Grand Rapids, Michigan, voted Beer City USA and named Best Beer Town by USA TODAY readers, has more craft beer per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Ideally, you’d sip every frosty pint of high-gravity greatness until slipping into a frothy and hoppy state of euphoria, but let’s be realistic — with over 40 breweries on the Beer City Ale Trail, that’s probably not going to happen. That being said, here are the champions of craft beer you shouldn’t miss while experiencing the beer culture of Michigan’s second-largest city.
1. Founders’ Backwoods Bastard
Stepping into Founder’s is like stumbling into beer Disneyland. There’s even a gift shop where you can spend $4.50 on some hop-infused lip balm after having a few of these 11.6% ABV babies. This brew is malty. It’s smokey. It’s aged in oak bourbon barrels. It’s pretty much the taste equivalent to sinking in a leather armchair by a fire and reading some Bill Bryson while stroking a Norwegian Forest Cat.
2. Mitten’s Maple Pecan Brown
A 7.2% ABV American brown ale brewed with pecans toasted in a pizza oven? Psh, and you thought pizza and beer were only limited to Domino’s and Budweiser.
3. Grand Rapids Brewing Co.’s Peanut Butter Dunkel Time
It’s like someone brewed some monkey bars with a crustless PB&J in a glass of 5.40% ABV nostalgia. In other words, it’s the 90s meets the craft beer movement.
4. Brewery Vivant’s Undertaker
Because you’d have to be a fool to sit at the bar of an early 20th century funeral home-turned-brewery and not grab a glass of a sinister and smokey Belgian style dark ale called the Undertaker.
5. Brewery Vivant’s Big Red Coq
Named by Outside Magazine as one of the Top Canned Beers of 2013, this Belgo-American red ale is malty, fruity, and all things hoppy. But if you’re one of the few people who haven’t jumped on the IPA bandwagon, you can always look towards the stained glass windows illuminating spirituality from behind rustic drinking glasses and pray to the Coq to let you like hops. Works like a charm.
6. Founders’ KBS
This 11.2% imperial stout is brewed with coffee and chocolate before being aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year in caves beneath Grand Rapids. It’s also considered one of the most sought-after craft beers in the United States. And like with anything nationally sought-after, it’s naturally rare to find. Stay tuned to Founders for updates on this beer’s limited release.
7. Bell’s Brewery Inc.’s Larry’s Stupid Quadrupid Citrus IPA
While Bell’s Brewery isn’t quite in Grand Rapids, it’s in the close town of Kalamazoo and is absolutely worth the 50 minute drive to try this whopping 15.01% ABV beer slickly laced with citrus. You may not like IPAs, but you’ll sure as hell respect this one.
8. Perrin Brewing’s Lil’ Griz
Because once upon a time, the beer gods gathered together and decided to blend the sensations of malt, chocolate, and whiskey in a 6.8% ABV barrel aged imperial brown ale. And they saw that it was good.
9. Anything and everything at the International Wine, Beer, and Food Festival
Root Beer that’ll get you buzzed. Stouts that taste like a Thin Mint cookie. Pumpkin ales that’ll make you feel like you should be wearing leggings with an oversized shirt and doing a sorority squat in a corn maze. It’s the largest wine, beer, and food tasting event in the Midwest that boasts over 1,200 wines and over 200 beers. Not to mention, you can keep your tasting glass. How can you say no to that?
10. New Holland’s Dragon Milk Reserve: With Toasted Chilies
While this one is also slightly outside of Grand Rapids, how else do you plan on beating the Michigan cold than with an 11% beer brewed with toasted chilies? C’mon. You’ll be breathing fire.
11. Founders’ Breakfast Stout
Coffee, meet beer. Beer, meet coffee. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to try it, just remember your mom nagging you about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. You best drink up — your body will thank you.