Any and every time my Dearly Beloved and I are in Grand Rapids, I visit my \u201cHappy Place.\u201d I have a few \u201cHappy Places.\u201d\u00a0 I love wandering the aisles of Grunst Brothers in Big Rapids. There are a couple of exceptional beer buying locations up in Traverse City as well. In Grand Rapids \u2026 it\u2019s Rishi\u2019s. I\u2019ve written about Rishi\u2019s before, and a good number of readers have asked me to expand and expound on the shop. Rishi\u2019s used to be International Beverage on East Paris just north of 28th Street. The \u201cshop\u201d recently moved out onto the main drag (28th Street) just around the corner from the former location Paris (next door to the Olive Garden). Rishi\u2019s is an incredible place. If you love beer and\/or wine, this is the place to visit. Even if you only LIKE beer and wine, you really should stop in Rishi\u2019s for a tour of the new establishment. It is HUGE, and Rishi Makkar \u2013 the wildly popular and ever-so accommodating host \u2013 knows every nook, cranny, bottle, and cork in the place. Rishi comes by his knowledge of beer and wine honestly, and through a lot of hard work. It is a joy to talk to this friendly and welcoming maven about anything from Bell\u2019s Porter, to Ch\u00e2teau Lafite-Rothschild. And if he is not in shop (which would be rare!) his staff are just as well versed in everything they have in stock. Rishi grew up in an academic family with parents who were on the faculty at Western Michigan University. He grew up in Kalamazoo \u2014 on campus. In 1996, the family began a gradual relocation to Grand Rapids which included the purchase of a Ogie\u2019s Party Store. After the retirement of his parents from academia, the family began running the party store in earnest. \u201cWe had one of the few stores in west Michigan that handled home brewing supplies,\u201d said Rishi. \u201cThat gave us a kick start and an introduction into the early world of craft brewing. \u201cAt the time, import beers sold well but the new craft beers had really not taken off.\u201d Rishi graduated high school in Forest Hills and began studying at Michigan State University with every intention of becoming a medical doctor. But \u2026 by his senior year at MSU he realized he simply wouldn\u2019t be happy as a doctor. He loved working in the family store. \u201cI would not have been happy working in medicine,\u201d he admitted with a smile. \u201cI am, however, a very, very happy store owner. I love my work and I love dealing with people.\u201d And thus \u2026 the secret. Rishi is happy with what he is doing, and that joy of life is simply passed on to everyone who walks in the store. Years after taking over the East Paris store, the family still struggled to make money. Then \u2026 wine took off. \u201cI got my certification as a sommelier,\u201d said Rishi. \u201cThe economy was booming. Our wine program really took off. \u201cPeople were buying cases of wine, not simply bottles. \u201cIt wasn\u2019t uncommon to have people buying a couple thousand dollars of wine. Companies bought huge amounts of wine to give to customers and employees. \u2018We thrived.\u201d While Rishi\u2019s (then International Beverage) tried to establish itself as a craft beer Mecca, the wine side of the operation paid the bills. Then, the beer started coming out strong. \u201cWe made a tremendous investment in the craft beer industry in the belief that people would eventually discover that good beer was not necessarily the old standard beer,\u201d he said. \u201cSlowly but surely, people started recognizing there was a lot of really good beer to be had, and we began expanding our beer stocks \u2014 from all over the country. \u201cEvery year there was more and more quality beer hitting the market, and we wanted to introduce our customers to the very best beer we could lay our hands on.\u201d Today, Rishi\u2019s is a well balanced operation. The fine wines and the craft beers complement each other, and each creates about half the store\u2019s business. \u201cIt\u2019s fun. It\u2019s been fun watching the business evolve.\u201d When Rishi\u2019s family first bought into the business, they sold 20 different names of beer, at the most. That included Bud, Bud Lite, Bud-this, Bud-that, and Bud-the other thing. Today, there are over 1,200 individual names of beer on the shelves. \u201cAnd that does not include the seasonal beers or what we call \u2018occasional beers,\u2019\u201d he pointed out. \u201cWe actually don\u2019t always have enough shelving for new beers coming out.\u201d Seventy-five percent of Rishi\u2019s stock of brew turns over once a week \u2014 an amazing statistic for almost any business. \u201cThe quality of beer being sold today has simply improved dramatically,\u201d said Rishi. \u201cThere are dedicated brewers turning out incredible beers. They are fine people turning out wonderful beers, and the people enjoying these beers are so appreciative of developments in the brewing world.\u201d Rishi\u2019s is a store that has thrived not only on great product, but wonderful service. \u201cI don\u2019t force or pretend to give good service,\u201d said the young proprietor. \u201cI believe that if you are passionate about something \u2014 as I am about what we are doing \u2013 you want to have people feel at home. \u201cOur clients are our family. \u201cThe 10 or 20 minutes people spend in my store is not only their time, it is my time. I want people to be happy in my store on my time \u2014 to leave and return with a feeling of \u2018home.\u2019 \u201cEvery person who walks in the front door is just that important to me.\u201d Going to Grand Rapids? Stop in at Rishi\u2019s. \u201cWe will be so glad to see new friends stop by for a visit,\u201d Rishi concluded with a smile. And now, try a couple of exceptional brews. LABRADOR LAGER THIRSTY DOG BREWING CO. AKRON, OHIO Labrador offers a rich, deep amber pour with a pleasant head forming well but disappearing quickly leaving a hint of cream on the surface. This is an elegant whiskey colored brew \u2014 clear and inviting. Definitely inviting. There is a rich but not overpowering scent of hops and malts with a slight advantage to the hops. In the background lurks something hinting of sweet corn. There\u2019s a mild, open field smell of a hot summer morning just after the first cutting of hay. Really a nice sensual visit. I found it hard to identify any fruitiness, but I wouldn\u2019t be surprised if others could pick out some tones of light fruits. Definitely hoppy at first sip. This is a deliciously dry lager. Don\u2019t hunt around for sweet tones in the first wash \u2014 or any wash for that matter. Labrador is a business-like lager in the best German-tradition. There is an almost woodsy, out-in-the-field quality. This lager is abrupt. You get smacked with dry somewhat bready hops right off. The flavor rolls around a bit, and it\u2019s done and gone leaving an underlying earthiness. This is a good and expressive beer. A great example of European-style dry lagers that have been cold stored. Don\u2019t leave this brew for the end of the meal. It really contradicts sweet foods and might be best served complementing a bolder meat dish \u2013 venison or lamb \u2013 but also more spicy foods. Chili? Hmmmmmm \u2026 SIR WILLIAM\u2019S ESB ENGLISH STYLE ALE DRAGONMEAD MICROBREWERY\u00a0 This is a medium brown (even light copper) colored brew that offers little head. What there is quickly disappears. (This is typical of brews that are low in carbonation.) No substantial foam, but a light ring of flat tan color. The Special is dull, almost opaque. There is a sharp whiff of first malt \u2014 certainly pronounced grains and much less demonstrative hops. There is something hiding in this English-style ale \u2014 mildly acidic, even a bit coppery. There is a slightly astringent scent. The first sip of Sir William\u2019s explains why this style brew is called a \u201cbitter.\u201d It isn\u2019t a \u201cbad\u201d bitter. It\u2019s just \u2026 odd \u2026 for drinkers of browns expecting something a bit more smooth and earthy. There is a well defined tartness to this ale. Not a fruity tartness and little of the floral hints that sometimes can be found in English bitters. The taste is complex. Don\u2019t give up too early. Sir William\u2019s a bit intense and the mildly acidic taste develops fast and with authority. It is hard to find gentler background tastes or tones \u2014 and certainly difficult to find anything caramely tucked away in the background. This brew is an interesting junket into something new. If you\u2019re surprised, don\u2019t bale. Stick it out. Every day is an education. I don\u2019t know that I\u2019ll invest in more Sir William\u2019s right away, but I may well come back for another visit in the future. This is a tough one, but I think I\u2019d match it with a pork dish. It is sharp enough to counter and contrast the more neutral, subtle taste of pork roast or chops.