If you take a ride in one of the 15-passenger Grand Rapids Beer Tours
vans, co-owner and tour guide Brain Haik will tell you about a lot of Grand Rapids beer and brewing company history you might not have already known.
For example, he knows that Founder's Brewing Co. got the name we know it by today because of their original beer bottle labeling, which featured black and white portraits of the city's founding members with the word "founders" printed above. He can tell you how Grand Rapids Brewing Co., back when it was first established in 1892, was the largest brewery in the Midwest that produced more beer annually than Founder's does today, or how, in the decade or so leading up to prohibition, Grand Rapids was host to over 16 breweries.
Point is, Haik knows his stuff.
With an undergraduate degree in history and geography from Grand Valley State University and past experience working at Founder's Brewing Company, he opened Grand Rapids Beer Tours over the summer with the intention to combine his talents and passions – history and Grand Rapids breweries – and give people a safe way to experience a city that has not only a dynamic beer scene, but also the history to match.
Grand Rapids Beer Tours offers five different types of public and private tours that generally include transportation to and from three to four Grand Rapids breweries, offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at brewery operations with at least one of the locations on each tour. At $50-65 per person depending on the type of tour, the cost also covers all beer samples or tips along the way.
"People are realizing again the beer is pretty awesome and it tastes great and it's an interesting beverage to drink," Haik says. "It's had a bad name in the past – wine is always considered more of a 'fine' drink – but I think we're starting to see more people look at beer as in the same category as wine, if not more so, because there's way more different kinds."
He says Grand Rapids Beer Tours is the most "catered beer tour in town," adding that so far business has been good, with about 80 percent of his customer requests being for private tours – bachelor and bachelorette parities, birthday parties, or employee outings for companies.
"Obviously, it's not a 100 percent original idea; other companies are doing it," he says. "But other ones that recently opened up in town might transport people to and from breweries, but that's it. With us, we do the entire tour. We'll talk about the beer styling and about the history of Grand Rapids brewing and the breweries themselves. A lot of things that other places might not."
Visit the Grand Rapids Beer Tours website for more information on pricing and booking a tour.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Beer Tours