Today was a perfect summer day for a trip to the zoo. Only a few wispy clouds dotted the blue sky. The sun was beating down on me and all of the guests at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, MI. As I was walking uphill toward the spider monkey enclosure, I also thought it was the perfect day for a beer. Luckily, my reason for being at the zoo was to enjoy both of those activities.

The Monkey Island Café was my final destination because that was where the exclusive beer release was taking place. Brewery Vivant, a staple establishment in the Grand Rapids brewery scene, released JBZ, a partnership beer with John Ball Zoo. The partnership was announced earlier in the week, along with details about the tasting event that took place today with zoo patrons. Both Brewery Vivant and John Ball Zoo are well known for their conservation and sustainability efforts at the state and national levels.

L to R: Kris & Jason Spaulding and kids with Peter D’Arienzo

Prior to the pouring of the first beer and toast, both Jason Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant, and Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo, shared their gratitude towards each other and excitement regarding the partnership. D’Arienzo added that both Grand Rapids destinations had “similar shared values of community, compassion, and conservation.”

Photo Credit – Brewery Vivant

JBZ is a dry-hopped lager that Brewery Vivant had been wanting to brew for a while now. When the partnership between Brewery Vivant and John Ball Zoo was being discussed, the dry-hopped lager came to mind and the rest is history.

I found JBZ crushable. It cut through the summer heat and was a delightful lager. It was dry-hopped with Michigan-grown Chinook hops. A dash of Mosiac hops was added at the end of the brewing process to give it an extra hoppy kick.

The 4.5% beer shares tap space with Bell’s Brewery‘s Oberon Ale and Two Hearted Ale. I’ll go on the record and say JBZ will do very well next to these two beers because 1). it is named after the zoo, 2). it’s a Grand Rapids beer, and 3). it’s a lighter beer option. Those attending the tasting repeatedly said the beer was “refreshing” so I think it’s off to a good start.

The first batch of the beer will only beer available at the zoo and the Brewery Vivant taproom. Subsequent batches will still be available on draft and will be placed in 16 oz cans for retail sale. Be on the lookout for these cans later in the summer.


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Edwin "Ed" Norton otherwise known as "Beerded Ed" was first introduced to craft beer when his designated fraternity Big Brother Vince asked him if he knew anything about the topic. Ed admitted his ignorance and the rest is history as Ed and Vince would split six-packs of craft beers each week during Ed's probationary status. Ed is now a craft beer enthusiast who is always on the lookout for a beer he has not tried when bottle shopping or drinking at breweries and bars. In addition to drinking beer, this livelong Michigan resident enjoys a bunch of hobbies that he doubts you really care about, other than drinking beer and sounding off about it.