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.

Be A Tourist in Your Own Town: Explore the Art Scene in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids

Vacations are not only fun, but they are good for you.  Studies suggest that taking a vacation is good for your health and helps to boost happiness.  While weeklong getaways to far-away destinations are popular, you can often find a great getaway by being a tourist in your own town.

Weekends are a great time to plan a “staycation” and in our new series, Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, we’ll be highlighting some of the great things to do, when you want to get away without going far.  

Exploring the arts and culture scene is not only enjoyable, it can help you learn things you didn’t know. Try visiting a museum or an art exhibit that you haven’t been to, or find a place where you can create artwork of your own. We’ve put together some suggestions for exploring the art scene in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids. You may even discover a favorite gem that was hiding in plain sight. After all, there’s no place like home.

Ann Arbor

Take a tour of Motawi Tileworks in Ann Arbor

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Photo courtesy of Motawi Tileworks

Motawi Tileworks is an art tile manufacturer on the west side of Ann Arbor. This locally owned, nationally known art studio creates unique handmade tile reflecting the classic styles and craftsmanship of 20th Century American design. The company’s team of talented artisans uses locally produced clay and glazes hand-mixed to their own recipes to make Motawi tiles. The tiles are created for distinctive installations and as art pieces. Fun and educational guided tours are free every Thursday at 11am, no reservations required. Private tours are available by appointment for a minimum fee of $50, which includes up to ten people. $5 per person after ten people.

Ann Arbor Art Center

This unique gallery shop offers original, one of a kind artwork, fiber, jewelry, ceramics and paintings from local and regional artists. The exhibition gallery showcases the talents of different Michigan artists each month in individual and group exhibits and themed competitions. ArtVentures, an art activity studio, invites children and adults to drop in and learn about art around the world through fun, educational, hands-on projects! Group bookings are available.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after your tour, Ann Arbor is also a great culinary destination with restaurants that will satisfy any palate.

Lansing

Take an afternoon to explore the Eli and Edyth Broad Museum in East Lansing

 The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is a venue featuring international contemporary art. It serves as a hub for the cultural life of Michigan State University, the local and regional community, as well as international visitors. The unique building, designed by the world-renowned, Pritzker Prize winning architect, Zaha Hadid opened to the public in the Fall of 2012. Open Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is free except for some special events.

Visit Lansing’s Saper Galleries

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Photo courtesy of Saper Galleries

Saper Galleries is an award-winning gallery which features high-quality works of art of all media. Since 1978 Saper Galleries has been a leader in making available works of art by noted artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Peter Max, Pissarro, Alvar, Norman Rockwell and many other superb artists who are not yet as well known.

After a leisurely stroll through the gallery, try out a unique farm-to-table dining experience at Red Haven.

Grand Rapids

Explore the exhibits at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) collection spans Renaissance to Modern art, focusing in on European and American 19th and 20th century painting and sculpture including The Works on Paper Study which features more than 3,500 prints, drawings and photographs. The Grand Rapids Art Museum also serves as a unique gathering place in the heart of downtown with exhibitions, programming, and special events designed to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Hop on the Tram at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a botanical garden and sculpture park that serves more than a half-million visitors annually. The 132-acre grounds feature Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; one of the largest children’s gardens in the country; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens; and a 1900-seat outdoor amphitheater, featuring an eclectic mix of world-renowned musicians every summer. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, di Suvero, Borofsky, Calder and Chadwick.

Wander through Grand Rapids Public Museum

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Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Museum

This education and entertainment center offers exhibits that display community treasures and explore the regions natural environment. It includes an operating 1928 carousel and the Chaffee planetarium that is equipped with the latest technology, a digital sound system and multiple video players, with numerous special effects.

Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Grand Rapids.

Be sure to check out the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on your way.

Downtown Market features 25,000 square feet of market space, a restaurant, a brewery, a farmer’s market, retail shops, a commercial kitchen, a rooftop greenhouse and the country’s first hands-on kitchen for kids. Visit the outdoor market where you’ll discover (and devour) the best in Michigan produce. And while you shop, why not have a seat and enjoy the talents of local entertainers. The Market Hall hosts a culinary collective of butchers, bakers, fishmongers and more. Stay awhile and enjoy all 138,000 square feet of our food lover’s heaven. Check the website for hours

Grand Rapids is also home to a number of great local breweries to quench your thirst after a long day of exploration. Brewery Vivant, Founders Brewing Co. and Grand Rapids Brewing Co. are just a few that helped shape Grand Rapids into Beer City USA 2013.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. For more information, visit michigan.org.

 Have you taken a “staycation” in your neighborhood? Let us know about some of your local favorites.

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?