Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What To Expect From The Green Well Experience

Written by  Angela Steil
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Green Well Pub

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Berg and Bobby Randall at the Green Well, located at 924 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.
I had eaten at this establishment about 2 years ago, but all I knew then was that there was a plethora of fresh and tasty food options and craft beer to compliment it all. What I found out the other day in my interview was that the Green Well is not only a great dining option for us Rapidians, but it is one of the leaders of our culture when it comes to promoting sustainable farming practices and environmentally friendly venues.

What I’ve shown below are some of my questions and the answers I received from Doug and Bobby. It is obvious that they are intentional with their actions and that they know who they are as a venue and how and why they should help promote quality via food, drink, and service. Plus, I ate some of the food and it was DELICIOUS.

Tell me about the Green Well logo. The Green Well has two logos. One is a small bird that they use for marketing and promotion, but they also have a hanging sign displayed outside. It’s an image of two men, one with a beer and one with a loaf of bread. Together they are looking at the ‘bounty’ of food coming from the ‘green well’. Next to them is a small black bird, which I’m assuming is where the frequently used bird logo comes from.

Do you feel that by being LEED® Certified that you are encouraging restaurants in the area to be environmentally friendly? “We hope that we are showing others that it can be done.” says Doug. For example, Jason from Brewery Vivant across the street was inspired by the Green Well, and since then Vivant has taken huge steps to become an environmentally friendly establishment. The Green Well likes to consult with other restaurants about the LEED® certification, and they are always willing to answer questions that other establishments in the area have.

Brewery Vivant is right across the street. Have you thought about doing a beer dinner with them in the future? “We have done a few events with them in the past, such as charity giveaways.” They look forward to putting together a summer event with them sooner than later. Actually, the Grove, Brewery Vivant, and the Green Well have all worked together in the past on several events.

There are some inconveniences that come with having an establishment that focuses on local products. What are some of those challenges and how do you think they will improve? “Getting more people involved is the difficult part now, but if more of them get involved, it’ll be easier and hopefully cheaper for us.” Currently, they have farmers who talk to the chefs and let them know what is available and then ask what they’d like them to plant for the next year. It’s a constant conversation that the Green well is actively a part of.

“The more influence we have in the restaurant, the more influence we have in the community. Aspirational goals: to help strengthen the local food system, by creating an honest dining experience”

Does your menu change often to keep up with seasonal ingredients? “As often as possible.” They are also looking to expand on the variety of products they get from their farmers. In terms of your wine and beer selections: Why do you feel it is important to focus on local products? (quality and support for community?) “It fits into the overall aesthetic and DNA of who we are. Eighteen of our local drafts are Michigan beers.” The Green Well recognizes that in order to have quality ingredients and keep up with being an environmentally conscious venue, they need to source local beverages just as they do with food to avoid the environmental waste involved with logistics.

There has been a renaissance with craft beer for the past few years. Do you have more guests asking questions about your beer selection because of this? “We see more and more people asking questions. A much larger demographic then it was 7 years ago when we started.” In what ways do you train your staff so they can answer customer questions about wine and beer choices? “Everyday training. For new staff members, there is an intensive 3 week training program.” They put their focus on styles of beer and wine and appropriate suggestions for guests looking to pair their beverage with food. Occasionally educators come in, like wine reps, but Doug is also a Certified Sommelier so he is very helpful when it comes to educating his staff. They say that the employees are incredibly enthusiastic and willing to go above and beyond so they can make conscious suggestions for their guests.

Are there plans to implement a beer and food pairing suggestion for the menu? The Green Well staff wants to have more of a challenge to explain the dish and the pairing options instead of having it spelled out for them. It creates better conversation between the restaurant and the guests.

Do you participate in tap takeovers? Only sometimes. There is simply not enough room at the bar to cultivate that kind of gathering.

What inspired the decision to feature your recipes on your website? “We want to engage guests and be transparent. People ask for recipes daily. We want to give them an appreciation for what the Green Well is doing.”

There is a big emphasis on canned beers, which you talk a bit about on your menu. Tell me about it. Cans are environmentally friendly and promote better quality beer because of its advantageous storage capacities. The Green Well feels that we should be paying more intention to not just the quality of the product, but the packaging of products.

Any last thoughts you’d like to share? “We’re not just about food and restaurants, we want to be active parts of the community.” The Green Well features local artists and their work in the restaurant. When the artwork is sold, 10% of art proceeds are donated to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the Green Well then matches that to add to the donation. “We hope that adds value to the people who work here”

“It’s the people who work here who do the promotion for us because they care.”

And why shouldn’t they? The Green Well has proven that they are geared towards education and promotion of a better quality of life through intention and a want to improve the community as a whole.

Angela Steil

Angela Steil

Angela Steil is a Certified Cicerone® who returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan after spending three years studying in New York City and Los Angeles. Engaged as a writer in the beer world, Angela is an educator for those who wish to know more about all things beer, and coordinates beer and food pairings and dinners premised on sensory reward for the adventurous and curious. She is a producer of the finest pairing of all: quality beer and conversation. 
Angela is currently studying for the BJCP exam and Master Cicerone exam from which she expects to advocate and educate for the craft beer community internationally. Besides beer, she enjoys burlesque shows and comedy of all varieties. And cats. 
You can check out more of her work at angelasteil.com.