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GRAND RAPIDS — The Motor City has finally come to Grand Rapids.

Last Saturday, Motor City Brew Tours founder Steve Johnson brought a group of 20 or so craft beer fans to the West Michigan city, to tour three breweries in the area.

While Johnson usually keeps his events in the Detroit area, having a few outside of the Metro area allows for more diversity.

“We came over to the west side to run bus tours due to customer requests,” said Johnson. “In the future, we plan to more day trips and 2-day beer adventures all over Michigan.”

The most recent group who joined Johnson in Grand Rapids consisted of media members, craft beer lovers and those celebrating birthdays — all to see what BeerCity USA is about.

The first stop was The Hideout Brewing Company, featuring a whopping 25 beers on tap. The brewery poured several pitchers of some of its popular standards, including the Smuggler’s Hazelnut Stout, as well as some that were a bit more out of the ordinary, like a watermelon wheat and bubblegum pale ale.

Two of West Michigan’s newer breweries were next — Perrin Brewing Company and Rockford Brewing Company.

Perrin brought several samples to each table, and guests were welcome to order additional samples or pints as well. The Raspberry Blonde proved to be the most popular, with many guests taking home a howler or growler of the fruity brew.

Rockford capped off the trip, with a few different beers available in pitchers. Ain’t Jemima was one of the more popular beers sampled — an experimental beer made with maple sap.

All in all, Johnson was happy with his second Michigan Brew Tours trip to the Grand Rapids area, and is planning the next Grand Rapids-area tour for November 16. For more information on Michigan Brew Tours, visit mibeertours.com.

7% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Clear orange-yellow with medium head.
Aroma: Fruity.
Taste: Orange, banana, berries and spice. A bit of bitterness at the end.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied.

Helles Bock is a fruity, traditional German maibock. The hop presence isn’t as high as I expected, but it does create a bit of bitterness towards the finish of each sip. Overall, though, Helles Bock is a very well-balanced, easy-drinking beer with citrus and berry flavors.

GRAND RAPIDS — An estimated 4,500 people filled a downtown street Saturday, braving wind and cold temperatures to enjoy local beers in the first Hoptoberfest.

A collaboration between HopCat and seven other local breweries, Hoptoberfest featured local beer, art, music and a celebration of the German Octoberfest tradition. The event closed Ionia Street between Weston and Oakes streets from 2-11 p.m. as eight local breweries served up brews.

“It’s great to see the support that HopCat gets for this,” said event organizer Shane Philipsen of BarFly Events. “For a first year, I’ve been really happy with the outcome.”

HopCat, Founders Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, The Hideout Brewing Company, White Flame Brewing Company, Michigan Beer Cellar, Jaden James and Schmohz Brewing Company were all present. In addition, HoptoberFest had a German beer garden, a HopCat food tent, local artists displaying artwork and a full-day’s lineup of blues music.

HopCat brought out some of its best, pouring its Zugspitze Weizen, Roggen Bitch, Fornicator and Black Mamba beers. It also highlighted a festbier, called Hopfenkatze (6.3% ABV). The beer featured minor hints of nutmeg and spice, and had a good burnt orange color to it. Its moderate hop presence was apparent throughout each drink and left a clear and strong aftertaste. The beer could’ve been more falvorful, though it made for a good beer to start with.

The Hideout Brewing Company also brought a fall brew of its own — Oktoberfest (7.5% ABV). Its smooth finish and moderate amount of spices made for a good seasonal beer. With minimal hops and a hint of sweetness at the tail end, it was a perfect way to celebrate the fall season.

But the surprise for me came from the Sparta-based Michigan Beer Cellar. Its Dunkelweizen (6% ABV) brew was my favorite of the night. Its brown body held a rich, nutty flavor with minimal head, as well as a nice aroma with a hint of spice.

Philipsen already has high hopes for the future of the event, hoping to bring in more unique brews and additional breweries.

“We’ll be back, with a bigger and better blueprint next year,” he said.

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