Monday, 30 July 2018 11:31

Best of Drinking

Written by  Josh Veal
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Long Road Distillers craft cocktails Long Road Distillers craft cocktails COURTESY PHOTO

Per usual, we decided to shake it up a bit this year and made the Drinking section all about the liquid itself. You can find categories like Best Brewery and Best Distillery in Nightlife & Activities, but here, we’re focusing on the distinct drinks that make West Michigan a shining beacon of craft bevs.

We’d be remiss not to point out the obvious: y’all still really love Founders, which managed to snag a spot in every single beer-related category. And take a quick look at the stouts — there are other breweries that make stouts in West Michigan, in case you were wondering. It’s just that none of them have the legendary status of CBS, the pervasiveness of Breakfast Stout, or the year-round hype machine of KBS. Plus, they’re damn good beers!

Meanwhile, Long Road Distillers seems to have a lock on liquor for now, taking first in vodka, gin, bourbon and craft cocktails, with Gray Skies Distillery close behind. We can’t blame you — both distilleries are creating some of the best spirits, well, anywhere.

Similarly, Vander Mill remains at the top of the cider game. Considering the Grand Rapids-based cidery is one of the largest — if not the largest — cider makers in the Midwest, we expect it to claim the throne for a while now. That being said, The Peoples Cider Co. is gaining much-deserved recognition for its top-notch, European-style cider after moving to Leonard Street, next to Long Road and Mitten Brewing.

Speaking of shaking it up, we also added a few categories. As one might expect, Cedar Springs Brewing Co. took home the prize for German beer and had a strong showing in craft lager. The new-ish brewery just north of Grand Rapids has become known for its excellent, authentic Bavarian-style beers. Likewise, the sour beer category gave newcomers Speciation Artisan Ales and Jolly Pumpkin a chance to shine.

If these names sound unfamiliar to you, let the results act as your liquid bucket list. After all, you don’t get voted best mead in the region for no reason.

Bloody Marys

  1. Rockwell Republic
    45 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids
  2. The Winchester
  3. Stella’s Lounge 


  1. Long Road Distillers - Bourbon
    537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Gray Skies Distillery - Straight Bourbon
  3. New Holland Brewing Co. - Beer Barrel Bourbon


  1. Vander Mill - Totally Roasted
    505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids
  2. Vander Mill - Ginger Peach
  3. The Peoples Cider - Mrs. Sally Brown 

Craft Cocktails

  1. Long Road Distillers
    537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Sidebar
  3. Gray Skies Distillery

Craft Lager

  1. Founders Brewing Co. - Solid Gold
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. - Kusterer Marzen
  3. Founders Brewing Co. - PC Pils

Fruit Beer

  1. Founders Brewing Co. - Rubaeus
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Brewery Vivant - Strawberry Rhubarb Sour
  3. Perrin Brewing Co. - Grapefruit IPA

German Beer

  1. Cedar Springs Brewing Co. - Kusterer Original Weissbier
    95 N. Main St. NE, Cedar Springs
  2. Harmony Brewing Co.- Erste Lager
  3. Founders Brewing Co. - Whiney Stephanie


  1. Long Road Distillers - Michigin
    537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Gray Skies Distillers - Barrel Finished Hopped Gin
  3. Long Road Distillery - Gin


  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. Beltline Bar


  1. Arktos Meadery - Queen Bee
    1251 Century Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Hideout Brewery Co. - Cranberry Mead
  3. City Built Brewing Co. - Blackberry Mead


  1. Founders Brewing Co. - Green Zebra
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Speciation Artisan Ales - Incipient
  3. Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery - Bam Biere


  1. Founders Brewing Co. - CBS
    235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
  2. Founders Brewing Co. - Breakfast Stout
  3. Founders Brewing Co. - KBS


  1. Long Road Distillers - Vodka
    537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
  2. Gray Skies Distillery - Utility Vodka
  3. New Holland Brewing Co. - Dutchess

Staff Picks:


Sietsema Cider - Orange Label
How do you improve upon one of the best ciders in the Midwest? Toss it in a bourbon barrel. At least, that’s what Sietsema did with its classic Yellow Label, a dry, tart, bubbly, slightly funky cider with a focus on the apples. Giving it some time in the bourbon barrel doesn’t subtract any of those flavors — it just adds more layers, developing a smoother mouthfeel and richer taste without going overboard. It’s the first bourbon barrel-aged cider I ever had and it remains one of the best, easily. — Josh Veal


Grand Armory Brewing Co. - Cloudy With a Chance of Hops
The New England IPA craze has faded a bit, but that’s no reason for us to bury the style. Personally, I prefer some juice with my hops — a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Few other beers find the balance as well as Cloudy With a Chance of Hops, a name that serves as an accurate flavor forecast. This brew uses oats and wheat as the backbone for a big, refreshing, fruity, juicy explosion with only a touch of bitterness in the background. And at 9 percent ABV, it’s a real bang for your buck. — Josh Veal


Brewery Vivant - Angelina
It’s no secret that I love Vivant. Anyone who knows me knows three things that I love — Chickens, Eggs and Vivant Beers. Vivant is the reason I was introduced to sour beers. I remember when they first started producing them and were labeling them all kinds of things – wild, funky, tart, sour — but whatever it was, I was down for it. One year, on my birthday, Vivant released a special tart Undertaker (one of my favorite beers) and I could’ve cried tears of joy. I begged the staff to put it on their tap list for good. They didn’t. BUT shortly after, they released their first line of sours and with it came the oh-so-sour, BETTER than that tart Undertaker, sinfully easy to drink, Angelina. My mouth waters at the sound of her name. This wonderfully sour beer is the perfect caramel color with a light foamy head. One sip and I’m home. I’ve converted many sour haters into sour lovers with a drink of Angelina. She’s THAT good. — Kelly Brown

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