Use the Beer City Ale Trail Map to plan how you will explore Grand Rapid’s 50-plus craft breweries. Many of these also offer dining experiences, so you may want to visit those around mealtime.
Piper’s Pro Planning: You won’t need to drive to enjoy the Beer City Ale Trail. Grand Rapids has an award-winning bus system, along with rideshare options. Additionally, Grand Rapids Beer Tours provides public, private, and walking tours where you can learn about various Grand Rapids breweries and what makes each of their products unique. So you won’t have an issue finding safe ways to explore the trail.
Download Brewsader Passport App, and after visiting eight breweries and collecting each of the brewery’s digital passport stamps, you can earn a free T-shirt. Listed in alphabetical order are 11 breweries in Beer City, USA, that I explored on my way to getting my free T-shirt.
Thank you to Experience Grand Rapids for inviting me to celebrate the tenth anniversary of being named Beer City USA.
Table of Contents
Atwater Brewery, born in Detroit, with a location in Grosse Pointe Park, their third location is in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. They have a portfolio of award-winning beer. Their philosophy is that beer ought to be approachable to everyone.
One of their Detroit classics is the Detroit City Juice Hazy IPA. This beer delivers a burst of grapefruit and orange blended with bright Citra, Cascade, and Zythos Hops. The name derives from prohibition slang for drink or water.
You’ll find a limited menu with traditional brew pub favorites, like wings, brats, and Bavarian pretzels. But try the pierogies with beer cheese crema, sauerkraut, green onions, and crema for something different.
The B.O.B. Brewery
In downtown Grand Rapids, the B.O.B. is an acronym for the Big Old Building. History buffs will have fun in this former Judson’s grocery warehouse, built in 1903. The 70,000-square-foot, red brick building stands four stories tall.
You’ll find a lot happening here. Start with B.O.B.’s Brewery, where you’ll find various beers. One of the most frequently requested is the Peanut Butter Porter, which is fun. A combination of peanuts, chocolate, brown sugar, vanilla, and milk—some consider it a masterpiece. While you’re there, check out their selection of hard seltzers.
For an appetizer, try the cheese curds roulette. They’re a ghost pepper white cheddar beer battered cheese curds, served with housemade ranch and a special sauce. The smoked pork belly sandwich is remarkable, with Carolina barbecue sauce, arugula, and pickled red onions.
The B.O.B. features a dog-friendly Beer Garden when the weather is warm. As a casual outdoor space, it serves a variety of beer and grab-and-go items from the brewery’s barbecue menu.
Then Bobarino’s Pizzeria offers wood-fired pizza along with craft beer. In summer, try out the Sky Deck with open-air dining. You’ll find live entertainment and games. If you need a laugh, check out Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club.
Brass Ring Brewing
In Grand Rapids’ Alger Heights neighborhood, the Brass Ring Brewing makes small-batch-style English pub ales and scratch comfort food. Brass Ring Brewing crafts its beer with four ingredients: water, yeast, malted barley, and hops. The beer is all-natural, so you won’t find chemicals or preservatives.
While its menu includes some American comfort foods like chicken pot pie, what’s different is it gives the nod to the United Kingdom — England, Ireland, and Scotland. So, you’ll find bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, and the ploughman’s board. The board is an English Pub favorite, including an English banger with the chef’s cheese choice, beet horse radish, house pickles, honey, English mustard, toasted sourdough, and a pretzel. This dish will transport you to England.
My favorite beer at Brass Ring Brewing is the Eight Pound Hammer. The beer is an Irish stout, chocolatey, coffee, and malty, thick but not heavy, and lightly hopped. It’s what I like in a stout.
Hopheads will love the Pure Mitten Double IPA. They craft it from three hops the Pure Mitten Hops grow. As a double IPA, it packs a punch.
Brewery Nyx, Michigan’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery, allows those who need a gluten-free diet to enjoy beer again. They use rice, millet, and other grist to build a delicious foundation for their beer. You can’t even tell it is gluten-free from the taste. They don’t use sorghum or artificial additives.
Try Mango Bonney. It combines water, millet, rice, mango and guava nectar, hops, scotch bonnet peppers, and yeast.
While they don’t have a kitchen, they do offer pre-packaged snacks for purchase. You can also order food delivery from Papa Chops. However, since they need to control gluten contamination, you aren’t allowed to bring in food from the outside.
Brewery Vivant is the world’s first LEED-certified microbrewery. The brewery at 925 Cherry Street makes European-inspired beers emphasizing French and Belgian-style beer. Combine those rustic beers with the best locally sourced ingredients in its scratch-made kitchen
Some Belgian items on the food menu, like escargots and Pommes Frites, pair well with the beer. I like to try menu items that use the brewery’s beer while eating in a brewery. For example, the escargots have beer butter and Parmesan cheese. They serve it with toasted bread for a dish you won’t find in every brewery in the United States.
Another example is the beer cheese spread. It features a four-cheese blend and the FarmHand Rapid IPA, which they serve with rotating types of bread.
One of my favorite beer choices is the Farm Hand Tart Tangerine. While the Farm Hand is their flagship beer, a food-friendly saison, the Farm Hand Tart Tangerine is a bold new variety. It had an in-your-face flavor and aroma. In addition, the tangerine imparts the Farm Hand’s classic farmhouse flavors.
Add to all this a setting that was once a funeral chapel, complete with a stained-glass window, and you have a unique brewery.
City Built Brewing Company
City Built Brewing Company believes beer brings people together and craft brewing is for everyone. So in their beer and food menus, various cultures are represented.
I have to say that Mexican beer is my absolute favorite. Try City Built’s Mexican lager. It features Saaz hops, a floral aroma while being slightly spicy and herbal.
Their Zombi Kitchen features some Creole dishes, like the Creole Beer Cheese. The starter mixes three kinds of cheese with City Built’s Alemania Mexican Lager. Then, they serve it with a toasted French roll and seasoned potato chips.
You’ll find other Creole and Cajun dishes like the Cajun shrimp basket and the Shrimp Étouffée. They even snuck Cajun and Creole into a traditional Latin American offering, the empanada, by adding smoked chicken jambalaya. They serve it with smoked hot garlic sauce and beer cheese.
Founder’s Brewing Company
Founders Brewing Company, located in downtown Grand Rapids, is known worldwide and rated as one of the world’s best breweries. But it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, the brewery struggled. Then, it sold its filter, and its beer took off from there. Today, their beer is rated number two in the world. In addition, eight of their beers have won at least 13 medals.
One of my favorite sandwiches is the Glutton. It’s made from in-house bourbon barrel-smoked pulled pork, thick-cut bacon, crispy onions, beer cheese dip, and Dirty Bastard BBQ—sauce on a toasted “everything” bun. What’s fun about this sandwich is how they incorporate beer into the dish. So you’ll taste beer in the beer cheese dip, the barbecue sauce, and the pulled pork smoked in a bourbon barrel. In addition to great food and beer, Founders Brewing Company offers live music from nationally known talent.
It offers classes and public brewery tours to learn about your favorite beer. It naturally brews its All Day IPA from various grains, malts, and hops balanced for optimum aromatics.
Grand Rapids Brewing Company
In 1893, six local Grand Rapids breweries became one Grand Rapids Brewing Company. The location had plenty of fresh spring water and made a refreshing beer, Silver Foam, so GRBC became one of the Midwest’s best-known and largest breweries. Then, Prohibition hit, and everything stopped. After Prohibition, several Grand Rapids breweries merged, and those that joined with GRBC left town. However, Grand Rapids Brewing Company reopened in 2012, 79 years after the repeal of Prohibition, and revived the brand.
You have to sample the historic Silver Foam, a new take on the classic export lager. It’s a light-bodied pilsner with crisp carbonation and a clean finish.
From the kitchen, try the Street Corn Nachos. They start with a layer of fresh tortilla chips, roasted sweet corn, and chorizo, then top it with beer cheese. Then they garnish it with ancho crema and sprinkle on some diced tomatoes, red onions, queso fresco, and cilantro.
Küsterer Brauhaus One of Grand Rapid’s Breweries
Küsterer Brauhaus, on Bridge Street, is a traditional Munich Bierhall. However, they are a German tradition crafted in Michigan. Beer lovers and history buffs often wonder how the Grand Rapids beer tradition began. It came from German immigrants from the mid-1800s, like Christoph Küsterer, the original German brewer in Kent County and the Grand River Valley. So at Küsterer Brauhaus, they craft German-style beer brewed according to German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot), where their beer contains only water, hops, malt, and yeast.
One of their award-winning beers is the Küsterer Original Weißbier, which has six centuries of brewing history, where Bavarian kings brewed it exclusively for three centuries. So, it truly is a beer fit for a king. They ferment the beer with their unique yeast strain in classic open vessels. The traditional wheat beer has a deep reddish color and a cloudy appearance. Hints of almonds accent the rich body and offer a refreshing finish.
In addition to some American fare, like burgers, fries, and pulled pork, they offer traditional Bavarian dishes, which complement the beer wonderfully. For example, Wienerschnitzel is a classic Vienna-style breaded pork cutlet with oven-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, cranberries, and a lemon slice.
Mitten Brewing Company
Baseball fans will love Mitten Brewing Company, a vintage baseball-themed brewpub in a historic old firehouse, once the Engine House Number 9. When the Detroit Tigers have a game, they set all TVs to the game. So Mitten Brewing Company is where to watch baseball and throw back a cold one.
Baseball-themed starters, like roasted peanuts, are on the menu. They knock craft beer and artisan pizza out of the park. So while you’re familiar with craft beer flights, you’ll also find pizza flights.
I had the Triple Crown Brown from the beer menu, with a subtle caramel malty flavor. It had a fruity yeast aroma and flavor, a light body, and low abv.
At every baseball game, you have to have an all-American hotdog. But Mitten Brewing is a pizzeria-style restaurant, so you have to try the unusual mash-up of a hot dog pizza. I mean, why not? The crust starts with a chili bean sauce, topped with Colby-Jack cheese and sliced all-bean franks. Then, they garnish it with diced onions, shredded kosher pickles, ketchup, and yellow mustard.
To learn more about Mitten Brewing Company, check out this article.
Piper’s Pro Planning: Vegetarians and vegans will feel at home here. One of the owners is vegan, so you can order a vegan version of almost anything.
New Holland Brewing Company (The Knickerbocker)
New Holland Brewing Company features barrel-crafted décor and an impressive art piece—a larger-than-life dragon in the lobby. In addition to the indoor dining, the venue offers a beautiful open-air courtyard where you can eat outside when weather permits. In the outdoor space, they also have a stage for live music.
Their signature beer is Dragon’s Milk—a bourbon barrel-aged stout. Over the years, they’ve highlighted over 20 Dragon’s Milk Reserve versions. Unfortunately, the limited edition might only be around for a few months, and a new one will appear when the old one runs out.
My favorite sandwich was the Cuban, made with roasted to-perfection Michigan pork shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles. They build the sandwich on a Telera bun smeared with mustard. The bun is like a slightly sweet French roll with a hint of sourdough, the same bread on which it builds Mexican tortas.
Piper’s Pro Planning: If you’re not in the mood for socializing, but would still like one of their Dragon’s Milk, stop by the brewery store and pick up a six-pack.
Michigan also has wineries. Check out this one near Lansing:
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While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.