Tag Archives: GRAND RAPIDS MI

HOPCAT

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!  

www.hopcatgr.com

 

 

 

BREWERY VIVANT

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

Inside an ivy-vined red brick church (with green trim) on Cherry Street at the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Belgian-inspired BREWERY VIVANT fits perfectly within its quaint neighborhood. Open since December 2010, this sacrilicious stain-glassed sanctuary with a 20-barrel system serves not only a wide variety of in-house tapped beers but also a bunch of canned versions (for sale on-site or at local beer stores).

Accesssing the chapel entrance, my friend Paul and I reach the 12-seat altar bar through a promotional lobby (where canned beers, clothing and ephemera are sold). Several rustic community tables, hanging lanterns and corner booths decorate the cozy oak-framed cathedral. A Belgian flag hangs from the front balcony and three more community tables and other furnishings adorn the outdoor beer garden. Rooster-laden wood boards provide beer menus and the projection screen at the front wall shows Michigan State football at noon this brisk Saturday in November ’12.

Our friendly hostess leads us to the altar to take our food order. We try the deliciously humungous pretzel-bunned 8-ounce tenderloin burgers (with caramelized onions and bacon). Soon after, attentive bartender Shawn Hudson brings me the five in-house beers I couldn’t buy in cans for the ride back to Jersey.

Head brewer Jacob Derylo, formerly of famed New Holland Brewery, delivers some stylishly hybridized brews, many of which rely on citric soured tendencies this initial autumn visit.

For a soft-toned starter, Wit Knight offered fresh-watered lemondrop souring over orange-oiled wisps. Whiskey-soured 2nd Annual Sgt. Peppercorn Rye brings lemon-pitted orange rind bittering to caramelized rye malting and subdued peppercorn spicing. Colliding a sour ale with a harvest ale, Grand Pumpkin allows lemon-rotted souring to overwhelm vegetal pumpkin spicing, white-wined green grape esters and tealeaf earthiness. Lightly beechwood-smoked Ancho Rauchbier places its soothingly soured citric mantra across ancho-peppered mocha and peanut-shelled soapstone.

Smoothly aggressive Rye Porter lets pumpernickel-rye breading infiltrate tobacco-roasted chocolate nuttiness and peanut-skinned dry coffee undertones. And mocha-bound Organic Brown Ale sidles cacao-seeded stove burnt coffee notes next to walnut-charred hop oils.   

In the Beer Index, find Brewery Vivant’s Big Red Coq, Escoffier Bretta Ale, Farm Hand French Farmhouse Ale, Solitude Abbey, Triomphe Belgian IPA and Zaison Imperial Saison.

www.breweryvivant.com

MARTHA’S VINEYARD

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

“A unique wine and liquor store,” indeed! On a corner in the northeast corridor of Grand Rapids on Union Avenue is fabulous Martha’s Vineyard – not the Massachusetts island but a nifty gourmet shop opened since 1987. A wholesome looking boutique-styled shop, MV sells a large variety of local Michigan brews as well as the finest global microbrews and wines. Match that with extraordinary food such as specialty cheeses, cured meats, fruit preserves, homemade pastas and rich desserts and you’ve got one of the best humble street corner delis in the Midwest.

While perusing the exquisite beer section, I came away with several previously untried Michigan-based libations from Atwaters, Bell’s, Brewery Vivant, Dark Horse, Detroit Brewing, Founders, Frankenmuth, Mt. Pleasant, New Holland, North Peak, Short’s and Unity Vibration.     

www.mvwines.com