We've heard of the classic staycation. But have you taken a beercation?
If you are a lover of craft beer, you don’t have to go far to visit dozens of breweries and sample hundreds of ales and lagers and stouts and porters.
Michigan is a paradise for those who love to visit microbreweries. Grand Rapids has been named one of the top beer cities in the U.S. by Insider, and in 2014 was named Best Beer Town by USA Today.
The state of Michigan is fifth in the nation in the number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.
If you head out from the Region to Grand Rapids (aka Beer City U.S.A. per the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau), you’re going to find a lot of breweries and brewpubs between here and there, in and around Southwest and Western Michigan.
Here are eight that are worth incorporating into a beer trip:
1. Beer Church Brewing Co. in New Buffalo
This is a place where it’s perfectly okay to worship your beer. If you get off of Interstate-94 at exit No. 1 once you are in Michigan, it will lead you to this former house of worship where you can step in and be part of the "congregation." Dating back to 1861, this brewery has been expanding in steps to include a beer garden and soon will have an expanded taproom. Stop and try their signature brew, Pontius Pilate IPA.
2. Greenbush Brewing Co. in Sawyer
Greenbush has grown quite a bit since its beginning and now includes an Annex located across the street with a beer garden, which, in the busy tourist season, is overflowing with beer aficionados stopping for a brew and some bites. It’s worth stopping as much for the food as for the beer, where you’ll find an eclectic mix of dishes and specials — from brisket to gumbo to sushi.
3. Watermark Brewing Co. in Stevensville
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Stop and enjoy a pint or get a growler to bring back home at this fairly young venture that came to be from some guy friends bonding over home-brew. The brewery hosts some quirky events — the Golden Crockpot Challenge, a Catan Tournament, an Ugly Sweater Night and Yoga in the Taproom and offers such brews as Bert’s Breakfast Stout, Russian Imperial Stout and Michigan Copper Ugly Face India Pale Ale.
4. Paw Paw Brewing in Paw Paw
Set to move soon into a larger facility, the current taproom is tiny, intimate and cozy, and a great place to stop for a pint or a flight and a casual bite to eat. They have a number of classic and creative paninis on the menu, so it's ideal to work in for lunch or a lighter dinner along with your brew. You may even stumble into some live music being played on guitar or violin or even concertina.
5. Grand River in Marshall
This spot is fairly new to the craft brewery line-up and opened last year in a stunning vintage building, the J.H. Cronin Building. The 150-year-old building served as a mercantile store and has now been transformed into a brewery/winery/distillery. It’s a second location to the original site in Jackson, Michigan. They’ve got a sizable menu - viewed digitally on a tablet - so plan on staying for a meal while you are there.
6. Bells Brewing in Comstock
One of the craft beer originals in Michigan, Bells Brewing now is one of the big guys, with a brewpub and large-scale production site that both offer free tours. If you’re interested mainly in seeing and hearing about how beer is made and doing a little free tasting, reserve a spot on a tour at the Comstock location. The tours accommodate up to 25 and give you a full history and rundown on their brewing process while peeking into some tanks to see the action. The tour lasts about an hour from start to finish. Fun Fact: Founder Larry Bell is originally from Chicago’s south suburbs — Park Forest.
7. Arcadia Brewing Co. in Kalamazoo
This brewery started back in 1996 with a lineup of British-Inspired beers, and its Kalamazoo Riverfront Brewery, Pub and Beer Garden is a fun place to hang all year — with corn hole games in the warmer months and an igloo in the winter months on the patio. BBQ, pizza, sandwiches and more are available on the menu.
8. Grand Rapids Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids
What could go better with beer than old-school arcade games like Tetris and Galaga? This brewery has a game room for grown ups so you can have a little fun while you sip brews like Silver Foam Lager, Fish Ladder IPA or Here’s Johnny Nirtro Brown Ale.