Grand Rapids: A beer tour.

This past Saturday Julie and I made the drive up to Grand Rapids, Michigan to check out several of their breweries. Grand Rapids has more than 15 breweries in the city proper and we were able to visit 8.

Grand Rapids Brewing Co.
Our first stop in town was Grand Rapids Brewing Co. which is located downtown and was within walking distance from our hotel. When all things were said and done, Grand Rapids Brewing Co. was one of my favorite stops during our trip. The bartender was great, the beer selection was good and they had ample TVs. Their Beetlejuice IPA was one of my favorite beers and the Cranucopia is probably the only foodstuff that I’ve ever liked that contained cranberry.  Also, the chicken wings were great.

Next we headed a couple doors down to HopCat which is a regional chain of brewpubs that mainly serves as a great beer bar.  HopCat is located near the Van Andel Arena  where a minor league hockey game was going on so we were lucky to grab a seat at the packed bar and being that it was a chain we didn’t want to spend much time there but we did have a couple of beers, including the house pale ale: Light Side Of The Sun.

B.O.B.’s Brewery
Not sure what to make of B.O.B.’s Brewing. It seemed like something that should have been in a mall instead of a warehouse. Multiple levels, multiple restaurants. Julie thought their Peanut Butter Porter was one of the better beers she had all weekend. I don’t mix peanut butter and beer.

Founders Brewing Co.
Founders Brewing Co. was one of the main reasons for going to Grand Rapids.  We planned to end our Saturday there so we had dinner and a couple of beers.  I must say we weren’t really impressed with the beer selection, by that I mean there wasn’t much on tap that isn’t available back in Chicago.  The brewery is massive.  On the scale of Victory Brewing in Philly or close to the size of Lagunitas in Chicago.  They have a stage with live bands, good food and several outdoor spaces with heaters and fire pits.

The Hideout Brewing Company
On Sunday, after breakfast at our hotel, we decided instead of stopping at Bells in Kalamazoo on the way home we’d try to do a couple more breweries including The Hideout Brewing Company.

We decided to start the day with The Hideout because it was a ways out of town and off the beaten path.  As you can see in the photographs above it was down a winding road near an apartment complex, hence the name.  The Hideout is known for their large selection of uniquely flavored beers.  When we arrived the doors were locked and there were only two other people in the brewery getting growlers to go.  We had to knock for the bartender to let us in, this isn’t part of their stitch, it’s just that the Saturday night crew left the place a disaster and he was still cleaning up. The beer was ok, once again I’m not into flavored stuff but Julie was a big fan of several of their stouts.

Mitten Brewing Co.
I had wanted to stop by Mitten Brewing Co. since last years Ohio State – Michigan game where a growler was brought to the tailgate. Like a lot of the breweries we hit Sunday morning they were out of several of their beers from the night before. We had a great strombolie and did a flight of their beers. If it was possible I would have had another of the Rye Baby IPA.

Elk Brewing
Elk Brewing might have been one of my favorite stops all weekend. I believe they are one of the newest breweries in Grand Rapids.  The bartender was helpful, we had a flight and I thought their Light Ale was probably the best light beer I’ve ever had.  It was somewhat refreshing to visit a brewery that wasn’t just about extreme hopping or barrel again.  I also enjoyed their ESB.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
The hotel we stayed in was the historic Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids which was originally built in 1913.  We stayed in the modern tower section of the hotel facing the Grand River across from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.  The hotel was really packed for a weekend in November, I believe there were several weddings and a couple other events.  The service was great and it couldn’t have been located in a better place.

We were also surprised about the ease in which we were able to hail cabs in and around the downtown breweries.  We walked to most of them but when we needed to get out to Founders (and more importantly back, there were cabs waiting).

A great time in Grand Rapids.

Science and Industry Museum: U-505


Last week Julie and I finally made it out to the Science and Industry Museum primarily to see the captured German submarine U-505. We got to the museum first thing in the morning so we missed much of the school tour rush. We were able to tour the sub with only two other people which I think made all the difference.

One of the reasons the capture of U-505 was kept secret until after Germany surrendered was due to the capture of a working Enigma Machine.

This is video from the capture of U-505 on June 4th, 1944 (two days before D-Day).

This is video of U-505 being relocated from it’s original place outside the museum to it’s current indoor exhibit.

The rest of the Science & Industry Museum
In addition to the submarine, the Science & Industry Museum has a German Junkers Stuka Dive Bomber, one of only two still in existence. A somewhat related piece of transportation history is the Apollo 8 Command Module which would have never made it to space without the German Scientists that were secrelty relocated to the United States after the war during Operation Paperclip.

Minneapolis: Ohio State vs. Minnesota

I’ve been trying to make it to Minnesota for a football game since they built their on campus stadium in 2009: TCF Bank Stadium.  TCF Bank Stadium is the first new stadium built by a Big Ten school since 1960 (Penn State’s Beaver Stadium). Minnesota went into the game with a 7-2 record and ranked #25 by the College Football Playoff Committee against #8 Ohio State. I thought it was an all-around great game, granted I’m not one to mind snow when it comes to football.  It was 15 degrees which is the lowest temperature ever at TCF Bank Stadium and the lowest temperature the Buckeyes have played in going back more than a half-century.  Ohio State had some turnover troubles throughout the game but was never really in trouble and went on to win 31-24.

TFC Bank Stadium
I always enjoy visiting different stadiums and seeing a new large scale college stadium is rather unique.  The large concourses were able to hold most of the fans during halftime.  When we arrived, the greeters were handing out towels and hand warmers.  TCF Bank Stadium is also unique among Big Ten stadiums as they sell beer at the stadium.

Grumpy’s & Dinner
After getting situated on Friday, we headed a couple of blocks from our hotel to Grumpy’s downtown bar and on the way we stumbled upon Day Block Brewing Company so we gave it a go.  The food at Day Block was excellent (garlic knots and a flight of bacon) but the beer was a little too out there for me.  Nearly all of it was a spice of some sort, chili peppers in beer is not my thing.  After a couple of beers we headed over to Grumpy’s.  I wasn’t able to make it to Grumpy’s the last time I was in Minneapolis so I’m glad our hotel was near one of their bars.  The burger looked amazing.

Butcher & The Boar
For dinner we had reservations at Butcher & The Boar where we managed to get seated at the bar before hand.  The food was great, my ‘double pork chop’ was a little over the top (it had three bones, not the two that a double would imply).  The wild boar sausage was great as well.  Really just a great place, the service was top notch.

Transportation into and around Minneapolis couldn’t have been easier.  We took the METRO Blue Line from the airport to within a couple of blocks of our hotel and then were able to take the Green Line to the University of Minnesota campus and back.

Campus & Dinkytown
After taking the train, we walked through a decent portion of campus on the way over to Dinkytown for breakfast.  Minnesota’s campus is similar to all Big Ten campuses: massive.  Very quiet for a Saturday morning game day.  We headed over to Tony’s Diner for breakfast which was a happening place and then made our way to the game.

Neye’s Polonaise Room
After the game we headed to Nye’s Polonaise Room for dinner and culture.  Nye’s is basically a steakhouse/dive bar with a house Polka band.  A combination that is hard to beat.  In 2006 Esquire magazine named Nye’s the Best Bar in America.  As we entered the band was playing Johnny Cash, it was everything I imagined and I had the ribeye.

Side Notes:
* The Minnesota Vikings new stadium (tentatively named Viking Stadium until the naming rights are sold) currently under construction in downtown Minneapolis.

** BIG TEN & Notre Dame Stadium Map with added University of Minnesota now that it’s been checked of my list and University of Chicago a founding and former member of the BIG TEN.