Hops adorned the entrance to HopStock, the Beer City Brewers Guild’s inaugural craft beverage festival, while a 1977 Volkswagen bus-turned-photo booth captured hoppy smiles and totally groovin’ taste buds. Unlike other festivals, HopStock had a hyper-local focus, filling Calder Plaza on Saturday evening with craft beverages from brewpubs, breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries from Kent County and bordering counties.

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“The spirit of Grand Rapids is noncompetitive, we collaborate instead of compete,” said Kelli Williams, BCBG Events and Marketing Coordinator. “HopStock is all local with a little bit of something for everyone.”

IPA Island, unique to HopStock, truly captured the collaborative spirit. The ‘island’ dispensed 23 IPAs filling six, four tap jockey boxes from Cedar Springs based Coldbreak Brewing Equipment.

“Beers being poured side by side may bring attention to a brewery someone hasn’t heard of before, making them more inclined to try something new,” said Jackson VanDyke, President of BCBG.

hopstockIn addition to IPA Island, guild members also had their own booths with additional craft beverages ready to fill the sustainable reusable sample cans provided to attendees. BCBG wanted to do something different than the plastic cup seen at most festivals. The HopStock sample can, produced by Michigan Mobile Canning, was created for people to take home as a keepsake, instead of throwing it away at the end of the festival. Multiple attendees said they loved the sample can, with some even specifying that they came just for the can!

In fact, keeping the whole festival sustainable was a huge priority for the BCBG. Jake Brenner, Sustainability Coordinator, acquired the use of Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s clean stream system for the festival, which are bins that festival goers can put their compost and recycling in, leaving very little waste for the landfills.

Craft beverages saturated tastebuds, music graced ears, and local food trucks filled stomachs. Even though they didn’t have beverages to share, upcoming breweries like City Built Brewing, Speciation Artisan Ales and High Five Co-op Brewery were invited to be a part of the festival by sharing their future business plans.

“Jackson and the rest of the guild have a lot of passion for the whole beer scene in Grand Rapids. They know that supporting the new and unopened breweries is good for everyone! The opportunity to reach a number of people that had never heard of us, and talk with them about what we do (sour & wild beer) and when we will be opening (the end of the year) was very cool,” exclaimed Mitch Ermatinger, Co-Founder of Speciation Artisan Ales.

“It is an exciting time to be a brewer in Grand Rapids, and an exciting time to be a beer drinker,” said Kate Avery, Abbess of Beer at Brewery Vivant.

Not just being collaborative with businesses in the beer industry, the beer industry in Grand Rapids is also supportive in educating the beer drinker. Ben Darcie, Beer Education Specialist at Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery and Supply, took stage twice educating attendees on ‘Getting to Know Beer Ingredients’ and ‘Beer Tasting Basics’.

Beth Gaston, festival attendee, liked that HopStock focused on everything local – from local friends, to craft beverages, to the vendors as well.