This year, James and I decided to exchange “experience presents” for our birthdays, instead of tangible objects. James got me a massage gift certificate (which I have yet to use!), and my present to James was a beer-themed trip to Grand Rapids, MI.
We began our day at Founders Brewing Co. for lunch & beer samples. The place was packed! We wandered around trying to find a table for awhile. Luckily, just as we were thinking it was hopeless, someone asked James if we wanted their table since they were finished. Within minutes, our server stopped by to give us the huge list of beer options.
The T8R potato stout had a great, smooth mouthfeel and the Frangelic hazelnut stout has lots of great hazelnut flavor. The stand outs were definitely Blushing Monk and Rubaeus (so much raspberry in both!), the Backwoods Bastard, and then…the Kentucky Breakfast Stout 2013 that our server gave us on the house. He said we had to try it since we could only get it there at the brewery. I am not the beer nerd that my husband is, but even I knew this was a big deal!
While sampling, we also looked over the enormous sandwich menu and made our selections. James had the Backwoods Bastard: Dirty Bastard pulled pork, Colby Jack cheese, tangy coleslaw & Dirty Bastard BBQ sauce on toasted ciabatta. I had Charise’s Reuben: roasted sliced turkey, dill Havarti cheese, baby spinach, tomatoes, red onions, avocado, tangy coleslaw & 1,000 Island dressing on San Fran sourdough. The sandwiches were the size of our heads, and completely delicious.
Our second stop was the People’s Cider Co. They are just getting started and actually are not yet licensed to sell their product. They did have a provisional license, so they were able to offer samples along with a $4 tour of the “facility.” I put facility in quotes because it is a tiny, 2-room operation in a building in an industrial park. It made us feel right at home because we visited lots of breweries like this in Denver. They keg their cider into bourbon barrels, and use traditional UK cider-making methods.
We got to try both the P.C.C.O., a bourbon-barrel aged dry cider, and the Mrs. Sally Brown, a scrumpy (a style originally brewed in England). Both were great, but I think the best part was the atmosphere. There were a few other folks there, and conversation flowed freely between all of us and the owner. It was a really fun place to visit.
Our final brewery stop of the day was Brewery Vivant. I was very much looking forward to this one because they are a Belgian brewery, which just so happens to be my favorite beer style. The building used to be a funeral home chapel, and they’ve redone the building to be LEED certified. The place was once again packed, but we got a table pretty quickly. I loved the atmosphere–dark and cozy. We again shared some samples, but I didn’t write down what we ordered. I do remember a coffee stout that was really delicious. We also ordered some snacks–we were still pretty full from lunch, but couldn’t resist getting beer cheese with soft pretzels, a crock o’ pickles for James, and garlic & parsley Belgian frites.
After a great day of food and drink, we made the 2 hour drive back to Goshen. What a fun trip! I’d love to go back to Grand Rapids this spring/summer to explore some of the many beautiful outdoor spaces. I had researched a number of hiking trails, nature preserves, and the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, but we decided mid-February wasn’t the best time to check them out. There’s always next time!