Authentic simplicity is the backdrop of Gray Gruit, a new beer and cider bar on Lewiston’s Main Street.
The establishment features a rotating selection of six beers and two ciders on tap from the Pacific Northwest and nine varieties of prepackaged snacks.
“I’m trying to keep it very minimalist,” said Wayne Scott, the owner of Gray Gruit.
The choices are intended to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. There’s one Indian pale ale, Paradise Creek Over the Hop, brewed in Pullman. With an alcohol content of 6.6 percent, it packs less of a punch than many beers in the category, which was one of the reasons Scott picked it.
The two ciders, Hopped Marionberry from Incline Cider Company and Ginja Ninja Ginger from 2 Towns Ciderhouse, are what Scott suggests for wine drinkers.
There’s no stout, but Gray Gruit has 1910 Black Lager from Wallace Brewing Company, which has the coffee and dark chocolate flavors typically associated with that type of beer.
The pricing is set up to encourage customers to select what they think they will like best, instead of just going with what is least expensive, Scott said.
All of the beers cost the same $5.50 for a full 16-ounce glass and $2 for a quarter pour. The ciders are $6 for a full glass.
The snacks include items such as Oberto Jerky ($2), Off the Eaten Path Rice & Veggie Crisps ($1.50) and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers ($1).
The understated approach Scott took with the menu carries over into the design of the space that emphasizes the architectural features of the building constructed a century ago.
Patrons sitting at the bar face an exposed brick wall. The hardwood floors are original. A window looks onto Main Street.
There’s no Wi-Fi and no large screen televisions for sports games, so customers can focus on savoring their beer, cider and conversations.
The pared-down aesthetic in play at the Gray Gruit reflects the direction Scott is following in his own life. After earning a Master of Business Administration degree from William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., he lived in Chicago, where he earned a living as an analyst in a corporate finance department. Then he worked remotely, first in Denver and later in Liberty Lake, Wash.
About nine months after relocating to Washington, he left the company when his job was moved to an office in Poland. Not wanting to leave the Northwest, Scott decided to open his own business.
He chose Lewiston partly because, unlike Spokane or Coeur d’Alene, the market wasn’t already saturated with the type of place he envisioned.
His familiarity with technology has helped. He knew internet searches were important. He put the word gruit in the name because it has a tie to beer, but is unusual enough that his business is one of the few that show up when people query it. Gruit refers to a blend of herbs people once used in a type of ancient ale.
Figuring out what to call the business was just one of a multitude of details Scott had to handle before he opened in a process that gave him new respect for small business owners.
He’s proceeding carefully, keeping a close eye on the numbers, since he’s surviving on his savings until the Gray Gruit starts turning a profit.
“The reward is not financial,” he said. “It’s just enjoying the job.”
Williams may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2261.
Address: 812 Main St. Lewiston.
Hours: 2 p.m. until the crowd thins Thursday through Sunday.