Living in the Midwest gives us great access to a plethora of weekend travel locations. If you are in or near Chicago, like me, then you know you can be in about 6 different states in a matter of just a few hours. One such place is one of Western Michigan’s best kept travel locations—Grand Rapids. The drive to Grand Rapids from Chicago is a simple 3 hours and allows for some great stops along the way. If you travel there in the summer there are plenty of breweries, wineries, and beach locations to stop at during your drive. Consider a visit just over the Michigan border to New Buffalo or head a little further north and spend some time at the Grand Haven beach.
Once you arrive in Grand Rapids your adventure in the Beer City can begin at a multitude of breweries native to both Grand Rapids and Michigan. Take time to research the best breweries and locations because Grand Rapids has several neighborhoods that are worth exploring. Some of my top recommended breweries in GR include:
Founders Brewing Co:
Even if you aren’t from Michigan, or even the Midwest, chances are you’ve heard of Founders. Their beers are constantly rated top in the nation for craft beers and their Grand Rapids headquarters is a site to behold. This brewery isn’t only beer conscious, but socially aware as well. According to their website, “We’re focused on reducing our environmental footprint and supporting national and local causes in Social Justice, Environment and Arts & Culture.” So, if you are in the mood for a beer, not designed for the masses, a great atmosphere and a good cause Founders if for you.
Speciation Artisan Ales:
Just north of Grand Rapids you will find a small town called Comstock Park, where Speciation Artisan Ales is located (among other great breweries). This funky brewery is known as, “Home to the evolving, wild beers influenced by centuries of farmhouse and spontaneous tradition”. Experience private tours, barrel tastings, and exclusive releases at this Michigan treasure.
The Mitten Brewing Co:
One of the most exciting and unique aspects of Grand Rapids’ brewery scene is the locations and history of each of the breweries. Many, like The Mitten Brewing Company, are located in restored architectural treasures. Enjoy craft beer and pizza in a Victorian-era firehouse with old-time baseball décor at the taproom in Grand Rapids. If you enjoy sports then you’ll love Mitten Brewing, “Lifelong residents of Grand Rapids, The Mitten’s founders sought to add a unique establishment – a craft brewery where sports enthusiasts felt welcome – to the city’s growing craft beer community.”
Another architectural delight, Brewery Vivant is located in a former chapel that makes you feel like you’re in Renaissance era France. From sours to IPAs Brewery Vivant has unique flavors, yet something for everyone. Ask about non-menu offerings, as only locals know the best options are sometimes not listed. “Live the Bon Vivant with neighbors, brewers, and monks alike enjoying rustic farmhouse inspired beers alongside European inspired cooking from our scratch-kitchen.”
Grand Rapids Brewing Company:
The story of Grand Rapids Brewing is almost as exciting as their organic ales. In January of 1893 6 local brewers joined forces and opened Grand Rapids Brewing. Through success of being on the Grand River to a crashing halt during prohibition GRBC has had a colorful past. 79 years to the day after prohibition was repealed a new owner restored Grand Rapids Brewing Company to its original greatness, in the city of its founding. Stop by this rustic establishment and enjoy great brews and locally sourced food with a rich history and local roots.
Aside from breweries locations like Hopcat, 7 Monks, and Craft Beer Cellar are also great beer spots. They offer a wide range of beverages, that will continue your journey through the hoppiest city in the Midwest.
If you are looking for a bite to eat after a day of sampling some great brews, Grand Rapids offers cuisine for every type of pallet. Enjoy delicious Mediterranean dishes from Bistro Bella Vita, snack on tapas at San Chez Bistro, or savor the eco-friendly foods at The Green Well gastropub. A weekend in GR would not be complete without a trip to Yesterdog, the world-famous chili dog restaurant located in East Grand Rapids. The restaurant has been visited by famous celebrities, it’s been featured in several films, and is a local favorite.
Another highlight of the Beer City is the treasure that is downtown Grand Rapids. Dress up for date night and stop for cocktails at the Amway Grand hotel visiting their main lobby bar or heading up to the top floor and sipping on cocktails with an incredible view at Cygnus27. Head over to the JW Marriot and take in the famous Blue Bridge looking over the Grand River and enjoy a snack and a glass of wine. While downtown you can stop at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, take in a concert or hockey game at Van Andel Arena or have a late night out on Ionia street.
Aside from the great beer scene in Grand Rapids, the city offers excellent dining options, tons of local cultural activities and locations including their annual Art Prize event and Meijer Gardens. GR is unique in that it has a great small-town feel, with big city happenings. From eclectic coffee shops to rock and roll brunch locations, this weekend escape is a top Midwest travel location.
Beer Photos by @MichiganBeerMaps (Find them on Instagram)