future as go-to neighborhood brewpub

Eric Karns is the owner and brewmaster of newly opened Elk Brewing. He talks about his hopes for the brewery and doing what he loves: brewing beer.

Check out Elk Brewing this Friday

This Friday, June 27, Elk Brewing will be hosting a Night Out for The Rapidian from 3-9 p.m.

Check out the new brewery and support The Rapidian at the same time! Every beer purchased will receive a $.50 donation from Elk!



Beers On Tap

  • Hefeweizen
  • ESB
  • IPA
  • Porter
  • Scotch Ale
  • Black IPA 


Also Available

  • Peanuts
  • Pretzels
  • Faygo Soda 
  • Delivery from Jonny B'z
Eric Karns, left, head brewer and owner, and Beau Debruyny, right, assistant brewer of Elk Brewing

Eric Karns, left, head brewer and owner, and Beau Debruyny, right, assistant brewer of Elk Brewing /Emilee Andrews

Elk Brewing's place in the Mitten

Elk Brewing's place in the Mitten /Emilee Andrews

The bar at Elk Brewing

The bar at Elk Brewing /Emilee Andrews

Eric Karns started brewing beer on a whim, when his wife bought him a brewing kit for his birthday. Today, he owns and operates Elk Brewing Co., a brewery that had its grand opening on May 1. 

"I [started] brewing nine years ago. About two years after I started brewing, I started making good beer. It seems like it took me a long time to make really good beer," Karns says. 

Karns has owned the building for three years now but there were some obstacles, mainly financial, to overcome. 

“It’s been a long road. We’re not serving food, so it was just hard for banks to figure out what we were doing or where to categorize us. We ended up going with private investors and that’s how we ended up getting most of our financing and it’s worked out great,” Karns says. “Everything went more smoothly [after] working with investors.”

The most important part of Elk Brewing, and the ultimate goal for Karns, is to have the brewery become deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Wealthy Street neighborhood. The sense of community and being a part of it was a large part of the motivation for opening the brewpub.

“We wanted to open a brewpub that’s more of a local brewpub, [a place] where people can walk to it and have a few beers. We want to be a part of the neighborhood we’re in," says Karns. "We’re small enough to become a local brewpub, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want everyone in Grand Rapids and outside of it to come see us.”

Karns is proud to be a part of the local business district around him as well.

“We’ve got some great businesses around our building. People that live here can pretty much be self-sustained and that’s what’s really cool. There’s a grocery store, some restaurants and now the brewpub,” he says.

What Karns is most excited about, though, is the beer and sharing his recipes with people that truly love craft beer as much as he does. All the beer on tap at the brewery is of Karns’ own invention, and he has plenty in store for the future.

“We have six beers on tap now, and five of them will be on there every time you come in. The hefeweizen is seasonal. It’s a summer ale, but we may make it in the winter if it sounds good,” he says.

Before Karns opened Elk Brewing, he was a homebrewer, but homebrewing wasn’t as prevalent when he started as it is now.

“I only recently joined a club. They just weren’t around as much when I started. But it’s great there are so many now. If you can bounce off questions from veteran brewers, I think that’s an amazing thing," says Karns. 

The first beer Karns brewed well, he says, was a Porter of his own recipe, and it was the beer he served at his wedding. “That’s actually where the name for Elk came from: Eric Lisa Karns, E.L.K.,” he says.

To this day, the Porter he brews is his favorite beer both to brew and drink. He loves to get creative with brewing as well.

“In Grand Rapids, you can’t afford to be like everybody else. You gotta make your beer different.” That’s where his creativity in the kitchen helps him.

“I’ve always liked to cook and I’ve always liked beer, so it’s a good fit. I love to be able to take something and come up with a beer that’s really good. It's an awesome feeling,” says Karns.

There are many things in the works for Karns and Elk Brewing, including some smaller batches of limited release beers and weekly live music. In the meantime, they have a large patio which gives a combined capacity for inside and outside of 200 people, board games and yard games. Since they don't serve food, guests are encouraged to bring their own.  

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.


Great article Emilee. Thanks for highlighting a local business that appreciates community