Voted Best Beer Town, Best Beer Scene, and Beer City, USA, the Grand Rapids area is surrounded by more than 80 breweries. Ever wonder how this river city obtained its reputation for beer?

In the second installment exploring breweries that established Grand Rapids as Beer City, USA, we focus on B.O.B.’s Brewery.

The B.O.B. stands for "Big Old Building."

The B.O.B. stands for "Big Old Building."

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids

What is The B.O.B.?

Beneath one of the central buildings of downtown Grand Rapids sits one of the city’s oldest breweries.

In the basement of the Big Old Building, or The B.O.B., is B.O.B.’s Brewery, which has operated since the collection of entertainment venues opened up in 1997 across the street from Van Andel Arena.

B.O.B.’s Brewery was one of several breweries that opened across the nation during the late 1990s microbrew surge. B.O.B.’s Brewery was the first microbrewery in downtown Grand Rapids, and it has outlasted some other early breweries, like the former Arena Brewing Company.

Sip on craft beer in B.O.B.'s Brewery's intimate, cozy space.
B.O.B.'s Brewery

Sip on craft beer in B.O.B.'s Brewery's intimate, cozy space.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids

Who Brews the Beer?

Brewer John Svoboda, also widely known as “Brewer John,” has helmed B.O.B.’s Brewery’s brewing operation for more than a decade. Svoboda’s unique creations are served throughout the building’s many restaurants and bars, which includes Bobarinos, Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club, Eve, Gilly’s Smokehouse, H.O.M.E., and Judson’s Steakhouse.

“I am astonished and amazed at the influx of creativity and challenges, in terms of making beer, presented to me,” Svoboda said of the brewing industry changes over the years. “If I have a claim to fame, it’d be that I’m old. I didn’t think I knew it all, but I didn’t know anything.”

Svoboda, formerly a science teacher, evolved his love of beer as a bartender at Grand Rapids Brewing Co. (GRBC), back when it was located on 28th Street. Svoboda went on to brew at GRBC before making his journey to B.O.B.’s Brewery. During his time at The B.O.B., Svoboda has seen B.O.B.’s Brewery grow alongside Grand Rapids’ reputation for beer.

I am astonished and amazed at the influx of creativity and challenges, in terms of making beer.

Why Visit the Brewery?

Some of the more unique beers made at B.O.B.’s Brewery include Peanut Butter Porter and Spaceboy Stout. Other beers like Blondie Golden Ale, Crimson King Amber Ale, Full On IPA, and Wit Rabbit provide a strong base lineup appealing to every beer drinker.

B.O.B.’s Brewery’s beers are only available within The B.O.B., so a visit to the downtown facility is the only way to get a taste of some of Beer City’s original brews. You can bring your favorite brews home with you by purchasing a growler while you’re at the brewery or putting together your own four-pack of 22 oz. bottles or 16 oz. cans.

Food is also available at the brewery, including small bar snacks, shareable plates, barbecue plates, burgers and sandwiches, and entrees like ancho cabbage steak and smokehouse mac and cheese.

Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the brewery’s laid back atmosphere is a contrast to much of the rest of The B.O.B.’s bustling restaurants and amenities.

Fact: B.O.B.'s Brewery's craft beers are only offered within The B.O.B.'s restaurants.

Fact: B.O.B.'s Brewery's craft beers are only offered within The B.O.B.'s restaurants.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids

Fans of B.O.B.’s Brewery can become members of its Mug Club with a $35 annual fee. It comes with a slew of benefits, including a free T-shirt and $2 off pints on Mug Club Night every Thursday. Other perks include $1 off every other day, 50 percent off growler fills on Mondays at The B.O.B., 20 percent off brewery merchandise, and 2 for 1 Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club tickets.

B.O.B.’s Brewery doesn’t offer tours, but the brewing equipment is visible from the bar, beyond a pane of glass where Svoboda can be seen brewing his next creation.

Head to B.O.B.’s Brewery during Beer Month GR and try one of their Cool Brews. Hot Eats. (CBHE) features. CBHE is a month-long celebration from February 15-March 15, featuring specials on craft beer and food pairings in Grand Rapids. Park nearby at the Ottawa-Fulton Ramp or the Louis-Campau Ramp.

What’s your favorite beer offered at B.O.B.’s Brewery? Let us know in the comments.

For more information on local breweries that also offer unique food and craft beer experiences, visit our list of beer events, and be sure to grab a Beer City Brewsader passport or download the app. A visit to B.O.B’s Brewery counts towards your Brewsader (stamps at eight breweries) or Ultimate Brewsader (stamps at 40 breweries) status!

Breweries That Built Beer City logo jpeg

About the Breweries That Built Beer City series: Grand Rapids first earned the title Beer City USA in 2012, when there were far fewer breweries than the 40+ currently on the Beer City Ale Trail. This blog series focuses on those early pioneers – breweries that built an industry from the ground up starting in 1997 and firmly established the city’s reputation for world-class craft beer.

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