Do you know where Beer City USA is? I didn’t either until the gals at Experience Grand Rapids asked me to come up for a visit. That’s Grand Rapids, Michigan for those of you who might not have paid much attention in geography class.
Wait…you want ME to come write about the city that USA Today Readers voted the “Best Beer Town” in America?
No please…don’t pinch me. I don’t wanna wake up.
Poor Brewery Vivant didn’t stand a chance. I only say this because I poo-poo Belgian beers. Belgians aren’t my taste and what you’re going to find inside this remodeled funeral home is Belgian beer and French food.
This brewery, however, was on the top of my “must see” list…because…funeral home.
The architecture and stained glass windows make this spot quite unique. Be sure and visit the restroom too the sinks will have you scratching your head and thinking “How’d they do that?”. There are a ton of Michiganians who obviously do not share the same sentiment as I on Belgian brews because the place was packed the night we visited.
I ended up with the 20 oz. Vivant Flight ($10) which consisted of Farm Hand (French style farmhouse ale), Triomphe (Belgian style IPA), Big Red Coq (hoppy Belgo-American red ale) and Undertaker (Belgian style dark ale). My favorite that evening ended up being the mini taster our server brought me of the Limited Release Cherry Basil Zaison.
Brewery Vivant | 925 Cherry St SE | Grand Rapids, MI | BreweryVivant.com
They may have been put on the map by Food Network for their Crack Fries (beer battered fries sprinkled with signature cracked black pepper seasoning and served with a side of warm cheese sauce for dipping) but the beer selection here is extensive. Might I suggest the Huma Lupa Licious IPA brewed right in their home state of Michigan and one of the owner’s favorite beers.
Don’t want to drive? We spotted Hoptimus Prime, Grand Rapid’s Brew Bus, directly outside Hop Cat one afternoon. Obviously, your designated driver in disguise.
Hop Cat | 25 Ionia Ave | Grand Rapids, MI | HopCat.com/Grand-Rapids
If you ask the locals where to go for great beer, The B.O.B. or Big Old Building, might not be the first place they’d suggest. Why? Well, there are a ton of very cool “breweries” in Grand Rapids and while The B.O.B. does brew their own beer they are considered a Brewpub and don’t carry the same “street cred” so to speak as the traditional breweries do.
This location however, was the one in which I had my favorite beer.
We found our way down into the depths of The Big Old Building where the actual brewery is located. There we bellied up to a small bar and I ordered myself a Spaceboy Stout (English Oatmeal Stout). My husband and I were chatting up a local couple sitting next to us with the most delicious looking burger when out popped Brewmaster John with a pot of something dark which he proceeded to pour into seven rocks glasses. Each patron at the bar was given a glass and told to raise it as we toasted the soon-to-be bride at the bar. Inside that glass was the elusive Peanut Butter Porter (peanuts, chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar and milk) which I heard tell sends thirsty customers in a line around the building the nights that it is on tap.
It was the best beer that I sampled while in Grand Rapids. Brewmaster John is legit.
The B.O.B. | 20 Monroe Ave NW | Grand Rapids, MI | TheBOB.com
Founders Brewing Co.
Besides Bell’s Brewing, Founders was the one I was asked about the most when I told friends that I had visited Michigan.
Founders has a solid reputation in Grand Rapids and their downtown brewery and tasting room are bright and open with spaces at the bar and tables both inside and out. The weather was warm during our visit and the outside tables were taken by patrons and their pets so we selected what was left…bar stools…my favorite place to be. I like talking to the bartenders. They tell great stories.
We ended up at a bar described to us by Marcos our bartender as “the place where beers go to die”. Which meant…they had the unique stuff. The stuff I wanted to try. I had eyed a brew on the online menu before we even darkened the door at Founders and when I ordered it Marcos said “You don’t want that.” Which of course made me want it even more. The beer was called BLiS Blast All Day IPA and it was described as a beer aged in oak bourbon chocolate coffee imperial stout hot sauce barrels…and it was gross. It needed to die. Always listen to your bartenders people.
The menu at Founders was mainly sandwiches. I don’t eat sandwiches so we split an order of chips and salsa and I discovered two beers that I would order again…Red’s Rye IPA and Big Lushious, a dark chocolate raspberry blend.
Founders Brewing Co. | 235 Grandville Ave. SW | Grand Rapids, MI | FoundersBrewing.com
Grand Rapids Brewing
The first and very last brewery we experienced was Grand Rapids Brewing Co. This is Michigan’s first certified organic brewery and one of less than two dozen in the entire country. They make some damn fine food too. On our initial visit I inhaled an order of Bacon Meatballs and Beer Battered Fried Pickles while enjoying a Beer Sampler Flight and then a pint of cranberry Freel Me Up IPA.
On our last night in Grand Rapids we had our Uber driver drop us off at Grand Rapids Brewing for dessert which was something we had spotted on our first visit… Beeramisu (stout soaked lady fingers in a light rum whipped mascarpone on salted caramel) and a pint of John Ball Brown. It was served to us by a guy named Harry who spot on looked like the One Direction band member. In fact, my husband and I almost fell off our stools when he came over and said “My name is Harry if you need anything else”.
Grand Rapids Brewing Co. | 1 Ionia Ave | Grand Rapids, MI | GRBrewingCompany.com
The post was written in partnership with Experience Grand Rapids. As always, all opinions are my own. Cheers!