Visiting Beer City USA

With all the attention that the West Coast and Colorado get in the USA – and deservedly so, based on numbers of breweries alone – it may have come as a surprise when Grand Rapids, Michigan was first named Beer City USA. Granted, this is determined by popular vote, but with a population under 200,000, surely it had to be drawing from a much wider reputation. And in 2014 it was the site of the 36th Annual National Homebrewers Conference. With a couple dozen breweries to choose from in the Greater Grand Rapids area, here are a few you should definitely not miss.

 

Founders

Second only to the venerable Bell’s Brewing Co., it is one of the largest in Michigan. Located in an old trucking depot (conveniently across from the bus station), this beer hall-sized tap room has 16 draft lines and brings out some tap-room only options. Centennial IPA and Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale are standards, but watch for KBS – the bourbon-barrel-aged Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

 

Brewery Vivant

Owners Jason and Kris Spaulding found their destiny on a beery trip through Belgium and Northern France. The brewery’s tap room, set in the former chapel of a funeral home, offers 12 tap lines of the 30-40 Belgian inspired brews they produced each year in their LEED-certified “green” brewhouse.

 

Grand Rapids Brewing/Hopcat

Here’s a two-for-one. At opposite end’s of the same block, these two breweries are under the same ownership. While also brewing some specialty batches of their own, Hopcat is more famous as a beer bar with 48 brews on tap. The “crack fries” are another draw. Grand Rapids Brewing is also a draw for its food, but is notably the only totally organic brewery in Michigan.

 

Harmony

Barry and Jackson VanDyke do not brew on the same day “to avoid fighting.” Think Mikkeller meets Michigan. This little neighborhood brewery and wood-fired pizza parlor does a modest 100-200 barrels per year and styles are always changing. A Beglian dubbel or a rye pale ale. Perhaps a gruit with heather flowers or a peat-smoked porter.

 

The Hideout

If you can find it, get there. Tucked away at the north end of Grand Rapids, this Prohibition/Gangster themed brewpub has a lot of creativity going on. The bar runs 26 tap lines with all sorts of ideas contributed by everyone on staff, from head brewer to bartender. Smuggler’s Stout and Gangster IPA are popular mainstays, but expect some serious divergence with brews such as a pumpkin milk stout or clove anise pilsner.

 

These five, of course, merely scratch the surface. Heck, a fellow could write a book about them . And don’t forget the surrounding towns: Perrin Brewing in Comstock Park or Rockford Brewing in the city of the same name. Even New Holland Brewing in Holland is a short drive down the interstate.

All images for this post are courtesy of Preamtip Satasuk

Kevin Revolinski is an American beer and travel writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of brewery travel guidebooks for three Midwestern states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Be first to comment