KEEPING UP WITH THE TITLE OF BEER CITY USA and named Best Beer Town by USA TODAY readers, Michigan’s second-largest city proudly offers 40 breweries along its Beer City Ale Trail. But with so many options to satisfy your thirst for foam and hops, where does one begin?
Brewery Vivant is the world’s first LEED-certified commercial micro-brewery. Here’s where you sip Belgian and French-inspired beers in front of stained glass windows while stuffing your face with some duck craklin’ nachos while waiting on your Big Red Coq.
Big Red Coq not your style? Try the Undertaker. After all, you are in a refurbished funeral home.
Named the third best brewery in the world, Founders is home to the Kentucky Bourbon Stout — arguably one of the world’s most sought-after beers. Brewed with coffee and chocolate, the KBS is aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year in caves under the city like some sort of 1997 Batman film. Not to mention, there’s the silky Porter, the rich Breakfast Stout, and the single-hopped Mosaic Promise.
But besides brewing some of the best beers in the world, Founders is the brewery that really put Grand Rapids — and the entire state of Michigan — on the map for craft beer. Between the delicious brews, live music, and patio fire pits, Founders is the spot where locals come to be locals and where envious tourists come to stare at the foamy bottoms of pint glasses while wishing their hometown had beer like this.
Because how else do you expect to stay toasty when it’s viciously snowing outside than by sipping a beer aged in oak with spicy chilies?
Having come to life from six local breweries joining forces in 1892, this warm and rustic brewpub truly embodies the sense of community that has stemmed from Grand Rapid’s craft beer movement. Not to mention, Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is built from reclaimed materials decorated by furnishings and artwork created by local artisans. Additionally, the brewpub employs a recycling and composting program to prevent more than 90 percent of their waste from ending up in landfills and incinerators.
Knowing you can enjoy a high-gravity beer while still supporting the environment and local artists makes that Peanut Butter Dunkel Time taste even better.
While Bell’s Brewery isn’t technically in Grand Rapids, it’s in the nearby town of Kalamazoo and is one of the top rated breweries in the country. Give your tolerance a workout by ordering a Larry’s Stupid Quadrupid Citrus IPA — a 15.01% ABV beer slickly laced with citrus — or an 11.5% ABV Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout.
Rich in woodwork stained by beer and yeast and glass stained with watery depictions of nature, this spot is more than worth the 50-minute drive from Grand Rapids — especially if you’ve never tried any of Bell’s beer. But let’s be honest, if you’re a stranger to this brewery, then you should first, dig your way out from underneath that rock. And second, order yourself a Two Hearted Ale.
Gingerbread Nitro brewed with molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla? ‘Nuff said.
7. The International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival
The largest, wine, beer, and food tasting event in the Midwest, this festival scatters over 1,200 wines and 200 beers around the DeVos Place Convention Center to make you feel culinarily cultured in alcoholic root beer and organic soft pretzels.
Tiny and quaint, this microbrewery was originally founded to be a place for beer lovers to gather together and share their common passion for hop snobbery and porter love. But what makes this spot unique to the craft beer movement in Grand Rapids is the fact that it keeps its distribution low in order to continuously evolve with the changing seasons. If it’s quality of beer that you’re after rather than quantity, then Harmony has you covered.
9. ELK Brewing
Because how can you pass up a place with a 7.6% ABV beer called ‘Dankalicious’?
10. Stella’s Lounge
This one counts as an honorable mention considering it’s more known for it’s retro arcade, over 250 whiskeys, and a half-pound giant stuffed burger named Best Burger in America by GQ in 2012. However, this dimly lit and graffitied dive-bar-like-spot still offers plenty of local craft beer such as Bell’s, Founders, Vivant and Perrin.
Just don’t let the skulls scare you off.