The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference is over and it is time for the post-excursion to Grand Rapids, MI. The post-excursion is organized by Experience Grand Rapids, a wonderful organization that shows visitors the best Grand Rapids has to offer. For us, it is an aggressive tour of breweries, complete with food and drinks at each place.
Lake Express Ferry
The mode of transport from Milwaukee is the Lake Express ferry. The trip, which only takes a few hours, is a lot easier than driving all the way around Lake Michigan. We have our own private room on the ferry and it is nice to be able to relax and mingle with new blogger friends. As I have gotten to know this eclectic group of folks, it is readily apparent that Huck loves to tell stories and regale people with his humor and southern drawl. On the ferry, we are served lunch, and there is beer available.
I decide to pass on the beer and give my liver a much needed break. After conversing with Julia, Jeff, Chris, and Diane, I decide to doze for a while. Between snoozes, I enjoy hearing Huck talk his way onto the bridge with the captain of the boat. The nap is great and before I know it, I am driving off the ferry and on my way to the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids. I catch a shuttle with a handful of other folks who brought their cars and before long, we are walking into Perrin Brewing company.
Perrin Brewing out of Grand Rapids started in 2012 and was acquired by Oskar Blues in 2015. Perrin’s trajectory of growth has been impressive, to say the least. They have a tremendous taproom and a myriad of selections and styles to choose from. Perrin graciously provides us with some appetizers and a 5 taster flight to make our stay more enjoyable. We are seated up in a private area, which is awesome.
The private area is very nice with dim lighting to provide a more intimate setting for conversation. However, I am finding out one of the biggest blogger problems is bad lighting for pictures. Luckily, Eric of Uncap Everything had the great idea to just use the flashlight on your cell to backlight the beers. With this photography hack, we are in business to snap photos of the beer.
I am seated at a rectangular table with a bunch of great folks. In the mix we have bloggers and brewery reps from Virginia, Colorado, Portland, Georgia, and Minnesota. The conversation is relaxed and new friendships are being forged as quickly as Heady Topper gets snapped up from a Burlington liquor store. I cannot get enough of the learning about other beer places in the U.S. People are sharing beers and the conversations are rich and enlightening.
I order some middle-of-the-road beers regarding ABV because we still have 2 more stops after this. I also am trending towards malt-forward offerings. It is getting to be the time of the year when my inner beer clock switches to fall and you will notice that my palate is following suit.
Some of the highlights are the Poop Your Pants Bock (6% ABV 30 IBU), a splendid offering. It has a lot of great caramel and smoothness which is just what I wanted. I hope that the name is just a laugh and not a prophetic look into the cosmos for the bus ride back to the hotel. The 98 Problems IPA (6.5 % ABV 65 IBU) is their best seller and a good IPA. It is deftly balanced with malt and gentle bitterness. The nose is a great bouquet of citrus and floral aromas. My favorite beer of the mix is the Black (5.8% ABV 22 IBU), a Schwarzbier. It is dark in color and has fantastic bready malt character. Black’s mouthfeel is extremely light which is a nice surprise.
One of the misses are the Breakfast of Thrones (7.5% ABV 30 IBU). The aroma is heavenly and coerces my stomach into thinking it is time for blueberry pancakes beneath a torrential downpour of maple syrup. However, the flavor is nondescript and a letdown. The other beer that leaves me wanting more is the Imperial Poop Your Pants. All the nuance of malt in the Poop Your Pants gets lost in its Imperial counterpart.
It is time to head to the busses for our next stop. I don’t get a ton of pictures, but to be quite honest, the taproom doesn’t have a ton of character. The main focus at Perrin Brewing is production and getting their cans out into the marketplace. They make beers that will sell and that is great. I am not sure if I would make a special trip to Perrin again, but I will probably try to find some cans of Black to bring back to MN.
The feverish admiration I have for New Holland Brewing is akin to how women and men of a certain age lustily long to rewatch the volleyball scene from Top Gun. Dragon’s Milk, Ichabod, The Poet, and Night Tripper are all some of my favorites. Walking into The Knickerbocker brewpub in Grand Rapids and seeing an impressive piece of art in the form of a dragon gives me chills.
We head upstairs to a private area and see a little lad, probably around the age of 7 or 8 playing on a phone, seated in our area. Either this is the signal that New Holland is branching into craft juice boxes or we need to issue an Amber Alert. Luckily, the urchin belongs to a family on the other side of the event space where some form of dance recital is taking place. I guess between the bad lighting at Perrin and the local dance troupe’s “Putting on the Ritz,” at The Knickerbocker, we are getting some interesting moods to augment our tastings.
I am sad to say that Ichabod, one of my favorite pumpkin beers, is not on the menu. However, they have The Poet, and that is what I order. It is slightly disappointing that they don’t have more offerings that are only available in the brewpub. Almost all of what they have on the menu is available in MN and I was hoping for some new things to try. However, that disappointment dissipates the minute I see the food that they have for us. Charcuterie, hummus (possibly the unofficial brewery food of Michigan), smoked chicken legs, cheese, and olives get my salivary glands working like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
After some vittles and quaffs, it is onto a tour of the facility. Their cocktail lounge at the Knickerbocker is tremendously hip.It also has a window into the room housing the distillery. In addition to beer, they distill their own brand of spirits!
We head outside into an outdoor beer garden and the needle almost breaks off the “Bro-Scale.” It would be nice to sit outside because it is a beautiful evening. However, I didn’t have on a light blue denim top and salmon pants, so it wouldn’t have worked. After a tour, great food, and familiar beer, I head to the gift shop. I see a Dragon’s Milk tin wall sign that I have to have. After a purchase, we are walking down the street to the next spot. Nothing says tourist (or L.A.R.P.er) like a dude walking down the road with a tin dragon sign.
We are walking to our last step, which is nice. The evening is perfect for a stroll and walking off some of the beer isn’t a bad thing at all. The brewery is on a corner of the block and has a unique open-air balcony. Finally, a time to show off my Shakespeare chops for the beer servers!
We head upstairs and are invited to try six different beers that Harmony Hall has on tap. The brewer gives us a little info on what they are pouring and we know what to do from there. There are also some nibbles on the table that look interesting. Hummus, of course, and then some pretzel bites that are on the sweet side of flavortown. A nice dusting of cinnamon and sugar give these bad boys a “bet you can’t each just one” kind of a vibe. They are accompanied by a creamy dip that is delectable.
The beers are solid, I really enjoy their Erste Lager and Star Stuff Dubbel, but it is the Black Perle Stout that will have me dreaming of sea salt. As I continue to have more conversations with people, I realize how special this group of people are. There is a common bond that we share and that is passion for great beer. The hour is late and my palate and liver need a rest. Back to the Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids for some much needed R and R. A brave group of souls go out for more, but my next round will be at the pillow pub for a tall glass of sleep. Tomorrow morning will come quickly and there will be more beer and fun to be had.
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