GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
In the heart of Grand Rapids at the first floor of a surplus box warehouse just down the street from the newly renovated Grand Rapids Brewing Company lies the absolutely essential HOPCAT. Serving 48 revolving tapped beers along with a phenomenal bottled and canned selection, not to mention their own worthy craft brews, this unassuming midwest watering hole may be America’s best brewpub.
As Grand Rapids quickly becomes one of Michigan’s greatest cities for finding a large assortment of fascinating local, national and international beers, this midsized corner saloon certainly leads the way. Open for business in 2009, Hopcat will impress even the snottiest beer enthusiasts.
Visited November ’12 with long-time friend, Paul Garone, and his new pug puppy, Spanky, we hung out at the left side enclosed porch (with four community tables, porch furniture and sconce lights) to try three on-site brews over a late Friday night dinner.
As we enter from the bluegreen exterior, the gorgeous mahogany bar is packed as the Doors wondrous “Light My Fire” blasts above the noisy din. Sidled by opposing TV’s, the bar’s set up across left side community tables seperated by mid-room stool seating. Brew tanks in the rear ready three to six in-house beers at any given time.
For a more intimate atmosphere, an upstairs lounge with couches, tables and food service is available for the lunch and dinner crowd and accessible by climbing the rustic yellow-walled stairwell where Jazz posters, a Gueuze Kriek Lambic poster, Beck’s Beer emblem and Mort Subite beer tray decorate the walls across overhead shelves full of vintage beer bottles.
As I settle into a moist talapia sandwich, my buddy Paul delights in the fish ‘n chips while sitting on the porch. Our very attentive waitress Renee relays stories about Hopcat and its first-class beers while advising us on cheap hotels and craft beer stores.
For an opening salvo, Hoppopotamus American IPA plies a tropical fruit punch to its peppery floral-pined juniper hop bite. Brisk orange, lemon and grapefruit peel bittering securely contrasts lively peach, pineapple, mango and quince ephemera above sugary wheat-cracked crystal malting to its salty bottom.
MGMT plays on the stereo as I dip into Hopcat Breadwinner ESB, where wood-lacquered floral-perfumed hops and orange-oiled citric niceties recede to a dry rye malt setting.
For an after dinner relaxer, Hopcat American Porter with Ghost Chilis truly sufficed. Its backend chili pepper burn worked its way through hop-charred black coffee, oats-flaked dark chocolate and pureed black cherry illusions.
A must-go destination spot for all brew mongers, Hopcat never fails to deliver quality libations. Just take a look at the copious amount of unique Michigan-based brews on tap during my initial visit:
Local hand pulled draughts included Arcadia Cannonball Gold, Brewery Vivant Big Red Coq, Founders Porter, Michigan Sunshine and Short’s Kind Ale.
Regular stateside draughts included Arcadia Hop Mouth Pale Ale and Warcraft Black IPA, Atwater Grand Circus IPA, Bell’s Lager Of The Lakes and Oarsman, Hideout Helles Bock, Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bier and ESB Bam, Odd Sides Citra Pale Ale, Perrin Ale, Right Brain Shadow Watcher Stout and Saugatuck Bonfire Brown Ale as well as multiple selections from Short’s (The Curl; Good Human; Woodmaster; Huma Lupa Liscous; Liberator; Black Cherry Porter; The Wizard; Uncle Steve’s Irish Stout; Cup A Joe Coffee Cream Stout) and New Holland (15th Anniversary Ale; Beehive Triple; Farmhouse Hatter; Four Witches; Black Tulip). Fascinating!