The Beer Scene in Grand Rapids, Michigan is strong. There are a significant number of Grand Rapids Breweries mixing up tasty brews (like a Guava infused IPA!). So, if you like frosty beverages from dudes with hipster mustaches, keep reading this guide to the Top 5 Grand Rapids Breweries.
But first, what’s a SOCAL dude doing in Western Michigan??
There are a million people writing about what to do in Grand Rapids, MI – that’s not what I’ve done here. Instead, what captured my attention was the beer scene. It’s really strong in Grand Rapids. I was astonished at the quality and quantity of Grand Rapids Breweries. For a California kid…this was a pleasant surprise!
Super Quick History of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Listen, I was a history major once and it’s simply in my nature to learn about the history of a place before, during and after I visit. So, sorry…not sorry…but you are stuck with a history lesson on Grand Rapids, MI (albeit a short one…I tried to be good).
Grand Rapids is the 2nd largest city in the great state of Michigan (something I did not know!). According to the 2010 census 188k people live in this western Michigan town that is traditionally known for its furniture. Grand Rapids is also the home of US President Gerald Ford. and there is a great museum in the city featuring the 38th president.
The downtown area of Grand Rapids has experienced a revitalization in the last few years becoming quite the hangout with upscale bars, hipster pubs, and other attractions that draw folks back into the city and I experienced this during my trip there (it was a vibrant downtown – full of lots of young people!). Grand Rapids appears to be one of those great “little cities” that continues to rise in popularity and purpose.
I know…you are probably thinking I NEED a nice beer from one of those Grand Rapids Breweries right now – especially after having to slog through a history lesson. Don’t worry, the Grand Rapids Breweries and their delicious brews are up next.
Grand Rapids Breweries
Let’s start with the facts. A quick flyover of the beer scene in Grand Rapids from 10,000 feet (this is a travel blog after all).
Overview of the Grand Rapids Beer Scene
You don’t get named Beer City, USA two years running if you don’t have a dope beer scene and Grand Rapids has some of the best breweries around. By last count there were 37 breweries in Grand Rapids. 37! Yeah, that’s a lot of great beer.
Prior to 2012, there was a pretty steady beer scene in Grand Rapids. 15+ breweries (stalwarts like Vivant), putting out great beer. But, an informal poll was published where Grand Rapids came out in a tie with Asheville, NC. The poll results went viral, spreading like wildfire through craft brew snobbery faster than handlebar mustaches and suspenders in a Nashville airport.
And Grand Rapids decided to double down on this victory (if you can call a tie, victory) by using this to draw tourism to the city.
Soon more breweries began popping up offering tasty cold beverages in the one of the coldest cities in the US. And the rest was history, as they say.
Grand Rapids has also won the award of Best Beer Town USA – via a USA Today poll.
Let’s look at some of the top Grand Rapids Breweries.
The Top 5 Grand Rapids Breweries
I’ve summarized the Top 5 Grand Rapids Breweries for you here, followed by more detailed reviews of them in the next section.
Let’s jump into a more detailed review of these Top 5 Grand Rapids Breweries.
Grand Rapids Breweries – the details
No list of Grand Rapids Breweries would be considered “valid” if it didn’t start with Vivant. Vivant, is a French word that means to “be alive” – and the irony here is that the Brewery Vivant is in a historic funeral home! Hilarious. It’s really more of a chapel, and Vivant fully embraces the “Monk” theme.
They feature Belgian and French style beers (so tasty!) with mainstays like the Big Red Coq (a strong farmhouse IPA) and my favorite, the 9% Tree Bucket IPA. Sit down for that one.
Location: 925 Cherry St, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Mike and Steve, the founders of this great brewery, don’t make beer for the masses – they make it for the renegades and rebels. They’ve won numerous awards for their tasty craft brews and are a stalwart of the Grand Rapids Brewery Scene.
Founders is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s downtown district near the “S Curve” of the 131 highway and their massive facility takes up a full block. They feature food, live music, tours and oh yeah…beer.
Hopcat has been doing beer since around 2008. Yeah…I think they have it figured out by now. They have since spread their malty deliciousness to other locations (like 17 other spots in the US), but their downtown Grand Rapids location is where it all began and it’s still their most popular brewpub.
Hopcat is consistently ranked as a Top Brewpup in just about any poll – and that’s because they make damn good beer, but more importantly they carry a TON of other beers. The selection is considerable.
Location: 25 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to visit the Mitten Brewing Company – although it was highly recommended by the lady I sat next to on the plane (a very conservative retired Catholic school teacher). I am pretty disappointed by this because it is exactly the kind of place I’d love to chug a great beer.
The Mitten’s baseball themed pub is pretty incredible. It’s located in an old firehouse and features baseball nostalgia galore.
Like the Vivant and Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Mittens has been around before Grand Rapids was known as Beer City USA. They’ve been putting out solid beers for a while and all reports are they worth the visit! Some of their more popular beers include the Extra Innings Stout and the Triple Crown Brown.
We’d all agree that no brewpub is truly complete without some tasty Pizza. Mittens allegedly has some solid dough’s worth checking out!
I had the occasion of visiting the Grand Rapids Brewing Company on my recent visit to Grand Rapids. It’s in a cool old building in downtown Grand Rapids (it’s down the street from the Hopcat). It was October when I visited and they were holding a costume party of some sort when I visited. A lot of drag queens…lol.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company is one of the original breweries in Grand Rapids originally opening in 1893…yeah 1893!! Prohibition was tough on the GRBC and eventually it left town. However, in 2012 it came back to life in a new location 5 or 6 blocks from the original location.
GRBC features many great beers including the Silver Foam – based on the original brew from 1893 and several great IPAs like the Infinite Flux, which was a solid IPA) and Get to the Copper, a smooth lager. I also enjoyed an off-menu Guava infused IPA which was fabulous during my visit. And the Brewers Board was a delicious board of meets, cheeses, and candied jalepenos! YUM.
I highly recommend a stop at the GRBC on any visit to Grand Rapids.
Location: 1 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Honorable Mention: There are something on the order of 37 Grand Rapids Breweries and we simply couldn’t list them all. However, here is a list of honorable mentions: 7 Monks, Creston Brewery, Unruly Brewing, Knickerbocker, and Harmony Beer.
Are you salivating for a tasty cold brew from one of the many Grand Rapids Breweries I covered? I know I am and I can’t wait for my next visit to Grand Rapids to enjoy a few more of these amazing brewpubs. I look forward to hearing your stories!
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By the way…you might find this map to Grand Rapids Breweries hand: Beer City USA Ale Trail.
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