Grand Rapids: Becoming a Beer City 'Brewsader'
Grand Rapids, Michigan – it has many accolades. It’s best known as one of the U.S. cities that’s won the coveted title, "Beer City USA." It’s also been voted as one of the "Top 16 Best American Beer Cities" by Thrillist and "America’s Best Beer Town" by USA Today. Not to mention being one of the "Top 10 Best Beer Cities" by Livability and HopCat is always on a list of most popular bars in the U.S.
And with over 20 breweries nestled around Michigan’s second largest city, we knew we had to take the opportunity to explore what Grand Rapids and its breweries had to offer.
Through the help of Experience Grand Rapids, a local visitor’s bureau, all the breweries in the city can offer up a nifty passport for you to keep track of your destinations. The best part – visit eight of these breweries and get your passport stamped and you’ll receive a free “Brewsader” t-shirt to commemorate your adventures.
Let our adventures begin.
The Hideout Brewing Company
This was our first stop of the trip. It looked pretty scary from the outside – like an abandoned dive bar – but don’t let looks deceive you. Inside we were impressed with the selection of beers on draft and the employees knowledge of North Carolina beer – primarily Wicked Weed and anything Asheville. As far as beers go, we sampled the Moll’s Cheesecake Milk Stout, Hazelnut Java Cement Shoe and a couple IPAs.
Jaden James Brewery
This brewery is housed inside what is known as Cascade Winery. While we were there we did a flight of beers and a tasting of Cascade’s wines. Although not bad, we felt they needed some improvement in both the wine and beer departments. Jaden James also offers up hard ciders as well as homemade root beer. Some of the beers we sampled that day included a sour beer, peanut butter porter, Russian stout, cherry hard cider and seasonal strawberry cider
Harmony Brewing Company
We made a quick stop into this neighborhood pub located in the Eastown area of Grand Rapids. A small-batch brewery, Harmony also features wood-fired pizzas as well as artisanal foods and crafted cocktails. Think something similar to Raleigh's Trophy Brewing's Morgan St. location. We ordered up a couple healthy sandwiches and a pint of beer. Jen had the Albius Vanilla Porter, and I forgot to log my beer into Untappd, but it was one of the best Flanders Red-style beers I’ve had in a long time.
Just down the road from Harmony is Elk Brewing. This brewery features a large outdoor patio with fireplace, while appearance inside is a bit rustic and a bit industrial. Elk serves up small bites such as salads, appetizers and paninis. The staff were very friendly as we discussed, yet again, North Carolina beers with everyone. We ordered up a flight which consisted of the Dank-alicious IPA, Rowster Coffee Porter, PB & J’ale’y, Oatmeal Stout and the Double Whammy IPA. Good beers and nice employees makes this a place we’d hit up again.
Other than Founders and Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Brewery Vivant might be the next most known brewery in the city. Vivant claims it's the first LEED-certified microbrewery and the brewery is housed inside a refurbished funeral home. Yes, this place is awesome! Imagine sitting inside a dimly lit funeral home with outside lights casting colored hues through the stained glass windows as you enjoy Belgian and French-inspired beers. Plus the brewery offers European-style fare from its kitchen. There we split a flight that included a dubbel, a sour, a saison and an IPA. Anytime we go back to the city, we know Brewery Vivant will always be a must stop.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company
We were looking to eat at HopCat a couple buildings over, but with the wait being over 50 minutes, we walked right into Grand Rapids, sat down and ordered up food and beer. Along with some deep fried pickles we had several pints of The Fishladder IPA and the Downtown Dank, an Imperial IPA, which we brought home a couple bombers with us. GRB is your typical restaurant/brewery – service was good and the food and beer were above average. It’s a nice stop if the line to get into HopCat is too long.
Railtown Brewing Company
Railtown offers a variety of beers that are crafted on a 3-barrel brewing system. The name pays tribute to the old Hammond Station stop on the Michigan Central Railroad. This was one of our final stops of one of our evenings and the taproom was getting ready to shut down for the night. The owner was kind enough to let us enjoy a beer while he cleaned up and talked shop with us. Jen selected the Peanut Butter Cocoa Time and I had the Eh! Maple Porter. We didn’t spend much time in there, but the beers up on the wall seemed interesting. Maybe next time.
This was like meeting your idol, and not being impressed after the visit. The view of the brewery from the outside leaves you in awe. The brewery fills up an entire city block! Once inside we sat down at a table and looked over the menu. I’m not a huge KBS fan, but to get it on draft at the source is a must. It was listed on the menu, but when I went to order it, it was gone – and so was the backwoods bastard. Essentially everything on draft was stuff we could buy at a bottle shop. The Porter, Centennial IPA, Double Trouble, Pale Ale, etc. I think the most “rare” item on tap was Mango Magnifico. The staff was very robotic, and acted like how you would expect a "huge brewery" to act. Would I go back again? Probably not. There are still over 12 other breweries in Grand Rapids that we didn't check out!
Yes ... we did get our shirts!