Grand Rapids campaigns for 2013 BeerCity, U.S.A. title


HopCat in downtown Grand Rapids has 48 craft beers on tap and is a key player in Beer City, U.S.A. Photo by Adam Bird

In the hearts of residents, Grand Rapids will always be BeerCity, U.S.A.

But in the eyes of the nation, the formal title could come to an end this month, unless Grand Rapids is voted to the top of the list again.

Voting for BeerCity begins on Monday, and voters can vote once per device. Examiner, the site conducting the poll, said the online poll will be accessible soon via its beer section.

Voting-inspired beer

The city’s brewers have teamed up once again for a new beer series in celebration of the vote and have events planned to get the word out to vote.

On Sunday, 10 area breweries will release the newest in the series of beers — the #55555513. 

The hashtag name comes from the idea that the beer will be released with an alcohol content of 5.5 percent, 55 International Bitterness Units and on 5/5/13. The beer will contain two grains and one hop, varying by brewery.

Wob Wanhatalo, the media liaison for the release and brewer at Mitten Brewing Co., said Mitten’s #5555513 is full of “Simcoe-y” goodness.

Reigning champion

The vote will pit Grand Rapids against Asheville, N.C., which tied for the title last year, and more cities across the country.

“We’re up against some big cities and beer meccas in the country,” Wanhatalo said. “But we’re just as big of a destination as they are.”

The vote also includes two other Michigan cities, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, after they were voted in during a preliminary round.

Although Experience GR President Doug Small said Kalamazoo could take away votes from Grand Rapids, Wanhatalo is confident Michigan will do what’s right.

“Honestly, in a sense, Kalamazoo can be included in the Grand Rapids region,” he said. “Although it says Grand Rapids, it really encompasses all of West Michigan, from Founders to New Holland to Bell’s, we have three of the state’s biggest breweries within an hour of each other.”

The beer scence

Small also said people come from around the state — and country — for Grand Rapids’ craft brewing scene.

He recently ran into a man from Wisconsin at Siciliano’s Market filling up on Michigan beer.

“That’s so cool to see a guy from out of state filling a counter with beer he can only get here,” he said. “To see our grocery stores to have the craft beer market they do — it’s amazing.”

Aside from Siciliano’s, which won Best Beer Grocer in the nation earlier this year, Grand Rapids also has HopCat, which has been on various lists as one of the best beer bars in the world, as well as the area’s 15 breweries.

“It’s still fun, but it’s turned into big business for us,” Small said. “We’d like to win.”

Every vote counts

Brewers, local celebrities and politicians also will take to the streets for four days next week in an effort to get out the vote.

The group will take a bus around the city to various beer bars with QR codes on handouts and stickered on their clothes.

“It’s just another effort to get as many votes as we can,” Wanhatalo said. “The breweries should be a given with getting votes from regulars, but we need to go outside of that.”

There also is a video, produced by local company Whiskey Neat, that will help try to catch an Internet voting audience.

Always a champion

Regardless of what happens in the vote, though, Wanhatalo reiterated the fact that once a BeerCity, always a BeerCity.

“Once we’ve achieved that status, we are forever,” he said. “But our goal is to continue to be at the top of the list every year, and we’re fighting tooth and nail to be there.”


The Examiner has posted its 2013 BeerCity, U.S.A. poll online. The poll is open through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 10.

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