Monday, 24 June 2019 16:09

Gears + Beers: A West Michigan brewery bike trail

Written by  Jack Raymond
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Rockford Brewing Co. Rockford Brewing Co. Photo by Jack Raymond

Women’s suffrage superstar Susan B. Anthony famously called the bicycle a “freedom machine,” an “emancipator,” and “the all powerful whirligig of the future.” 

OK, maybe not that last part, but don’t discredit the bike’s magic — it takes us to and fro with nothing but a pair of legs and the will to zoom. It so happens that we’re blessed with a string of breweries to zoom between along Grand Rapids’ White Pine Trail. Revue plotted some coordinates and dropped in on breweries that share a passion for good beer and a good ride. 

We learned that a beer will never feel more earned than when you’re in the middle of a nearly 30-mile round trip. We hope you’ll bust out your wheels and make the adventure too. Sidenote: Bier Distillery would make a great addition or substitution on this trip, we just didn’t want to overdo it.

As always, drink responsibly and protect your noggin. 

START: City Built Brewing Company
820 Monroe Ave. NW #155, Grand Rapids

These guys are tight with bikes. “We engage in bike events as well as promote the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance,” said owner Ed Collazo. “We also ride and encourage employees to do the same. About five of 45 ride to work.” Cheers to more converts as the weather betters. This brewery’s a good starting point — centrally located with quality beer and food. Plus, it’s nice to get a taste of the urban setting before disappearing into the White Pine. While their tacos amaze, to survive the ride we suggest carbo-loading on the Barbacoa Jibarito, a Grandwich winner and a starchy treat that piles beef cheek between two plantains. Now, off to the races. 

PIT STOP: Speciation Artisan Ales // 4.4 miles
3721 Laramie Dr. NE, Comstock Park

After whooshing by the local waterfowl along Riverside Park, we arrive at our next brewery: Speciation. Owner Mitch Ermatinger, a guy who’s listened to every Game of Thrones audiobook while biking to work, believes his beer and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand. “We have a product that’s inherently healthier than most beer, as it has little to no residual sugar,” Ermatinger said. Perfect. Now you can stroke your health-nut ego while enjoying some of the finest sours on the planet. The Common Descent with Blood Orange and Lime, a 3.7-percent ABV Berliner Weisse, makes for a great pit stop choice — zippy, refreshing and it won’t slow you down. 

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PIT STOP: ELK Brewing // 1.6 miles 
400 Dodge NE, Comstock Park

This stop might seem superfluous — a pint every 10 minutes isn’t the wisest cycling regimen — but ELK is worth a visit for the lineup of ever-improving beers. I grabbed an IPL (India Pale Lager), and enjoyed its balance between an earthy hoppiness and clean, crushable body. I felt tempted for another, but the trail awaited. 

FINISH: Rockford Brewing Company // 8.8 miles
12 E. Bridge St. NE, Rockford

Miles fly by, the mouth begins to parch when finally, the trail opens to an oasis: a brewery. While Rockford Brewing has always been intentional about exercise — hosting kayak trips, group bike trips and more — the brewery is no slouch about its menu either. Matt Valleau explained, “We build seasonal dishes to incorporate produce that is seasonally fresh, with the goal of helping guests find new ways to prepare and enjoy nutritious food that they can find locally.” This includes the wings coated in Smaug’s Revenge, a sauce so hot you’ll forget your tush is swelling from your bike seat. A glass of Rogue River Brown quells away the pain. 

OVERACHIEVER: Cedar Springs Brewing Company // 7.7 miles
95 N. Main St. NE, Cedar Springs

To those with juice left in the tank, push on. In Cedar Springs, you’ll find the red and white checkers, a completionist’s finish line. With about 23 miles behind you, it’s time for a victory beer. The Küsterer Original Weißbier, a Best of the West winner, is fluffy and complex — sheer Bavarian perfection. After a couple, the bike back to Grand Rapids starts to sound a bit daunting. You might just want to take up residence here. Start a new life. Become a unicyclist.

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