Grand Rapids is Beer City USA. A repeat winner of the online Beer City poll, as well as USA Today’s Beer Town poll, the Grand Rapids region’s beer industry is an economic and cultural force. In Michigan, beer’s economic impact is $6.6 billion; within Grand Rapids alone, the impact is $510 million.
Put concisely, beer’s a big deal here.
I’ve taken my share of “beercations” to Grand Rapids, to the point where I’ve developed a pattern of places I go consistently: Founders, Hop Cat, Grand Rapids Brewing (more recently), and then maybe back to Founders. Usually this feat is accomplished as a day trip with someone taking on the valiant role of designated driver. Prior to embarking on this #MittenTrip, I was determined to do things differently. Here’s what happened:
If I had been able to follow my own advice from the #MittenTrip guide to South Haven, we (my partner, Melissa, and I) would have left about an hour earlier than we did. That would have meant less traffic and probably more beer. Alas, jobs and houses need attention. We arrived at the beautiful JW Marriott— our hosts for this trip– early in the evening, hauled our belongings inside, and marveled at the room, amenities, and view of the Grand River.
Though it was difficult to leave the comfortable space, especially since we had a perfect view of the sunset, hunger got the best of us. At the strong recommendation of the kind person who checked us in at the hotel, we headed toward Cherry St. in Grand Rapids’ lovely Cherry Hill Historic District. Specifically, the Green Well was recommended, so there we went. Wow! The food and drinks were fantastic. I tried the Rusty Shagg, an amber ale brewed specially for the restaurant by Elk Brewing, as well as a brisket sandwich. The food and service at the Green Well were impeccable.
Since dinner was preceded by a lot of sitting– in the car and at work– we took a stroll up and down Cherry St. It was too late for most businesses, except bars and restaurants, to be open, so we did a little window shopping and made a plan to return the following day. For the moment, though, it was time to return to the hotel and stretch out.
The morning started reasonably early with a trip right back to Cherry St. for breakfast at the Cherie Inn. The crab cake benedict was exceptional. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a benedict that offered an English muffin (or whatever bread product) that was actually flavorful. I think they might do something magic to theirs, though. Another delicious meal called for another pleasant stroll. Unfortunately, this time, we were too early for most places to be open.
Sustenance obtained, we headed to our next stop: The Grand Rapids Art Museum. The three-level space is bright and open, taking guests on a pathway through both the museum’s regular collection, as well as feature exhibits. During our visit, the features included an examination of panorama via various media, plus depictions of fauna by multiple artists.
We were lost in the museum for a couple of hours, but our plan for a roadtrip-within-a-roadtrip drew us back out to the city. After some culture and calm, we headed about 40 minutes down the road to New Holland Brewing for lunch and beverages. Since New Holland beer and spirits are among my favorites, I was more than slightly excited for this mini-adventure.
The drive was quick, and we were seated outside, where we enjoyed a gigantic cheese plate, spirits, and beer. My favorite treat of the trip was the Uncommon Old Fashioned, featuring New Holland spirits and cold brew from Uncommon Grounds. The old fashioned is my favorite drink of all time, but I’m not necessarily a traditionalist. I enjoy trying different bars’ twists on the drink, and this one was delicious.
Once again, delicious food and beverage deserve a stroll. I’ve only spent time in Holland once before, so the town was unfamiliar. Leisurely window shopping at the quaint stores on a beautiful day was lovely, as was the frozen yogurt we enjoyed at the tiny corner park before hopping in the car to head back to Grand Rapids.
Having heard about Memento, a new offering from Starcut Ciders (a new venture from the fine folks at Short’s Brewing), we decided to stop at the Black Heron to give it a try. Since I’m not a fan of hard cider myself, I left the tasting to Melissa. She absolutely raved about it. Unlike many other ciders, it was semi-dry, perfectly crisp, and did away with flavorings that otherwise cover the true taste of the apples. (OK, OK, I had a few sips…) Melissa’s determined to add Starcut to her regular rotation.
By 6 PM, it had already been quite a day. The lovely JW Marriott beckoned, and nap time ensued. Maybe it was slightly longer than anticipated. It’s possible that we woke up just before sunset. Perhaps.
Dinner needed to happen, and soon. Since we were lucky enough to plan this trip to overlap with Grand Rapids’ Restaurant Week, we enjoyed three amazing courses on the porch at farm-to-fork restaurant Grove. The Moroccan Amish Chicken was a delight. Afterward, we made our way down the block to Brewery Vivant. Their general specialty is Belgian-style brewing, which I enjoy. Since our bodies wanted nothing more to do with alcohol, I picked a four-pack of my favorites and took them to go.
The end of a trip is always slightly sad. After checking out of the JW Marriott a little before noon, we headed to brunch at the Electric Cheetah. I’ve been trying to go to this place for years! Every time I’ve been here before, it’s been closed. This time, though, we walked right in. We split a savory (the hash) and a sweet (the banana french toast), and still had some to take home. It was delicious and would have been worth waiting in line to enjoy.
Unfortunately, our plans to visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park were foiled by Mother Nature. Just as we were heading toward the highway, lightning, thunder, and torrential rain began. The radar promised for the storms to continue throughout the day, so we kept on our way eastbound down I-96. Next time– and there will definitely be a next time– we’ll be sure to head there.