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.

Four Michigan Microbreweries You Won’t Want to Miss in Jackson

A cold winter requires a lot of bundling up and settling indoors to keep warm. Escape cabin fever by planning a day filled with Michigan craft beer and good friends at the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival! Today, guest blogger Rebecca Calkins from Experience Jackson describes four great Michigan microbreweries to check out during the event in Jackson, MI. 

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

On Saturday, March 8th, the Jackson County Fairgrounds will feature over 150 craft beers from Michigan and around the world during the 4th Annual Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival – you’re bound to find your new favorite! What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon? Enjoying live music, good food, and great beer with your friends; maybe even making a few new friends.  You’ll hardly notice the cold at this indoor/outdoor event with campfires and warming stations, along with the warmth of good friends and great beers. Outside, the entertainment tent will feature live music from local and regional acts, a lively corn hole tournament as well as food vendors and more beer.

The event is sponsored by both Experience Jackson and Jackson’s newest microbrewery, Grand River Marketplace. This new Marketplace includes a brewery, winery, restaurant and deli all in one 12,000 square foot facility. This unique venue along the banks of the Grand River incorporates a funky steampunk theme. The walls feature a view into the steam-powered idealized future of Victorian-era minds. This vibe lends itself well to the types of hip roots-rock sound of the regional acts that perform on the indoor stage on Saturday nights.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Recently, Grand River Marketplace won the Brick Award from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce for the restorative work they have done to this historic downtown building. Come back in the summer, for a “Party on the Grand”, where you can enjoy your craft beer or wine with live music under the pavilion that also regularly houses the Grand River Farmer’s Market.  Sourcing local is important to the people at Grand River. New England trained Chef Corey Bieber is proudly sourcing local ingredients for his one of a kind dishes. Brewer Ben Tackett and Thomas Block, who man the state of the art 15-barrel brew system, get their hops from the Sleeping Bear area of Michigan. Finally, winemaker Blake Kownacki is using only Michigan fruit for his award-winning wine.

Photo courtesy of Experience Jackson

Grand River isn’t the only micro-brewery in town; however micro might be too big to describe the next three locations that have opened in Jackson. For most home brewers just stepping out into the public, one barrel at a time is often the best way to brew. So spend the night in a warm Jackson hotel after the Beer Festival, follow our Beer Festival Weekend Itinerary, and spend your Sunday tasting some of the local pico-breweries latest offerings at Bifferhaus Brewing Company on Lansing Avenue, Tootsie’s Brewery at Lone Oak Vineyard Estate in Grass Lake, and Shed’s Brewing Company located off of US-127.

Get your tickets now for the Southern Michigan Winter Beer Festival. Tickets are $25 before the event or $30 at the gate (depending on availability) this includes 10 tasting tickets, admission and parking. Designated driver tickets will be available at the door for $5. Proceeds go to the Jackson County Fair Premium Program. You must be 21 years or older to attend.  Limited tickets are available so get your tickets early by either calling the fair box office at 517-788-4405 or Etix at 1-800-514-3849 or go online to www.Etix.com.

Have you visited any of these Jackson microbreweries? Where is your favorite place to try Michigan craft beer

Ann Arbor: A Clear Choice for Beer City USA 2013

We’ve heard from Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids on why they should get your vote for Beer City USA 2013, and today Ann Arbor makes their case. Read from Maricat Eggenberger of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau below.

Ann Arbor is pleased to join our friends in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo as one of three Michigan cities in Charlie Papazian’s 2013 BeerCity USA poll. We’re thrilled other cities have discovered craft beer, but Ann Arbor – a town historically full of German immigrants – is unmatched in its long history of celebrating serious suds.

According to Papazian, BeerCity USA is about “[l]ocal support of the final sum, which is the enthusiasm for beer choice, diversity, flavor and accessibility. Most importantly it highlights ‘beer’ as the meeting place.” Ann Arbor excels in all these areas.

Local Support

Ann Arbor supports three brewpubs, two microbreweries (with a third on the way), and a plethora of multitap bars and restaurants committed to serving craft beer.

Although “supports” doesn’t really capture the enthusiasm. Grizzly Peak has been Michigan’s No. 1 selling brewpub for the past five years, according to Michigan Beer Guide. Arbor Brewing serves not only its own award-winning beers but has hosted often-sold-out monthly tastings of beers from around the world for more than 15 years. Both were among Michigan’s first brewpubs when they opened in 1995.

Enthusiasm for Beer Choice, Diversity, Flavor, and Accessibility

Ann Arbor is second to none in embracing beer diversity. For example:

  • For 30 years beer lovers have found a huge variety at the 72 taps of Ashley’s, recognized as one of America’s best beer bars by DRAFT magazine, Travel & Leisure, Men’s Health, and RateBeer.com.
  • Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery serves the coveted sour ales brewed just down the road in its newly expanded Dexter facility. Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza was ranked No. 1 in a 2010 New York Times Belgian-style ale tasting. The Ann Arbor café is one of the only places to get special releases, which always sell out in hours.
  • Wolverine State Brewing is one of the few craft breweries in America to specialize in lagers, and their efforts have resulted not just in medals in competitions like the World Expo of Beer but in multiple expansions since opening in late 2010.

Beer as A Meeting Place

Whether at a 50-year-old neighborhood joint like Fraser’s Pub or the city’s newest hotspot, Bill’s Beer Garden, meeting over beers is just what people do in Ann Arbor. In the summer, sidewalks and rooftops transform into oases of craft brew and lively conversation. Other examples:

  • The Ann Arbor Brewers Guild has been meeting to exchange homebrew and camaraderie since 1986.
  • Since 1948 the German Park Club has hosted picnics attracting thousands to its old-fashioned beer garden full of great German brew, music, and food.
  • The state’s oldest and largest beer fest, the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, brings more than 10,000 enthusiasts to the area every July.

Local beer writer David Bardallis sums up: “For a community atmosphere, people truly knowledgeable about beer, and a ‘beer ethic’ that views our favorite beverage as part of a life well lived, you can’t beat Ann Arbor.”

But don’t just believe me, Bardallis adds. Listen to one-time Ann Arbor resident Larry Bell, who founded his famous brewery with equipment purchased from another Ann Arbor area resident: “I’ve always thought Ann Arbor had a great beer scene.”

The choice is clear: Vote Ann Arbor for Beer City USA!

Maricat Eggenberger is the Communications Manager for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She’s a proud Michigander that loves traveling and anything eco-friendly!

We’re proud to see these three Michigan cities in the running. Voting runs through 1:59 a.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2013. Who’s your pick for Beer City USA?