Grand Rapids, Michigan is a perfect detour for beer lovers across the country. Named BeerCity USA in 2012 and again in 2013, Grand Rapids is home to fifteen breweries with other West Michigan favorites close nearby. It was also named one of the top 10 Best Vacation Cities for Beer Lovers. Organizing a charter group to tour them all is a ticket to happy (or should we say hoppy?) time.
Founders Brewing Co. is the heavy-weight of the Grand Rapids area for more than one reason. Although it offers a diverse selection of craft beers for all drinkers, it’s the heavy, dark beers that Founders brew with love. Even in the cold Michigan winters, patrons can enjoy a drink outside on the large heated patio and warm up with great pub food in its spacious indoor seating area.
Speaking of pub food, you’ll need a base to handle these Michigan beers, so head over to Hopcat, rated the “3rd Best Beer Bar in the World” by Beer Advocate, and sample their addictive “crack fries.” Great drinks pairs with great food, so it’s no surprise that Stella’s Lounge is only one block further, where they serve the “Best Burger in America” according to GQ Magazine (July 2012). In addition to many Grand Rapids brews on tap here, take in the hip atmosphere, complemented by old school 80s arcade cabinets and pinball tables. In fact, if pinball is your fancy, walk over a block to Pyramid Scheme, which features over 35 pinball tables both new and old. Each table is accompanied with a drink holster for between-game sipping.
A short 4-minute walk will lead you from games to Grand Rapids Brewing Co., also in the heart of downtown GR. It’s the first USDA approved organic brewery, of which there exist fewer than two dozen in the country.
For a memorable brewery experience, check out Brewery Vivant, themed like an old church. In Europe during the Middle Ages, Christian monks built breweries to provide food, drink, and shelter to travelers, so the setting is a perfect place for a tour group of tasters. Vivant offers artistic beers inspired by breweries of Southern Belgium and Northern France.
To check in on an up-and-comer in the area, head over to Eastown in East Grand Rapids to visit Harmony Brewing Company. A small, friendly neighborhood brewpub, Harmony brews small batches of well-balanced beer, alongside wood-fired pizzas. Larger groups can spread out to check out other Eastown favorites such as Yesterdog for old-fashioned hot dogs, Wolfgang‘s for an insatiably good breakfast, or Kava House for a piping hot cup o’ joe.
The beauty of a motorcoach is that safe transportation is ready and waiting. A few longer hauls that could be dressed up with more local attraction flair include the beautiful lakeside town of Grand Haven. Grand Haven is home to Odd Side Ales, which features unique and curious beers such as peppercorn ales and chipotle porters. For the experimental beer drinker, this water-side pub is perfect for lazy afternoons. Soak up some sun while walking the pier and dip your toes in Lake Michigan (unless the coast is frozen for the winter!).
Another to make the must-taste list is Perrin Brewing Company. Perrin is home to some monster beers and is a local favorite only 10 miles from downtown in Comstock Park. A huge parking lot provides plenty of room for charter buses and large groups; the brewery was originally scoped to occupy 12,000 square feet, but the plans quickly grew to 23,000 square feet a month later. Perrin has yet to bottle their beer but kegs are served at many area restaurants, so ask for it on draught!
Would you believe this list only scratches the surface of Michigan breweries? Thankfully, the city of Grand Rapids loves its tourists, and ExperienceGR.com is your insiders guide to the best things to do, places to stay, and events to attend during your trip to the west side of the Mitten State. Check out their “Ale Trail” map of all breweries and get started with BusRates.com to find the best bus rental for your group.