Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Beeps and Beers has been something on a break, but I thought that a one year celebration at a local arcade and bar called The Grid would be a good reason to revisit this article series. It is always an entertaining place to visit, but with unique beers, new machines and raffles to cap things off, the one year anniversary was a hit today.
The Grid opened at noon today, and we were pretty much the first ones in the door. Right off of the bat I noticed some of the new machines that were set up such as Q*bert, Dig Dug and Baby Pac-Man. Next up was taking a look at the beer menu. There were some holdovers from a recent event featuring beers from Founders Brewing. That event is one of several regular ones that The Grid puts on called Beat the Brewer. On those nights they feature a brewery who send in some representatives that sign up to play against patrons of The Grid. Winning can get you cool swag, a free drink and more. I like the Red’s Rye IPA by Founders, but was more than willing to turn my winning game of Tetris in a snifter of KBS.
Now, my first-ever Beeps and Beer article covered Shipwreck Porter while playing Uncharted 4. Anyone who kept up on these articles of mine knows I am a big fan of bourbon barrel aged beers, and KBS is one of the best out there. Standing for Kentucky Bourbon Stout, this hefty beer rings in at double digit ABV, with roasty chocolate and warming bourbon notes throughout.The sign that I’m holding above was my choice of swag after winning my Tetris match that night. I do a lot of reviewing on this site, and KBS is always a 10 out of 10 for me.
I wanted to mention the Beat the Brewer night to give context around the type of events that The Grid commonly has. As to the place itself, upon entering it there is a staircase to the left that leads up to a handful of tables, a couple of couches and a pair of retro arcade racing games. The centerpiece of the upper level is a large television and an N64 that is playing my favorite party game from that era: Mario Kart 64. This title was a staple of ours in college, and it still holds up great today. Playing Mario Kart 64 doesn’t cost a thing, though there is a signup sheet next to it to help keep things moving along if a line starts to form. Upkeep on something like that has to be a hassle at times, requiring plenty of spare controllers and parts, and since they don’t charge anything to play one could argue that it’s got a questionable ROI, but it suits The Grid perfectly.
The overall building design is a tall one, with the upper floor only makes up a portion of the upper space, most of which is left open and decorated with a Super Mario Bros. aesthetic (complete with digitized, slightly moving clouds and green pipes). There are numerous other visual touches to be found around The Grid that really help to sell the retro vibe. A framed picture of Tron on the wall near the stairs, a bunch of the glass backs from different pinball machines line one of the walls above arcade cabinets and a handful of televisions placed behind the bar cycle the television and movies of my childhood. He-Man, Tron, Star Wars and more are playing constantly.
There are some additional touches worth calling out as well. There is a massive scroll-like image from Luigi’s Mansion hanging high along one wall. The drink menu has plenty of ‘geek-friendly’ callbacks, from a tonic drink made with basil called The Bruce Banner to a bourbon beverage topped off with a Slim Jim called The Randy Savage and plenty more. My wife and oldest tend to order from this menu, while I find myself most often going to the beers. Once you order a drink, you get a handful of tokens. You can also purchase tokens separately. There are about a dozen pinball tables (that take two tokens each) and arcade cabinets (that generally take 1 as well, though the Dragon’s Lair title rolled out for the anniversary event required two).
The overall vibe of The Grid is a relaxed one, and if I’m being honest – it is the kind of place I’d love to run if I was entrepreneur enough to start up a business like this. The biggest concerns about the layout have more to do with the building than anything that the owners have chosen to do with the space. For starters, in the video above you can see that it is something of a narrow structure. When The Grid really gets busy, it can be a bit tough to move about. The other are the tall, beautiful windows along the one side. They look fantastic and provide great natural light inside during the day, but can also leave a reflective sheen on the glass tops of the pinball machines. I will say however, that when the natural lighting
goes down, the neon glow of the internal lights look fantastic.
The actual Level 1 Complete – The Grid Birthday Celebration event featured additional games, drinks and raffle items (my daughter actually won the first one held at 2 o’clock). Raffle items included the likes of The Grid drinking glasses and brewery swag like a Saugatuck Brewing hat. There was a ‘quest’ baked into the afternoon as well. Small sheets of paper were scattered throughout listing out a variety of tasks to be completed for some swag. Now a handful of the tasks were pretty easy, such as buying a drink and counting the Mario Mushrooms hidden around the interior. Some were game related and certainly a bit more challenging. I’ve never been a big Galaga guy, with top scores that usually fizzle out around 40k, so needing 50k was a deal breaker for me. I had far better luck with the Big Guns pinball table, which requires a score of 1 million. Not that I ever got there, but my first play was a score of 992k, and I broke 900k two other times.
So how about the actual beeps and beers of the afternoon? Well on the beer front I had a Perrin Blonde Porter. I will say that I love porters and stouts, and while I have had a few ‘blonde’ coffee beers in the past, this was one of the better versions I have tried. It’s still light and easy to drink, with a nice coffee flavor to it. I went with a 4 out of 5 on Untappd and with a more granular system like what we use for our games, probably would put the Perrin Blonde Porter at a 7.75 out of 10. It was a great way to start things off. I opted for the cabinet that matched my shirt and played a quick round of Street Fighter II. However, that is a standard machine that is always there, so I wanted to play one of the newly introduced cabinets today.
We never found out, since it is actually a good deal harder than traditional Pac-Man games. This is largely due to the lack of power pellets occupying the four corners of the screen. However, when I played, I noticed a comment on one of the startup screens about using the escapes to trigger the pinball component. I went down into one almost right away and sure enough, the arcade screen changed and suddenly I was playing pinball. The better I did in the pinball sections, the better my score – and also apparently the better my odds on the actual maze portion. After one of the rounds of pinball, I had a proper power pellet I used to complete the first stage and move on. Sure, it is kind of a gimmicky cabinet, but I have to say that the novelty really never wore off on me and I played that one quite a bit over the afternoon.
The one I was most looking forward to was Tron, which was advertised but unfortunately did not make the trip. I was chatting with the staff about it and it turns out the table needed a bit of soldering TLC to get it ready for Prime Time. However, Dig Dug was another favorite of mine as a kid and I managed to easily roll out a dozen levels on my first try while finishing the Blonde Porter off. I then made my way over to Baby Pac-Man which… I honestly had never even heard of before. However, that is one fascinating machine. The top half is a traditional Pac-Man arcade game, while the lower half is a pinball table. Neither my wife or I had any idea what we were doing, so she played first and we thought perhaps the goal was to beat the maze / arcade portion in order to play the pinball component.
Next up was a lot of pinball and Mario Kart. I mentioned the Big Guns pinball table, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Of all of the pinball tables I continued to drop tokens into, this one was my favorite. There are two levels of bumpers, lots of bells and whistles and different objectives (I got the multiball to unlock several times). We then made our way upstairs to play some more of the aforementioned Mario Kart 64 with a glass of Chubby Squirrel by Right Brain Brewing. I have to admit, I did not entirely know what to expect there. I figured it would be a nutty beer until I read it was spiced on the menu. Sure enough, it was an interesting mix of bready, caramel notes offset by spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. A solid enough beer, but not nearly up to snuff when weighed against the Blonde Porter and KBS previously. If pressed, I’d probably ring it in at about a 6.5 out of 10.
In all, The Grid has become a favorite location of mine to let off a little steam and combine two of my favorite things – video games and beer. While not one of my more traditional Beeps and Beers articles, The Grid itself is pretty much the embodiment of these things. Located in Lansing Michigan, The Grid has completed a successful first year with this event, and hopefully there will be many more to come.Kentucky Bourbon Stout – Score: 10 / 10
Perrin Blonde Porter – Score: 7.75 / 10
Chubby Squirrel – Score: 6.5 / 10
Some more images from the event.