Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a nickname: Beer City USA. And with 80 craft breweries and counting, it seems like it’s going to live up to that title for decades to come.
Let’s explore some of the best breweries in Grand Rapids, the city’s surprisingly young brewing history and answer some common FAQs and the local beer industry.
How Did Grand Rapids Become Beer City USA?
The history of beer in Grand Rapids was on the verge of being forgotten, had it not been for two intrepid brewers with an ear for the longstanding fables associated with the history of brewing in West Michigan. In 1997, these two brewmasters, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers opened the first operational brewery in Grand Rapids in 46 years and named it Founders.
Founders Brewery is now regarded as a pioneering enterprise that founded modern brewing in the city, but the duo will hasten to explain that Grand Rapids’ brewing history began almost two centuries ago in the late 1830s. From then on, brewing bloomed in the city, and before prohibition, Grand Rapids was producing around 250 000 bottles of beer per year.
After the prohibition, the industry struggled as big companies like Anheuser Busch and Miller almost completely side-lined local competition. Over the years, the glory days of Michigan-based brewing became something of a myth, forgotten except for those who looked to find some memory of it in the city’s archives.
Dave Engbers was one of those who wanted a revival in Grand Rapids’ brewing industry. Fifteen years later, his dedication alongside others who sprung up to turn Grand Rapids into a brewing city could look back on the fruits of their labour as the Grand Rapids Public Museum opened a ‘Thank You, Beer!’ exhibit exploring this almost-forgotten history and celebrating the new breweries continuing this legacy.
In 2017, Grand Rapids pulled in 40 000 beer tourists, cementing its status as Beer City, USA.
What Beer Is Made In Grand Rapids?
With over 80 breweries in the city alone, Grand Rapids is home to an enormous variety of beer styles. That said, a focus on cloudy ales has been preserved ever since Founders brewery began brewing its unfiltered beers.
How Many Craft Breweries Are In Michigan?
There are currently over 398 breweries in Michigan, making it the 6th most popular state for brewers in the country.
What Are The Major Beer Festivals Or Events In Grand Rapids?
Famously named Best Beer City, Best Beer Scene, and Best Beer Scene by the public, Grand Rapids is the perfect vacation spot for enjoying a variety of major beer festivals all year round.
A highlight on the annual Grand Rapids breweries calendar is undoubtedly the Michigan Winter Beer Festival. Every year, beer lovers from all around the globe make their way to Grand Rapids for the big event, and this year proved no different, with over 6,000 festival-goers in attendance.
All throughout the day, more than 700 unique beers in over 100 different styles – and all brewed locally at Michigan’s breweries – were available for sampling.
Check out our list below for a number of other top-class beer festivals and events making their home in Grand Rapids:
- Sparta Beer & Brat Street Festival. This one is for fans of craft beers coupled with a super live music experience. Craft beers include creations by some of the top brewers in the area. Think names like Downtown Trini’s, North Kent Eagles, Brick Haus, Ed Dunneback & Girls, and more.
- BeerFest On The Bridge. Presented by MiPortland Downtown, BeerFest On The Bridge will this year be staged on the area’s iconic Veterans Memorial Bridge. Over 30 craft beers will be on offer in August this year.
- Red Shoe Brew 2022. This May, the beer-brewing fun heads to the Ronald McDonald House. The event is a fundraiser for families with hospitalised children, meaning an amazing evening out and supporting a great cause while you’re at it. Expect incredible beer tastings, delicious food, and even yard games for the young-at-heart.
- Beer School at Guardian Brewing Company – Fruit Beer. This event is the undisputed home for those interested in learning how to brew fruit beer. The class is an hour long, and covers a range of topics.
- Tales from the Archives: Michigan Beer: A Heady History with Patti Smith. Presented by renowned local beer author Patti Smith, the program is a popular addition to the calendar. On the night, Smith will lead an informative talk on the history of the pioneers of beer-brewing all the way through Prohibition and post-World War II. The event heads to the Holland Museum in July.
- Psychic & Holistic Festival. Presented by Rock Your World Events, this 2-day festival will feature not only a world of local breweries and beer, but also holistic food products, aura photography, mediums, spiritual healers, and psychics. This mystical beer festival will be hosted by Crossroads Conference Center from April 30th – May 1st.
Which Brewery In Grand Rapids Has The Best Food?
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Grand Rapids isn’t only home to the best beer in the country, but also great food.
According to a poll among locals, the best brewery in Grand Rapids for good food is Brewery Vivant.
Located at 925 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids, this unique brewery has much to offer for those who love food.
An interesting fact about Brewery Vivant is that it’s located in a building that was once a funeral home. Nestled in the beautiful Cherry Hill area, there’s much to discover for lovers of craft beer and flavourful eclectic food.
Make a Turn At The Best Breweries In Grand Rapids
Those who love beer would be foolish not to add Grand Rapids to their ultimate travel bucket list.
There’s so much to enjoy and to learn, and even a lot on the go for those who enjoy pairing their favourite beverage with the perfect meal.
There are all sorts of ways to experience the best breweries in Grand Rapids. And as far as accommodation goes, there’s even a special Hotel Beer Package for getting the most out of your visit to the beer-loving city.
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.