Road Trip: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Around this time last year we went on a Short Road Trip From Cincinnati, and I recounted the surprise getaway I planned for BK’s 30th birthday to Dayton and Yellow Springs.

It’s not often we go on vacation, but we do our best to go on a few weekend trips per year. We recently decided to go on a short road trip and, after racking our brains — Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Bowling Green (always at my request) — we settled on Grand Rapids with the express interest in visiting as many breweries and drinking as much beer as we could in a two-night stay. (Grand Rapids wasn’t dubbed Beer City USA for nothing, with more than 60 breweries in the region.)

Grand Rapids, according to Maps, is a 5.5 hour drive (355 miles). That felt like a reasonable distance for a weekend trip, so we set off on a journey that made a pit stop on the way, and that we used an actual map to find our way home with stops in Hell, Michigan and Bowling Green, Ohio along the way.

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Bell’s Brewery
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Bell’s Brewery – poutine with mushroom gravy, cheese curds, and brisket
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Bell’s Brewery – flight*

Our first stop was in Kalamazoo for Bell’s Brewery and Eccentric Cafe brewpub, one of the country’s most notable craft breweries — its most popular beers being Two Hearted (IPA) and Oberon (wheat ale). For food we decided on poutine to start (yum), then split the Chicken Salad Sandwich; for beer we got a flight of four, which is something that BK and I often do so that we can try as many beers as possible without getting hammered (especially when we’ve got driving yet to do). I loved the fries and I really enjoyed the beer and brewpub. It’s always fun to try a popular beer like Two Hearted at the place where it’s brewed (see also: having Guinness in Dublin a few months ago). It’s usually better, too.

From Kalamazoo we drove 45 minutes north to our final destination. We relaxed the rest of the night so that we could do some exploring in the morning before setting off on our day-long brewery tour that took us west to the shores of Lake Michigan and back to Grand Rapids.

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Riverside Park
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New Holland Brewing
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BK at New Holland
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Perrin Brewing Company
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Perrin Brewing Company

Our full day in Grand Rapids started with a walk through Riverside Park before driving 30 miles west to New Holland’s Pub on 8th, located near the Macatawa River — a location that allowed for us to continue even further south to Saugatuck for a peek of Lake Michigan from The Art Coast of Michigan. The food and beer at New Holland Brewing were wonderful, as we ordered Pepperoni Pinwheels and the Bahn Mi-chigan, plus a flight, because of course. After our short trip to the coast, we made our way back to Grand Rapids, starting north of the city at Perrin Brewing Company, after which we ditched the car to check out Harmony Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Co., HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, and The Mitten Brewing Co. There were so many breweries to try that it was hard to narrow down. Thus, we decided on where to go based on recommendations and convenience — places we could walk and take short Uber rides.

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Harmony Brewing Company
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Harmony Brewing Company
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Brewery Vivant
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Brewery Vivant
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Founders Brewing Co.
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Founders Brewing Co.
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HopCat
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Grand Rapids Brewing Co.
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Grand Rapids Brewing Co.
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The Mitten Brewing Co.

On our short trip to Michigan, we were fortunate to visit nine breweries and try 49 beers*. Bell’s had great food and a nice building (with an event space and outdoor seating), New Holland had a cool streetside brewpub and delicious food, Perrin had a great space and good beer, Harmony had one my favorite taprooms and delicious beer, Brewery Vivant had a beautiful taproom that was reminiscent of Urban Artifact and Taft’s, Founders was as grand (and crowded) as you’d expect, HopCat was — er — hoppin’ and had good fries, Grand Rapids was newer in a nice space with good beer, and The Mitten had one of my favorite atmospheres, with great service, good beer, and pizza.

Of the four dozen beers I had, they were all good. The quality of brew in Grand Rapids should not be understated, though I particularly enjoyed Perrin Poop Your Pants (chocolate bock with a fantastic name), Harmony Happy Farm (saison), Brewery Vivant Angelina (sour), HopCat Tituba’s Magic Cub (NE IPA), Grand Rapids Hefeweizen, and The Mitten League of their Own (blonde ale hibiscus tea). I tried so many sours and it is clear that many Grand Rapids breweries are good at brewing that style. I felt that cream ales were lacking, while IPAs were in abundance (of course), and I was happy to try an uytzet, a style I’d not had.

I loved Michigan and I can’t believe I’d never spent significant time there previously (like, longer than driving to Detroit for a concert in college). People seem to be very active there and love the outdoors. Every other car was adorned with bicycles and kayaks, there was plenty of good beer for the drinking, and the overall landscape was beautiful. If I can help it, I will be back, and I’d love for my next trip to include stays in Saugatuck and Grand Rapids.

*Complete beer list
Bell’s Brewing
Two Hearted (IPA)
Third Coast (pale ale)
Raspberry Wild One (wild ale)
Larry’s Latest Coffee Milk Stout

New Holland Brewing Company
The Hollander (saison)
Ornch (imperial IPA)
Extra Time (Vienna lager)
Green Hornet (pale ale)
White Hatter (Belgian pale ale)
Lost Dune (fruit beer)

Perrin Brewing Co.
Poop Your Pants (chocolate bock)
98 Problems IPA
You Bretta Run (sour)
Michigan Cherry IPA (IPA)
Ain’t No Sunshine (golden ale)

Harmony Brewing Company
Grapefruit Moon (IPA)
Fiddlestix IPA
Lovely Day IPA
Happy Farm (saison)
La Gabelle (gose)
Daydream Believer (stout)
Black Squirrel (smoked)

Brewery Vivant
Farm Hand (saison)
Tropical Saison
Wolf Party (IPA)
House Sour
Angelina (sour – flanders)
Habanango (spiced/herbed)
Lange Wapper – Double Uytzet

Founders Brewing Co.
4 Giants IPA
Watermelon Gose
Doom (imperial IPA)
Barrel Aged Curmudgeon (old ale)
All Day IPA (with lychee)
Founders Fest Wheat (IPA)

HopCat
Beer Right Meow (IPA)
Tituba’s Magic Cup (NE IPA)

Grand Rapids Brewing Company
Silver Foam (American light lager)
Hefeweizen
Nicodemus the Wise (blonde)
Social Bot War Pawn (English mild)
Stallion Elixir (imperial IPA)
Lumiere (saison)

The Mitten Brewing Company
Dock’s No-No DIPA (double IPA)
Mango Gold (fruit beer)
Country Strong IPA
Triple Crown Brown
League of their Own (blonde ale)
The Stretch Cream Ale

Featured image: photo of the atlas we used to map our way home without taking any major expressways (roads used are highlighted in yellow)

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