Asheville ‘ambassador’ tours Grand Rapids beer scene


Founders Brewing is one of the many players in the Grand Rapids beer community — or BeerCity, U.S.A. Photo by Adam Bird

There's no animosity between Asheville, N.C., and Grand Rapids.

Although the two cities tied in a vote to be named 2012's BeerCity, U.S.A., the two beer scenes have taken it in stride and rolled with the craft beer culture of collaboration.

This weekend, Grand Rapids will host an ambassador from Asheville, Adam Reinke, who will receive the royal treatment in a tour of the area's breweries by Revue Magazine's Beer Editor, Ben Darcie.

Reinke said he’s coming to Grand Rapids for two main reasons — and it’s more than just drinking beer.

“I enjoy craft beer, and Grand Rapids has a nice burgeoning industry,” he said. “But with the passion and motivation behind winning BeerCity, U.S.A., it reminded me a lot of Asheville when we tied Portland (Ore.) in 2009.”

From his decision to come to Grand Rapids as a tourist, he sought out some guidance and contacted Darcie, Michele Sellers, co-owner of Barfly Ventures, which owns Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and HopCat, and Rick Muschiana, manager at Brewery Vivant.

Darcie took the lead and organized the tour that will take Reinke across the area. Darcie made contact with all the area breweries and said the reception was a resounding "yes."

"Just seeing the breweries and drinking the beer is one thing," Darcie said. "But to be at a table and sitting across from the guy who made the beer, that's what helps make this scene special."

Darcie isn't confining the tour to the city limits of Grand Rapids. Tthey'll also head out to Hudsonville and outlying Grand Rapids-area breweries.

"Grand Rapids is the hub of the beer scene," Darcie said. "But I really wanted to reach out to the outlying breweries, because they still are key players in the West Michigan culture."

One of the key events of the two-day tour, which includes about nine of the area's breweries, will be a tasting of beers Reinke brought from Asheville.

"I opened up communication and asked, ‘What can I do to be the ambassador to Asheville beer?’" Reinke said, adding that seven or eight breweries gave him cases of beer to share.

Although it's unlikely the two cities will finish in a tie again next year, Reinke said he wishes there could be three or four BeerCities every year.

"What it really does is brings awareness to a city's beer scene and sharing it together," Reinke said. "If our cultures came together, it only shows that there's that much support behind it. It just shows what craft beer can do from a people, community-relationship standpoint. It's not about driving Grand Rapids out of business but to show we both make awesome beer and have great beer people.”

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