“I’m in beer,” says Rod Johnson, owner of Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Market in Rhinebeck. The pub opened in May 2010, and was the creation of Culinary Institute of America graduates who happened to be friends of Rod.
“I helped them out on weekends and such from 2011 through 2012, and on June 1, 2012, I bought it and took over. I kind of knew they wanted to have a change of scenery and I said ‘hey, I don’t mind manning this ship.’”
Today, Grand Cru offers an array of beers, and boasts 16 taps that include hard-to-find drafts.
“This may be tooting our own horn, but we get things nobody else can really get,” Rod says. “This is because of our connections with breweries—we have built lots of relationships over four-and-a-half years with the breweries, mainly in New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.”
Grand Cru also carries beers from overseas.
“We get beer from all over the world,” says Rod. “Right now, I have one from Belgium that no one else has. I have another one from Weihenstephaner, Germany. They’ve been brewing for 970 years, [starting in] 1047. No one else has that locally right now.”
The atmosphere in Grand Cru is as refreshing as the libations on offer. The pub may carry an impressive list of beers, but pretentious they ain’t.
“A lot of times in this industry, people dis this and dis that. I don’t dis anybody,” Rod says. “Budweiser’s not going away, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s amazing that they can make that beer worldwide and it tastes the same everywhere. From a scientific and brewer standpoint, it’s impressive, but it’s just not what we do. If you want something like that, in that style, we have it—we just don’t carry those brands.”
Along with its laundry list of brews, the pub also serves a number of tasty and creative snacks, including cheese plates and charcuterie.
“We have about 24 different kinds of cheese from New York,” says Rod. “I’ve visited every farm of everybody we carry, because I care about how the animals, water, and employees are treated.”
In addition to meats and cheeses, Grand Cru’s menu is packed with other delectable treats as well, from fresh-baked soft pretzels from Deising’s Bakery in Kingston to plenty of pickles made in-house.
“We do everything from pickled ramps to pickled mushrooms, cauliflower, and broccoli. You name it, we pickle it,” says Rod. “We have some of our own jams, from elderberry to wild cherries to wild grapes.” The kid-friendly tap room also serves a number of top-notch soft drinks.
With occasional live music and changing art displays complementing their food and drink menu, Grand Cru leaves little left to want in the way of a pub. That being said, Rod stresses that sending customers home happy and well-fed isn’t his only goal.
“We bring people together,” he says. “We’re very community-based and support a lot of nonprofits. Everything from Astor Home for Children to police and fire departments. We do things with Marist and Culinary Institute [and] donate up and down the valley.”
Grand Cru is located at 6384 Mill Street in Rhinebeck. For business hours and more, visit grandcrurhinebeck.com or call 845-876-6992.
This feature is part of the Hudson Valley Pollinator Series, a tribute to the individuals and businesses that are forging the way to a more resilient and self-reliant economy through their boldness, innovation, and continued care for the people and environment around them.