In recent years, Grand Rapids has become a beer mecca. One of those leading that charge is HopCat, recently named as one of the best places on Planet Earth to belly up and grab a pint! BeerAdvocate named them the third best beer bar in the world for the third year in a row! The staff at HopCat take this honor with great pride and know that it also comes with great responsibility for their craft beer-loving customers.
For anyone who has cozied up to HopCat’s elegant, wooden bar and enjoyed a handmade craft beer, this distinction will come as no surprise. With 48 drafts on tap and countless bottles to choose from, the possibilities at HopCat will boggle any beer lovers’ mind. Which is why, if the mere thought of a hoppy IPA is enough to make you drool, HopCat demands repeat visits.
Since it opened three years ago, HopCat has been the envy of beer lovers not lucky enough to live nearby. And those who do are not taking the crown jewel of Michigan pubs for granted.
Steve Smith, who works at HopCat under the title Chief Beer Geek, appreciates his customers just as much as they appreciate the beer he brings in. â€œBeing on BeerAdvocate’s list for the third year in a row is a big honor. And it is a big honor because it is determined by customer reviews. I take great pride in the fact that our customers speak up for us.â€ Steve told Absolute Michigan.
For anyone passionate about craft beers, the list of Chief Beer Geek job responsibilities reads like pure poetry. On any given day, Steve is selecting which beers will go on tap at HopCat, working with local chefs to come up with menus for beer-pairing dinners, planning beer festivals and, generally, talking beer all day long.
And being passionate about the industry makes HopCat’s prestigious placement on the BeerAdvocate list all the more sweet.
â€œWe are in such great company with so many great bars on that list. When I look at it, I see people further down than we are that I look to for inspiration, bars that are doing amazing things with craft beers.â€ And Steve has a particular passion for the Michigan beer industry, an industry he sees as being one big family. â€œI have been selling beer in Michigan for 15 years now. With my experience, I am able to get a lot of stuff other people are not able to. I’m a huge supporter of craft brewers and I love seeing them succeed. The more breweries the better. And it’s better for the industry and local economies. There is such a great sense of family in the craft beer world.â€
Part of makes HopCat a great beer bar, as opposed to simply a bar that serves great beers, is the fact that they brew some of Michigan’s best craft beers on site. Steve calls the HopCat brewery the â€œquintessential microbreweryâ€ because they have the capacity to brew 7 half barrels at a time and only brew twice a week.
The lofty responsibility of brewing beer in a place that serves the world’s best falls in the lap of HopCat brewer Jeff Williams. According to Jeff, HopCat tries to maintain three to four mainstays on draft at any given time. But, he has the creative freedom to make whatever he thinks will taste good. â€œThe great thing about this brewery is that we can make whatever comes to mind. A lot of our brews are experimental. Last summer, we made a Jamaican Jerk Pale Ale with lime zest, all spice, habaneras and fresh thyme. It had a nice kick to it.â€ Jeff said. â€œWe are working on a Scotch Ale and we have a couple of sours in the basement we’re waiting on. And I’m toying with the idea of brewing a Pilsner.â€ Jeff added.
The new beers will no doubt go nicely with HopCat legends like Hoppotamus, a well-balanced IPA, Sage Against the Machine, a herbed honey pale ale and the Viener Lager, a Vienna-style lager.
Steve and Jeff are lucky. They work in an industry they love and one – thanks to all their hard work – that loves them back. As beer lovers themselves, they have a few favorites from around Michigan and beyond. And while they both said their favorite pint is the one in front of them, here are a some breweries currently whetting whistles at HopCat.
|Michigan craft beers||American craft beers|