Grand Rapids named “Best Beer Town”

The secret is out: Grand Rapids is the “Best Beer Town” in the nation!

But to both beer connoisseurs and casual sippers alike, it’s not much of a secret. Grand Rapids breweries are known across the country, and the number of microbreweries in Grand Rapids and West Michigan keeps growing.

The award is a result of USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice award series. The nationwide competition was decided by thousands of online voters who picked the city out of other nominations such as Portland, Tampa and Asheville, North Carolina.

Grand Rapids has been the winner of many other beer competitions in the past, including the now-retired competition Beer City, USA, in which GR tied with Asheville in its first year and won outright in 2013.

Grand Rapids has taken advantage of its reputation for quality beer. ExperienceGR, a local tourism organization, has promoted the city’s fifteen breweries in publicity materials. The media following of these awards has brought troves of beer enthusiasts and tourists to Grand Rapids.

Founders Brewing Company epitomizes the award-winning beer scene of Grand Rapids. Founders beer puts Grand Rapids on the map by brewing popular beverages found in bars all over the country.

Located on Grandville Avenue, Founders is a quick jaunt from downtown. Founders classics like the Dirty Bastard, All Day IPA and Centennial IPA are always available, while their seasonal brews such as the Kentucky Breakfast Stout — named “Best Beer in America” by — create headlines across the city and country due to their award-winning quality and limited availability.

Founders’ atmosphere attracts both locals and beer tourists, many of whom have traveled around the world to sample the award-winning beer. Their beer garden, completed last fall, opened up a large outdoor space for relaxing with old friends or meeting new people. The fire pits keep the atmosphere cozy, even in the midst of a harsh West Michigan winter.

“I like it because the beer is good, it has a cool interior, and it is also convenient to get to,” said senior Rachel Meima. “They also have their deals on a Monday which makes Monday just a little bit better.”

Another brewery central to the Grand Rapids beer scene is Brewery Vivant, located on Cherry Street. Vivant’s beers were given a “world class” rating by The owners of Brewery Vivant turned an old funeral chapel, built in the early 20th century, into the first LEED-certified brewery in the U.S.

“I like it there. It gets a little crowded on weekends, so you might have to wait if you’re looking for a table, but the beer is good and their fries are honestly some of the best I’ve ever had,” said senior Sam Vannette.

Also in Eastown, along Lake Drive, a short distance from campus, Harmony Brewing Company combines its locally brewed beer with a wide varieties of  pizza in a relaxed atmosphere.

“I enjoy Harmony because they not only have delicious food and great beer but the atmosphere and people are welcoming. They’re expanding locally and are dedicated to the development of Grand Rapids as a great city to live.” said senior Addie Smith.

Tuesday night is pizza night at Harmony and a pepperoni pizza can be snagged for a mere six dollars. Many Calvin students with limited funds have found this to be an unbeatable deal, and the community atmosphere brings many students there to enjoy the atmosphere on Tuesday nights.

Unlike Founders and Vivant, Harmony doesn’t bottle their beer. So in order to enjoy their limited time seasonal beers — like their Grape Fruit Shanty or Pumpkin Ale — the best way to experience the beer is to check it out at Harmony.

As Grand Rapids receives more recognition for its breweries and bars, the industry continues to grow, locals and tourists alike checking out the variety that the city has to offer. New businesses such as New Holland and Harmony Hall are also opening as a new contribution to the craft brewing scene.