Grand Rapids Brewery

A Guide to Grand Rapids’ Craft Beer Scene: Best Breweries

A Guide to Grand Rapids’ Craft Beer Scene: Best Breweries and Taprooms

Discover the vibrant craft beer scene in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Explore top breweries, unique taprooms, and must-try local brews in Beer City USA.

Introduction to Grand Rapids’ Beer Culture

Grand Rapids, Michigan, has earned its nickname “Beer City USA” for good reason. With a rich brewing history and a thriving modern craft beer scene, this Midwest gem has become a mecca for beer enthusiasts from around the world. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through Grand Rapids’ best breweries and taprooms, showcasing the city’s dedication to craft beer excellence.

The Rise of Grand Rapids as a Beer Destination

Grand Rapids’ beer story dates back to the 19th century, but it’s the city’s recent renaissance that has put it on the map. In 2012, Grand Rapids won the title of “Beer City USA” in an online poll, and it hasn’t looked back since. The city boasts over 80 breweries within a 60-minute drive, offering an incredible variety of styles and flavors to suit every palate.

What Makes Grand Rapids’ Beer Scene Unique?

Several factors contribute to Grand Rapids’ stellar reputation in the craft beer world:

Local ingredients: Many breweries source hops and other ingredients from nearby farms, ensuring freshness and supporting the local economy.
Innovative brewing techniques: Grand Rapids brewers are known for pushing boundaries and experimenting with new flavors and styles.
Collaborative spirit: The brewing community in Grand Rapids is tight-knit, often resulting in exciting collaborative brews.
Beer-centric events: The city hosts numerous beer festivals and events throughout the year, including the popular Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival.

Must-Visit Breweries in Grand Rapids

Let’s dive into some of the top breweries that have put Grand Rapids on the craft beer map:

1. Founders Brewing Co.

No discussion of Grand Rapids’ beer scene is complete without mentioning Founders Brewing Co. Established in 1997, Founders has grown from a small craft brewery to one of the largest in the country, all while maintaining its commitment to quality and innovation.

What to Try:

– All Day IPA: A session IPA perfect for, well, all day drinking
– Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS): A rich, bourbon barrel-aged stout released annually
– Dirty Bastard: A robust Scotch ale with a loyal following

2. Brewery Vivant

Housed in a former funeral home, Brewery Vivant specializes in Belgian and French-inspired beers. The brewery’s commitment to sustainability and its unique atmosphere make it a must-visit destination.

What to Try:

– Farm Hand: A rustic farmhouse ale
– Big Red Coq: A hoppy red ale with a memorable name
– Zaison: A strong saison with a spicy kick

3. Perrin Brewing Company

Located just north of Grand Rapids in Comstock Park, Perrin Brewing Company offers a wide range of styles in its spacious taproom. Their experimental small-batch brews keep regulars coming back for more.

What to Try:

– No Problems: A session IPA with tropical fruit notes
– Black Ale: A smooth, easy-drinking dark ale
– Malted Milk Ball Porter: A dessert-like porter that tastes just like its namesake

Hidden Gems: Smaller Taprooms Worth Exploring

While the big names draw crowds, Grand Rapids is also home to several smaller breweries and taprooms that offer unique experiences:

1. City Built Brewing Company

This Puerto Rican-inspired brewery brings a fresh perspective to Grand Rapids’ beer scene. With a menu featuring both creative brews and delicious Puerto Rican cuisine, City Built offers a one-of-a-kind experience.

What to Try:

– 5×5 IPA: A solid West Coast-style IPA
– Flower Power: A botanical saison with hints of lavender and chamomile
– Pineapple Upside Down Cake: A fruity, dessert-inspired ale

2. Speciation Artisan Ales

Specializing in wild fermentation and barrel-aged beers, Speciation Artisan Ales is a paradise for sour beer lovers. Their small taproom offers a rotating selection of unique and complex brews.

What to Try:

– Genetic Drift: A mixed-culture farmhouse ale
– Incipient: A golden sour ale with fruit additions that change seasonally
– Laurentian: A bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout

3. Arvon Brewing Co.

A relative newcomer to the Grand Rapids scene, Arvon Brewing Co. has quickly made a name for itself with its focus on hop-forward beers and creative flavor combinations.

What to Try:

– Juicy Gossip: A New England-style IPA bursting with tropical flavors
– Sticky Icky: A dank, resinous West Coast IPA
– Blessed: A smooth, creamy milk stout

Beer Tours and Experiences

To fully immerse yourself in Grand Rapids’ beer culture, consider taking a guided tour or participating in a beer-centric experience:

1. Beer City Brewsader Passport

The Beer City Brewsader Passport program encourages visitors to explore Grand Rapids’ diverse brewing scene. Visit eight participating breweries to earn your Brewsader status and exclusive merchandise.

2. Grand Rapids Beer Tours

Join a guided tour with companies like Grand Rapids Beer Tours or West Michigan Beer Tours. These tours offer insights into the brewing process, history, and behind-the-scenes access to some of the city’s best breweries.

3. Paddling and Pints

Combine outdoor adventure with beer tasting on a Paddling and Pints tour. Kayak down the Grand River before stopping at riverside breweries for a well-earned pint.

Beer-Friendly Dining in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids’ culinary scene has evolved alongside its beer culture. Many restaurants in the city offer excellent beer pairing options and beer-infused dishes:

HopCat: Known for its extensive draft list and “Crack Fries”
Stella’s Lounge: Home to award-winning burgers and a great selection of craft beers
The Green Well: Farm-to-table cuisine with a thoughtful beer menu
The Mitten Brewing Company: Pizza and beer in a vintage baseball-themed setting

Annual Beer Events in Grand Rapids

Mark your calendar for these can’t-miss beer events in Grand Rapids:

Winter Beer Festival (February): Brave the cold for this outdoor celebration of Michigan beer
Founders Fest (June): A street party hosted by Founders Brewing Co. featuring live music and special beer releases
Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival (November): A massive event showcasing the best in beer, wine, and local cuisine
Cool Brews. Hot Eats. (February-March): A month-long celebration pairing craft beer with creative dishes from local restaurants

Planning Your Grand Rapids Beer Adventure

To make the most of your visit to Grand Rapids’ beer scene, keep these tips in mind:

Designate a driver or use ride-sharing services to explore safely
Stay hydrated and pace yourself – there’s a lot of great beer to try!
Don’t be afraid to ask for samples or recommendations from bartenders
Check brewery websites or social media for special releases or events
Consider visiting during the week for a more relaxed experience at popular spots

Conclusion: Cheers to Beer City USA

Grand Rapids’ craft beer scene offers something for every beer lover, from hop-heads to sour enthusiasts and everything in between. With its welcoming community, innovative brewers, and dedication to quality, it’s no wonder Grand Rapids continues to hold its title as Beer City USA. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, exploring the city’s breweries and taprooms is an adventure that’s sure to leave you with great memories and a newfound appreciation for craft beer.
So raise a glass to Grand Rapids – a city where craft beer isn’t just a drink, it’s a way of life. Cheers!