Tim and Nancy came for a visit from Chicago this weekend. We met Tim some 25+ years ago when he was a mechanic at Northwest Airlines and Mike was a ramp rat. His and Nancy's paths crossed a few times on his visits to Chicago (his home town) until the lights came aglow and they found themselves in love and soon married. As a result, Tim joined Nancy in Chicago and they live happily every after.
We get together with them once a year or so, usually lakeside on the Michigan side (Saugatuck, Manistee, etc.), but once or twice in Chicago. This time they came to see our newest condo and go for a beer expedition in Grand Rapids.
On Friday when they arrived, we gave the five cent tour of our condo, had a long chat to catch up on news, and invited them to meet our brand new cat Bella, who was showing off and not too nippy.
Next we strolled over to the Beer Exchange for dinner. This is a really fun spot, especially for beer drinkers, and the food is good, too. It is based loosely on the stock exchange in that it has a leader board with 28 rotating world beers listed. Every 20 minutes of so, prices go up or down on the various beers, depending on how popular they were in the last "session." Every once in a while the "big bell" rings and there is a market crash, where all the prices go down and the process starts over. http://kalamazoobeerexchange.com
On Saturday, we headed north to Grand Rapids where there was a beer festival happening. The main gathering was sold out at Comstock Park, but all the breweries were having specials. First we went to Founders Brewery, which came highly recommended by my niece, Teshia. Last summer she had organized a Circle Michigan Brew Tour with her college buddies, and rated Founders #1. We had a great lunch there and tried a few beers. Not sure what everyone else had, but I had a wonderful caprese sandwich filled with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil and piled on toasted ciabatta bread with garlic infused balsamic vinaigrette. http://foundersbrewing.com
Next we went further into downtown GR to the B.O.B. (the Big Old Building) to check out B.O.B.'s Brewery, unfortunately it was closed. Too bad, as there were a number of people trying to get in, but oh well, their loss. http://www.thebob.com/bobsbrewery.html
From there we walked to HopCat Brewery (photo is of their ceiling). They have three of their own on tap and a huge list of other beers from around town, around the state, and around the world. There were about 175 to choose from, including numerous lambics and a gluten free beer from England !! http://hopcatgr.com
Unfortunately, I guess, I'm not a beer drinker. It would probably be cheaper than the wino that I am and I've tried oh so hard to appreciate beer, but it's just not happening. I'd rather have the vine. Anyway, hard for me to comment on how wonderful the beers were. I do like lambic and hard cider (more fruity, I guess), but somehow that doesn't ring well with true blue beer-os.
Last stop was Stella's Lounge, one of our fave haunts when we go to GR. It's a little hard to explain, but you enter through an alley. The outside of the building is black and hundreds of skulls are painted in neat rows a long ways up the wall. This does not give a positive vibe, but also not a true reflection of what is inside. Inside is friendly, flexible, down to earth. It use to have a mainly veggie menu that you could turn items into carnivore. It has changed, now with mostly meat items that can be turned into veggie. Either way, the veggie works for me. Oh, and they used to have a huge pinball selection, but that must have pared down recently. http://stellasgr.com
This is more of a cocktail place than a beer joint. So we all ended up having cocktails. Along with the current popular stuff, they make vintage-style cocktails, so I asked for a Tom Collins. We hadn't had one in a long time and had lately been trying to find an authentic version. Most places just throw something together with gin. But this was the real thing, maraschino cherry and orange slice included.
We headed home after than, called it an early evening, and hit the hay. The next morning the K's stopped by for a short but sweet visit and then were on their way. It was a gonzo 36 hours and we had a ball. Thanks for coming, K's.