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Beer Week

It’s the most wonderful time… for a beer!

Certainly that line could be sung nearly anytime of the year in Beer City.

During the extra long week of February 17-28, also known as GR Beer Week, the community of Grand Rapids busts out of their cabin fever and celebrates all things beer.

Sure, there may be snow and ice on the ground, but we are Michiganders: we drink beer for breakfast — outside with pride, in the bitter cold of winter. Yes, that’s right — Beer Week GR will culminate with the 2 Day Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark on February 26 and 27. It is an outdoor event, and every attendee should dress for the weather (as in, ski-gear.) Saturday sold out in minutes, but Friday tickets are still available.

winter beer fest

To fire up enthusiasts’ livers – ahem – spirits for the Winter Beer Fest, and to welcome visitors to Beer City, GR Beer Week was created in 2012 and this year it is overflowing with nearly 120 events. Check out ExperienceGR’s Beer Week calendar for a full list of events that is updated on a daily basis. Even if you are not a planner, you could drop into many Grand Rapids area breweries, tap-houses, or brewpubs during Beer Week and be greeted with smiling faces from the collaborative community of Grand Rapids and some form of festivities.

Many Beer Week events will feature tap takeovers, ranging from a few select taps from a small MI brewery, to a crazy 20-tap blow-out from one brewery. Most breweries plan to bring rare craft beers, a few might even toss in a specialty firkin you won’t find anywhere else. It truly is a fun adventure. Be prepared to stand, to be kind, and to tip bartenders and servers generously. Also… designate a driver when necessary.

Beer Week

As you make your way around Beer Week GR, be sure to bring your Brewsader Passport to earn stamps at Grand Rapids Area Breweries. With 8 stamps during Beer Week GR, participants will receive a Brewsader koozie and bottle opener, plus an official Brewsader t-shirt. Passports and prizes can be picked up at GoSite inside the Grand Rapids Art Museum while supplies last. As an added bonus, enthusiasts will earn extra perks at participating breweries. With a full passport stamped (23 stamps!) you are considered an ULTIMATE BREWSADER and will earn even more perks at participating breweries. You don’t want to miss out on these incredible deals, from pint glasses to mug club memberships — it’s worth making the full Beer City Tour and earning those stamps. Again, drink responsibly!

Beer Week

ExperienceGR has also lined up Cool Brews Hot Eats with 50 menu items for enthusiasts to devour at a wide array of Grand Rapids area restaurants during the same time-frame. Cool Brews Hot Eats menu options are beer-infused entrées, desserts, and beyond that utilize beer as an ingredient, or a dish created for a specific pairing with a Michigan beer. There truly is something to warm everyone’s palate up for the last weeks of February.

I’ve got cabin fever and the only cure is… Beer Week GR!

GRAND RAPIDS–Any restaurant engaged in the annual Cool Brews. Hot Eats. has an appetite for enhancing beer culture. Though beer has been paired with food for a long time, there are still folks out there who are newcomers to the concept. Thankfully they can experience this phenomenon at 51 different locations throughout Grand Rapids from February 17-28th.

cool brews hot eatsExperience GR is working with the area’s restaurants to create these unique beer and food pairing deals and centering the week and a half long event around the annual Winter Beer Festival.

I’ve taken some time to look through the pairing options that we have coming up for Cool Brews. Hot Eats. I was pleased to see a range of subtle uses of beer as a cooking medium, all the way to creative collaborations of pairing a specific glass of Michigan beer with either a lunch or dinner plate.  

While digging through the various restaurant offerings, I found out that everyone is obsessed with cheese. Go figure. Beer and cheese will forever be the ultimate pairing, so venues have decided to play up this known fact by offering selections such as the Beer Cheese Soup at Tom and Chee’s ($3.50/Cup, $5/Bowl), which is made with a Five Cheese Blend and New Holland Brewing Company’s Sundog Amber Ale. Aperitivo is offering The Meltdown, their ever-changing fancy grilled cheese paired with beer. They’ll create your special pairing AND you’ll get $2 off if you order both.

If you’re excited to gorge on meat and beer, don’t you worry. Cool Brews. Hot Eats. restaurant participants knew you’d crave it, and there is no shortage of deliciousness like pot roast and pork belly being offered. For instance — Ramona’s Table is serving up an Atwater Vanilla Java Pot Roast Sandwich plus a side dish ($9.99). The sandwich is made of Vanilla Java Porter Simmered Pot Roast served on a Grilled Pretzel Bun with Haystack Onions and is sure to stick to those ribs to keep you warm for excursions such as the Winter Beer Festival.

Looking for a fresh catch instead? Check out The Heritage at Grand Rapids Community College to educate your palate with their Dark Mahogany Shrimp Etouffee made with Founders Porter ($14.50). It’s sure to make for a satisfying lunch. Osteria Rossa also collected their ingredients from the sea with their Cioppino. Made with Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand, their Cioppino consists of P.E.I. mussels, Tomato Broth, Manilla Clams, Italian sausage, Potatoes, and Fennel. It sounds oh so fresh — yet hearty.

The beer selections themselves caught my eye most of all. Founders Brewing Company is forever present with their Porter, Dirty Bastard and All Day IPA (among others of course), but Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter and New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk made an appearance on almost every other menu I saw.

Though these giants in the Michigan beer scene are prevalent, it was wonderful to see lesser known items pop up such as the Odd Side Ales Troll Toll IPA that will be used at the Black Heron for their Troll Toll Risotto and Łosoś ($22). This Parmesan and Lemon Risotto made with Odd Side Ales Troll Toll IPA comes with a Salmon Steak topped with a Cherry and Thyme Chutney. It will turn quite a few heads I’m sure.

Thought that you were all done with your beer pairings because you’ve moved onto dessert? Think again. Pairing beer with dessert is a special sort of perfection in life, and sure enough there are several venues that will indeed be proving this to you. CitySen Lounge anyone? Take a walk into the CityFlats Hotel and visit the Lounge so you can test out their pairing of Bell’s Double Cream Stout with their Peanut Butter Double Cream Stout Brownies that comes with Sticky Plum Jam and White Chocolate ($6). Decadence without a doubt.

With 51 restaurants, breweries, and brewpubs participating, be sure to visit as many venues as you can to get in on these great deals and personal approaches to pairing the fine suds of Michigan with a meal. The lessons gained can only comfort the residents and guests who lovingly call Grand Rapids, Beer City USA.

 

Cool Brews. Hot Eats. is taking over Grand Rapids.

You’ll find Michigan craft beers and on point food pairings at the most unlikely of places — like the top of the Amway Grand, for instance. Chef Werner Absenger and his dedicated kitchen crew have developed a unique beer themed menu that captures the globally influenced American cuisine of Cygnus 27, the flagship restaurant of the Amway on the 27th floor.

Sample three courses complete with 5 oz. beer pairings for only $40.00 and enjoy the view. 

The menu takes inspiration from the European heritage of Chef Absenger, throwing a bit of Michigan into the mix. Starting with descriptions of the beer, the Chef and his team narrowed down options for meal pairings from there.

“We have Scotty Karate [from Dark Horse Brewing], right? So we read the description and then tried it. The shortbread and hint of sweetness was key for a beer batter- for frog legs. Frog legs make sense for a karate chop, right?” Chef Werner laughs. Served with a slaw and remoulade sauce on the side, this was our starter.

The next course, Saguatuck Brewing Company’s Bonfire Brown Cheese Soup was designed to invoke the memories of summer (much needed with all this snow) as well as providing something to warm you up on these cold nights.

The entrée, and my favorite menu item of the evening, was Brewery Vivant’s Farm Hand Choucroute Garnie. Inspired by the brewers at Vivant’s trip to France, this spin on a traditional Alsace regional recipe braises the sauerkraut and locally sourced knockwurst, kielbasa and smoked pork loin in the French style farmhouse ale instead of the traditional Riesling. The funk of the Vivant house yeast paired perfectly with the sourness of the kraut.

Dessert featured product from New Holland Brewery. An oatmeal stout based chocolate cake featuring The Poet as well as some spirits thrown into the mix, New Holland’s Beer Barrel Bourbon. Sandwiched between two cake layers was The Bukowski Ice Cream, also made with the brew.

The ice cream people are perhaps a very healthy and satisfied people, but luckily you don’t have to be off the bottle to enjoy this treat.

Becky Casto, Cygnus general manager shares her opinion on the Beer City vibe. “It’s hugely exciting. There’s so much pride in Grand Rapids [with the BeerCity  USA win]. My background is wine, so it’s been very exciting for me to be educated on the beer culture and to see how beer can pair with food. It’s a win for the city all around.”

The kitchen at Cygnus shares the ‘we are all in this together’ spirit of the beer community. Absenger brought out his team — Tim Moreno, Rick Medcalf and Phil Laviolette — after our meal. These gentlemen, all at different stages in their culinary career, clearly are soaking up knowledge from Absenger as well as exploring their own food passions and creativity.

Kitchen camaraderie makes for the best meals — otherwise you can taste the tension. And that doesn’t sit well with your beer.

Learn more about Cygnus 27 and join the restaurant for its Cool Brews. Hot Eats. menu until March 1.