Grand Rapids, says Jane Lovett, has come a long way: “This city has gone in the past 20 years from drinking beer in the basement with the blinds pulled to BeerCity USA.”
And that’s a good thing for Lovett’s Heritage Hill bed and breakfast — Peaches Inn — which recently hosted the first Sit. Stay. Beer. weekend.
There’s been a lot of talk about beer tourism in West Michigan since Grand Rapids took sole possession of the BeerCity USA title last spring. The Sit. Stay. Beer. weekend may be the purest example yet of what that means.
Guests arrived Thursday evening and stayed through Sunday morning, and their stay included a limo-chauffeured tour of several breweries, a trip to Siciliano’s Market and homebrew supply store, homebrewing lessons, an import beer tasting session and a beer pairing dinner with Amy Sherman, host of The Great American Brew Trail.
Beer tourism has been a natural and growing part of Lovett’s business at the inn, but in the last year, she says, “it built up to a critical mass.” She saw the opportunity to collaborate with other business owners and entrepreneurs and create a beer-centric weekend package. “Now’s the time,” she says. “All the pieces are here. All the pieces.”
One the of the major pieces, though, has always been there: Doug Wondergem, Jane’s husband and co-owner of Peaches. Doug started homebrewing around five years ago (when Jane admits she “kind of decided that he needed a hobby”) and took to it immediately. He even won a gold medal at the Michigan State Fair for his bourbon barrel brown ale. “There are brewers and there are wannabes,” Jane says, and Doug is definitely the real thing. With his expertise, the Sit. Stay. Beer. weekend could be about making beer as well as tasting it.
That holistic, hands-on experience has proved to be very attractive. Lovett had completely booked all three weekends before the first one even started, with guests coming from across the state and as far away as Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis. Most learned about the weekend through word of mouth or online searches. “They found us,” says Lovett.
All three sets of guests at the first weekend found Peaches on Google.
Alyssa Siegely of the Chicago area was searching for a good trip with her boyfriend Chris Murphy. She found Grand Rapids listed as a top 10 destination on the Huffington Post, and then she found the beer weekend. Midway through the weekend, they had already been inspired by the city — “It’s so unique here, there’s so much local flavor,” says Siegely — and inspired to start their own homebrew batches.
Alvin and Bobbie Snyder had a similar experience. Bobbie was looking for a getaway weekend for her husband not too far from their home in Union City, and her Internet search led her to Peaches as well. They too were planning to stop by Siciliano’s on their way out of town to get a brewing kit of their own. Their first batch? “Something that looks like motor oil,” says Alvin.
All the guests agree it was a weekend to remember — great beer, great city, great hosts. If you need a getaway of your own, check Peaches’ website for future dates. It looks like the Sit. Stay. Beer. weekend is going to sit and stay around for a while itself.