Seven Things You Should Know About Grand Rapids as Beer City, USA

Grand Rapids, MI proudly held the title of Beer City, USA in the year 2013. Today, guest blogger Lyndsay Isreal from Experience Grand Rapids shares seven interesting things to know about Beer City, USA.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

The Beer City, USA Contest has officially ended, and Grand Rapids is proud to retire the title! Here are 7 interesting facts about Beer City – and how the competition has helped boost an already-booming beer industry in West Michigan:

1. Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, NC in 2012 with 17,849 votes. In 2013, they put a stake in the ground with 27,005 votes in a week-long online poll. The Grand Rapids Society of Brewers (GRSOB), taproom owners, taptenders and enthusiasts headed all over town to encourage people to vote.

2. The vote was founded in 2009 by Colorado homebrewer Charlie Papazian as a nonscientific poll to put the spotlight on tasty beers. Portland, Oregon, Asheville and Grand Rapids are the only cities that have won! (Asheville won three years and then split the win with GR in 2012) Kate Avery of Brewery Vivant says that “Beer City put GR on the map…and now we’re lucky to have the competitors and companions Beer City nurtured”.

Photo courtesy of Brewery Vivant

Photo courtesy of Brewery Vivant

3. Beer City has led to more and better homebrewing. Jason Warnes, a dedicated member of his homebrew club The Brewsquitos, is now co-head brewer at The Mitten Brewing Co. He agrees that Beer City is changing the homebrew community. “We have almost doubled the size of the group in the last two years. Not only that, the brewers themselves have become better. Breweries also have been more active in getting homebrew clubs in their tap rotation, through homebrew competitions that the brewery hosts. Suppliers have increased in the past few years too, there are now several places to choose to buy your homebrew supplies.”

4. The festivals, releases, and food-pairing events all over town have garnered national attention…and tons of beer tourism.  Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2014 was an opportunity for chefs all over town to show a little love for the craft beverages…and they knocked it out of the park, using beer and cider in unique menu items that had locals dining out every night for.  The Michigan Brewers Guild hosts three beer festivals a year, and selling out in the first ten minutes is no longer uncommon.  Founder’s famous KBS had people camping out in Michigan March weather for two days to leave with bottles of the cave-aged imperial stout.  That’s dedication.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

Photo courtesy of The Mitten Brewing Co.

5. The Beer City Ale Trail Map was released this winter by Experience Grand Rapids with thirty-two Grand Rapids craft beverage hot spots on it. That’s a lot of stops for one city! Make sure you request an Ale Trail Map at the next GR brewery you visit so that you can check them off one by one…preferably not in one weekend.

6. Our craft beer obsession in GR has fostered growth in all sorts of complimentary industries: cider, hotels, restaurants, distilleries and wineries. Jason Lummen, founder of The People’s Cider Company, is grateful for Beer City. “Beer culture makes projects like mine possible”, and amidst so much variety, “we’ve created an adventurous consumer”. Hotels in Grand Rapids have embraced the enthusiasm and now offer all sorts of beer packages when special events are happening in town. Growler fills, t-shirts, and even Brew and Renew spa packages (hint-at the JW Marriot) are options for people booking for a beer fest.

7. Beer City has come to an end! In a surprise move by Papazian, 2013’s poll was declared the final contest. Good beer has been spotlighted and Grand Rapids couldn’t be more thrilled. When asked if the trend was about to die down, Avery, Wanhatalo, Warnes and Lummens all gave a resounding No. Wob Wanhatalo, co-head brewer with Warnes, says that “The timing was right. It won’t level off, the culture for craft beer established in GR is all about eating, drinking and being social- at each place you get something different. It’s why I do what I do.”

What is your favorite thing about Grand Rapids, Beer City, USA?

Lyndsay Israel originated in Northern Michigan and is now a dedicated Grand Rapids resident.  When she grows up, the plan is to teach high school English and Chemistry classes.  She writes to show how much she loves the mitten state!  Look for her articles at The Awesome Mitten and Experience GR, or follow her on Twitter @lyndsayisrael.

You’re Invited: Live Web Chat with Michigan-Native Comedian Sinbad

Mark your calendars! Next Thursday, February 20th at 12:00 noon ET, we’ll be chatting live with Michigan-native actor and comedian Sindbad.

Chat Live with Sinbad! This year, Sinbad will be performing at LaughFest in Grand Rapids - happening March 6 – 16, 2014. LaughFest is quickly becoming one of the nation’s “must attend” festivals, celebrating laughter for the health of it. Now in its fourth year, LaughFest features laughter in all forms including: comedy, live performance, improv, film, and a variety of other seriously funny stuff. Other LaughFest headliners include Jim Gaffigan, Jay Leno, Chris Tucker, and Jen Kirkman.

Sinbad will be with us to answer your questions about his career, his upcoming performance at LaughFest, his childhood in Michigan, and more!

To submit questions for Sinbad, leave them in the comments section below, on our Google+ or Facebook pages, or by using the hashtag #PureMichigan on Twitter. Then, tune in on Thursday right here on the blog! You’re also welcome to submit questions as the chat is happening.

What questions do you want to ask Sinbad? 

 

6 Reasons Grand Rapids is Lonely Planet’s Pick for Top 2014 Travel Destination

As you begin to plan your travels for the new year ahead, here are six reasons why Grand Rapids is Lonely’s Planet’s Top 2014 travel destination from Experience Grand Rapids

When Lonely Planet named Grand Rapids the #1 travel destination of 2014, citing its natural beauty and beaches, ArtPrize, and the local craft beer scene as a winning combination, West Michigan residents weren’t surprised. They already knew that Grand Rapids is a gem just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world – and here’s why:

The art.

Grand Rapids has been home to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park for almost 20 years. The park houses rotating exhibits, as well as its own collection, and continues to expand. In 2007, Grand Rapids kicked its commitment to art up a notch with the opening of the new $75 million Grand Rapids Art Museum, the first art museum in the world whose entire facility is built to LEED standards.

Of course, the event making the biggest splash today is ArtPrize. Named one of the Five Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013 by Time magazine, this open art competition with prize money totaling $350,000, attracts artists and visitors from across the globe.

The beach.

Just 30 minutes from 300 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, the beach is never out of reach for those who live and play in Grand Rapids. And not just any beach, but a stretch of white-sand shoreline featuring expansive blue waters and a portion of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America.

The beer.

From its designation as “Beer City USA” for the past two years running, to individual awards granted to some half a dozen if its breweries, Grand Rapids has earned its reputation as a beer-lover’s paradise. New breweries, focused on sustainability and crafting that just-right-draft open regularly, and what was formerly a little neighborhood spot, Founders Brewing Co., has grown up, expanded, and taken its place in the international spotlight.

The food.

Grand Rapids’ restaurant scene is flourishing. A farm-to-table scene rivaling that of a major metropolis; innovative partnerships between brewers, winemakers, and chefs; the long-established Fulton Street Market; and the new Downtown Market – a culinary treasure trove – all mean that local foodies never have to look far for fresh ingredients, inspiration, and a world-class meal.

Performances aplenty.

Looking for live music? Check out one of Grand Rapids’ venues featuring local, regional and national talent both established and up-and-coming, take in a performance from the top-notch Grand Rapids Symphony, or experience a production from the Grand Rapids Opera. If live theatre is your passion, you can see touring Broadway productions or watch a play staged by one of several local professional theatre companies or the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, one of the largest community theatres in the country.

The scenery.

Despite all Grand Rapids has to offer, while in the city you’ll never be far from the rolling hills and abundant trees and wildlife of Western Michigan. Nature lovers can quickly get out of the city and enjoy the lush greenery surrounding its borders, but even right downtown, nature is always within sight – and within grasp.

With all that waiting for you in beautiful West Michigan, now’s the time to take the Lonely Planet’s advice and plan your trip! See you in Grand Rapids.

Established in 1927, Experience Grand Rapids (EXGR) leads the marketing of Grand Rapids/Kent County as a premier convention & visitor destination providing a significant positive impact to the West Michigan economy. Previously named the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, EXGR represents the second largest city in Michigan with over one million residents.