Momentum in Beer City USA shows no signs of slowing down. Because of unquestionable demand and the abundance of beer-related activities, what was once lovingly referred to as Beer Week could no longer be contained to just 7 days (well, we might’ve stretched a “week” by a day or two, give or take).
Whether for those visiting from out of town or the ever-thirsty dedicated locals, the festivities have been rightfully extended to an entire month. Overflowing with all things beer (and food!) from February 15 – March 15, 2017, clear your social calendars now for Beer Month GR — a city-wide collaborative celebration to Savor the Craft while dually showcasing the city’s equally impressive food scene.
Follow Beer Month GR on Facebook, and contribute to the conversation across social using #BeerMonthGR.
Beer City Brewsader® Passport
First things first: Get one of these. They’re free, and available at every brewery in the city.
This pocket-sized guide will navigate your travels to all 32 breweries in (or within an affordable ride-share trip from) Grand Rapids. Your mission: Enjoy a beer at a minimum of eight breweries, get your passport stamped by said breweries, and redeem your passport to claim a free Brewsader® T-shirt. Think eight is an easy get? Become an Ultimate Brewsader® by collecting a stamp from visiting all 32, and earn a wallet card as proof to flash for exclusive deals and discounts.
Note: For anyone already familiar with the Brewsader® Passport, there are now two editions.
The original batch, first distributed in the fall of 2015, had a gold cover, and included 23 breweries. There may be some of these still in circulation, and that’s okay. If you have or find one, you can supplement it with the Another Round packet, available at any of the newly-added breweries, to ensure your original stamps weren’t earned in vain. But, you should experience no hiccup in obtaining the new passport. Just ask for one.
The current edition, which started being distributed in the fall of 2016, has a grey cover. To all those new breweries included that have opened their doors since the original edition was published, welcome to the party in Grand Rapids: Atwater GR, Bier Distillery (yep, they brew, too), Creston Brewery, Elk Brewing (Comstock Park), Greyline Brewing Co., New Holland Brewing’s The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery, Schmohz Brewing Co. (new to the passport, not new to the GR beer scene) and Fountain Hill Brewery (at Grand Rapids Community College) — the country’s only federal and state licensed brewpub owned and operated on a college/university campus.
For those itching to tick off all 32 breweries, you may have to detour to one of the city’s distilleries or cideries to hold you over as City Built Brewing Company is included in the passport but is not yet open (at the time this story was published).
Show your devotion to craft beer by becoming a Beer City Brewsader®. Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
Cool Brews. Hot Eats.
Cool Brews. Hot Eats. returns for its fourth year in a row. For the entire #BeerMonthGR, an estimated 50+ participating restaurants and breweries will feature creative food pairings inspired by or infused with the beers they’re meant to complement.
Menus are expected to be announced by February 2017.
Cool Brews. Hot Eats. brings together two wonderful things: beer and food. Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids
In addition to Cool Brews. Hot Eats., aficionados not already in the know are going to want to keep their ears to the ground during #BeerMonthGR. Historically, breweries, brewpubs, beer bars and craft-conscious restaurants break out the good stuff leading up to the annual Winter Beer Festival (see further below). If you’re one of the few left who still can’t warm up to the idea of standing outside in the snow, ice and rain to drink beer in a parking lot, there are alternatives.
Follow your favorite breweries and venues across social media, and watch for them to announce what’s up their sleeves, going to be tapped on draft. It’s pretty common for the uncommon to be available (in limited quantities, in some cases): beers that don’t often see distribution in the state, cellared vintages, barrel-aged variants and experimental one-offs.
Aside from GR’s internationally known OG HopCat, seek out the rotating tap lists at these popular local spots (listed alphabetically): Graydon’s Crossing, Horrocks Market Tavern (a taproom in a grocery store, seriously), Logan’s Alley, Monelli’s, Reservoir Lounge, The Score Restaurant & Sports Bar (128 beers on tap), Slows Bar BQ and SpeakEZ Lounge.
Winter Beer Festival
The Michigan Brewers Guild’s 12th annual Winter Beer Festival is a rite of passage for Mitten State beer fans. With over 100 breweries and approximately 1000 beers represented between Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25, it’s no surprise that tickets for Saturday’s session sold out in less than 4 hours.
Tickets for Friday’s session, 5PM-9PM, are still available: $45 in advance, $50 at the gate day of (if available), and $5 for entry for designated drivers. Guild Enthusiasts are privileged with entry one hour earlier each day.
Staying at a hotel before or after the fest? GR Hopper has partnered with area hotels to offer roundtrip shuttle service, $10 per person.
Michigan Brewers Guild's Winter Beer Festival fills Fifth Third Ballpark each year. Photo courtesy of Marty Dunhan – Michigan Brewers Guild
Stand by for Founders Brewing Co. to confirm dates for their 4th annual KBS Week. Kentucky Breakfast Stout, ever heard of it? We thought so. Due to the staggeringly high demand for one of their most highly sought after masterpieces, Founders created a weeklong, city-wide celebration in the admirable attempt to get KBS into as many hands as possible.
If you’re not lucky enough to snag a pre-sale ticket that earns you the access to buy a TBD allocation of KBS bottles, stay close to kbsweek.com. Fair warning: Tickets last year sold out in less than 90 seconds.
Assuming Founders doesn’t deviate too much from the last couple years, the masses who converge on Grand Rapids will have up to 15 opportunities to sample KBS on draft during staggered, timed tappings at three different venues per night for the Monday-Friday leading up to the brewery’s shoulder-to-shoulder Taproom Release Party on Saturday.
Don’t believe the hype? Check out the pilot episode of Modern Ahabs — a reality show about craft beer enthusiasts’ hunt for their bucket list beers.
Tours, Transportation and Accommodations
Want to go behind the scenes to see how the magic happens? Got a group of friends to transport there and back? Looking to pamper that special beer lover in your life?
Beer City Ale Trail
Still thirsty? For a listing of over 90 breweries, cideries, meaderies, and distilleries across Michigan’s beer coast, download the Beer City Ale Trail map.