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Harmony's head brewer excited for expansion, new challenges on West Side

Benjamin Isbell, head brewer at Harmony Brewing, talks about the new opportunities to experiment with beer and expand their tap selections in the former Little Mexico.
The future site of Harmony Hall

The future site of Harmony Hall /Brandon Bartoszek

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Outdoor seating at the current Eastown location

Outdoor seating at the current Eastown location /Courtesy of Harmony Brewing Company

Harmony Brewing in Eastown

Harmony Brewing in Eastown /Emilee Andrews

Benjamin Isbell, head brewer at Harmony Brewing in Eastown, is excited to expand the space he has to brew in with the new brewery on the West Side, tentatively named "Harmony Hall." The seating available at Harmony Brewing in Eastown is less than a third the size of the space available in the former Little Mexico at 401 Stocking Avenue NW. The seating capacity for their Eastown location is 85, whereas there will be space for 300 in the West Side location. Brewing space will also expand- to double the capacity available in their current location.

In addition to the seating and brewing space expansion, Isbell says there were other things in play when Bear Manor Properties put a bid in on the West Side property and liquor license.

“Opening another business [on this side of town] is like dipping into your own business," Isbell says. "Little Mexico is close to Grand Valley. It’s a place that’s ripe for the picking." 

The new location will not be a simple extension of the already existing Harmony brewpub, however.

“The brewing aspect is going to be a separate entity in and of itself. We’ll be producing beer for both locations, but Harmony Hall will be its own,” says Isbell. “It’s not going to be the same as far as the restaurant goes. It’s going to be completely separate. The only similarity will be the beer going back and forth.”

Isbell says the theme and other menu decisions are still in the works. Nothing is set in stone yet on that, he says. 

Beer and food enthusiasts can look forward to new and creative offerings at Harmony Hall, where Isbell hopes to have room to feature other local beers alongside the chosen Harmony taps.

“On the West Side, we’ll be doing more of our standard beers and in Eastown, we’ll be doing more one-offs. I’m looking forward to [the challenge and] doing different things,” he says.

The taproom at Harmony Hall will allow for a much larger brewing system, about twice the size. That means more beer moving between the Eastown location and the West Side location.

“The bottom floor of the building will be all brewing area. The bottom floor of Little Mexico as you know it [is going to be completely changed],” Isbell says.

Bear Manor Properties, a three sibling team comprised of Barry and Jackson VanDyke and Heather VanDyke-Titus, specializes in "responsible real estate:" the practice of buying vacant buildings to improve the community. That practice, says Isbell, was put into action in the location choice for Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown, which occupies a previously vacant building that had been empty for over a decade. Their latest acquisition, Little Mexico, holds the promise of more space, while bringing a new face to the makeup of the West Side.

“They go into areas that haven’t been developed and try to help develop that. Instead of abandoned buildings, [the owners of Bear Manor Properties want] to put something there,” says Isbell.

Harmony Hall hopes to open in the later part of this year.

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