|Pleeps' first visit to Founders!|
Our first stop? Founders, of course! We love Founders so much that we had wanted to get back there immediately after our first visit (again, this was our first time since the aforementioned Michigan trip). We pretty much opened the place, which was fine with us. Our first-ever visit occurred on an extremely busy night, and it was elbow to asshole throughout the entire brewpub, making it very difficult to even procure a seat or wait staff, much less enjoy ourselves. (We ended up going the following morning, and enjoyed our visit immensely!) At any rate, here we were bright and early (at least by beer drinkers’ standards) at one of our favorite brewpubs on the planet. I started with a twelve-ounce pour of the brewpub-only Brewer’s Guild IPA, an 8% Cascade-fueled hoppy ale. Brewslut started with the same size of a beer called Spite, a Pale Ale brewed with an assortment of spicy peppers including Anaheim, habanero, and Serrano. Translation? Hotter than a ten-peckered Billy goat! After a few sips of this face-melting concoction, Brewslut exclaimed, “My burp is gonna be like a flamethrower!”
|Smell them hops!|
After our initial beers, we decided to have a few samples, as there were numerous interesting-sounding beers on the menu. We sampled four offerings: Porter, Oatmeal Stout, Berry Cherry Thrilla and Founders Fest Wheat. While the former two are standard offerings, the latter two beers were brewpub-only releases. Berry Cherry Thrilla was a sweet and mildly tart blend of two Founders beers – Cerise and Rubius. The Fest Wheat was a hoppy American wheat beer, which seem to be all the rage these days (think Three Floyds Gumballhead, but not quite as hoppy). After weighing my options, I decided to try my luck with a 9.2% ABV heavyweight (coincidentally my favorite named beer of the lot) called Dave’s Not Here,” a nod to one of the first Cheech and Chong comedy sketches. This beer was described as a Red Ale (most likely Red’s Rye) aged equally in whiskey, maple, and (I think) bourbon barrels. Wow! This was probably the beer of the trip for me, a rarity indeed, especially given how recently the trip began. But I knew after a few sips of this delicious nectar that this was going to be a tough one to beat! The whiskey and oak characteristics were quite dominant up front and in the nose, but the finish was all about the maple sweetness. I can’t really do justice in describing how awesome this beer was! Let’s just say that anything Founders puts into a barrel turns out to get as luscious as a pair of perfectly formed female breasts. Yeah… it’s that good!
|Brewslut about to unleash the burp flamethrower on me.|
After our visit to Founders, we met up with Kelly back at the radio studio for the obligatory ten-cent tour. Then, we headed ‘round the corner to Hop Cat, who had since started brewing its own after our last visit (again… first Michigan trip blah blah blah). Even though they have a ridiculous tap selection, we felt obligated to try two of Hop Cat’s house beers: the Hoppopotamus IPA and Kiwi Berliner Weiss. Guess who ordered which beer? We also HAD to get an order of Crack Fries, which were not as good as I had remembered. They were still good, just not “crack” good. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s the quality of good crack (see my other blog, The Rock Trippers). Overall, the beers were fine but not memorable. The IPA had a bit of diacetyl (buttery) quality, but it was still enjoyable. I was pleased to see that the Frank Zappa mural in the men’s restroom was still intact, although the awesome free jukebox was out of order. M’wah!
|They must have spiked our Crack Fries with bananas!|
After Hop Cat, Kelly took us to two of her favorite local watering holes. Up first was Stella’s, an ultra-modern but eclectic bar with a vintage feel. I use the term vintage because Stella’s boasts a huge inventory of classic 80’s arcade games. I also noticed three pop art works on the wall above the bar featuring three of my favorite television characters of all time: Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber and Bill Haverchuck, better known as the “Geeks” from NBC’s short-lived Freaks and Geeks aka the greatest TV show of all time. As if that wasn’t cool enough, they were painted on vinyl records! In addition to a small but well thought-out tap selection, Stella’s also offers two hundred different whiskeys and a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. The longer we stayed, the more I thought about how much we would hang out there if we lived in Grand Rapids. Beer-wise, I ordered a Short’s Huma Lupa Licious IPA, which was better than I had remembered. Brewslut opted for a glass of Sangria, which was one of the happy hour specials.
Afterwards, we headed over to Meanwhile, another awesome local bar with cool artsy décor and a great beer selection. I went with a pint of Founders All Day IPA, a new session beer that surprisingly was not on tap at Founders. Brewslut went with one of her perennial favorites, Short’s Soft Parade. I almost bought some cool merch here, including the previously referenced Bill Haverchuck vinyl painting (they were selling a whole bunch of pop culture figures painted on old records for $20) and a T-shirt that read, “Thanks Bruce Dickinson.” Being a huge Iron Maiden fan, I had to ask the bartender what the story was behind this shirt design. Apparently, the owner of the bar was playing a video game and was having difficulty advancing to the next level. His friend put on Iron Maiden’s Powerslave album and, by the grace of the “Air Raid Siren” himself, he was able to advance to the next level. Hence the awesome shirt. So, we visited two of the coolest bars we have ever visited in one night… in the same town. How cool is that?
|Bruce Dickinson fixes everything!|
After a one-and-done at Meanwhile, we’d become rather hungry, so Kelly suggested a great, little award-winning Mexican restaurant called Beltline Bar. She warned us that it wasn’t the classiest place, but the food was bangin’. We were game. The food was, indeed, quite bangin’. Classic Mexican cuisine, cheap prices, and large portions. To quote Philadelphia Collins, “Baaaaaaaaam!!!”
Our final stop of the evening was Brewery Vivant, a Belgian-inspired brewpub situated in an old defunct funeral home, and a new destination for us. They had a relatively small but diverse house beer menu. The first beer to stand out was a French-style Farmhouse Ale aged in oak Jack Daniels barrels. I usually gravitate to the barrel-aged beers, and this time was no different. Brewslut got the Imperial Stout, a mammoth beer with which to end the night. We were having a good time talking, so I opted for a second, a Belgian IPA, which was quite intense. The food looked great, but we were stuffed from our dinner at Beltline Bar. Perhaps next time we will have dinner there.
|Inside Brewery Vivant|
And thus ends day two of The Great Taste Caper. Stay tuned for Day Three: Return of the Mikie!