Thursday, 25 July 2019 14:48

Best of The West: Drinking Winners

Written by  by Jack Raymond
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In the days of yore, a pint of lager and a couple fingers of whiskey were enough to whet a drinker’s appetite. No more. With a zillion liquids to choose from, it’s exhausting just deciding what to put in your mouth. Even our rhymes are changing. Once liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, now negroni before stout, lights out. Gin before mead, yes indeed? Mix and match drinks from this list and send us your rhymes for which pairs spared a bellyache. 

Parsing through this year’s results, a few winners come as no surprise. Founders Brewing Co. stouts are unimpeachable. Taking the long road paid in spades for Long Road Distillers. Donkey Taqueria makes the best margaritas in town, which is why you have to wait so long to get a table.

As a Speciation Artisan Ales fanboy, I’m delighted to see Incipient take top honors for best sour beer. With their wine label, Native Species, finally taking shape, maybe we’ll see them knock stalwarts like Hudsonville Winery and St. Julian’s down a peg in 2020. Railtown Brewing Co. nabbed a bronze for Fruit Beer, which says a lot when Rubaeus and Blushing Monk are your competition. Also, it seems I’ve been too busy slamming City Built Brewing Co.’s food to notice mead on the menu. Time to swing in for a glass — and a half-dozen pork belly tacos please. 

Hate to nitpick, but we noticed that a couple medalists initially slipped onto the wrong podiums. Farmhand, for instance, placed for German Beer, when credit is due a country over — the recipe was modeled after beer served to laborers in old-world France. That’s fine, because now Harmony Brewing Co.’s Erste Lager gets a chance to shine. And yes, Perrin Black might drink light like a lager, but it does say “Ale” right on the can! Disqualified. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. moves in with yet another win thanks to Küsterer Salzburger Märzen — that makes three medals. Personally, I’d vote for DeHop’s Premium Lager, a German Pilsner that nails it in both categories.

Bloody Marys

1. Rockwell Republic
45 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids

2. The Winchester
3. Stella’s Lounge


1. Long Road Distillers - Straight Bourbon 
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. New Holland Brewing Co. - Beer Barrel Bourbon
3. Gray Skies Distillery - Breakfast Bourbon


1. Vander Mill- Totally Roasted
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

2. Vander Mill - Blue Gold
3. (Tie) The Peoples Cider Co. - Ginger Adams, Vander Mill - Ginger Peach

Craft Cocktails

1. Long Road Distillers
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Buffalo Traders Lounge
3. Sidebar

German Beer

1. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. - Küsterer Original Weissbier
95 N. Main St. NE, Cedar Springs

2.Cedar Springs Brewing Co. - Küsterer Dunkelweizen
3. Harmony Brewing Co. - Erste Lager

Gray Skies Distillery. Courtesy Photo


1. Long Road Distillers - MICHIGIN
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Gray Skies Distillery - Barrel Finished Gin
3. Long Road Distillers - Dry Gin

Craft Lager

1. Founders Brewing Co. - Solid Gold
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Bell's Brewery - Lager of the Lakes
3. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. - Küsterer Salzburger Märzen

Fruit Beer

1. Founders Brewing Co. - Rubaeus
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Founders Brewing Co. - Blushing Monk
3. Railtown Brewing Co. - POW! Right in the Kizberry


1. Founders Brewing Co. - All Day IPA
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Bell’s Brewery - Two Hearted Ale
3. Rockford Brewing Co. - Hoplust


1. Donkey Taqueria
665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

2. Luna
3. Lindo Mexico


1. Arktos Meadery - Queen Bee 
1251 Century Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Bardic Wells Meadery - Traditional Mead
3. City Built Brewing Co. - Blackberry Mead

Sour Beer

1. Speciation - Incipient
3721 Laramie Dr NE, Comstock Park

2. Jolly Pumpkin - Bam Biere
3. Jolly Pumpkin - Oro de Calabaza


1. Founders Brewing Co. - Breakfast Stout
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

2. Founders Brewing Co. - CBS
3. Founders Brewing Co. - KBS

Honorable Mention: Rockford Brewing Company - Sheehan's Irish Stout


1. Long Road Distillers - Original Vodka
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

2. Gray Skies Distillery - Utility Vodka
3. New Holland Brewing Co. - Lake Life


Staff Picks

Craft Cocktails
Graydon’s Crossing
1223 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

I’ve always liked Graydon’s Crossing, but in recent years, everything there has only gotten better and better. It’s nice to see one of the old guard change and keep up with the times, which Graydon’s has done through new food and new cocktails alike — don’t worry, the beer menu is still solid. The cocktail list is full of thoughtful spins on classics and some colorful drinks like the Hurricane, with plantation rum, dark rum, sugar, passionfruit and lime juice. If you’re there for brunch, definitely get the Orange Whip, a frothy, refreshing hangover cure that’s reminiscent of a citrusy remix of SpeakEZ’s Suffering Bastard. — Josh Veal

Grand Armory Brewing Co. - Crop Duster Citra IPA
17 S. 2nd St., Grand Haven

I can’t identify a hop profile by taste alone, but I do know what I like, and that’s citra hops. If used correctly, a citra IPA is not too bitter, fantastic smelling, full of citrus flavor and just all around easy to drink. With Crop Duster, Grand Armory meets all of that criteria. That’s not too surprising, considering the lakeshore brewery consistently produces quality beer that’s all-around crushable, but I don’t drink IPAs often. When I do find one that doesn’t assault my taste buds with earthy bitterness, I hold it close. Crop Duster is one such brew. — Josh Veal

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