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Beer O'Clock GR

It's 11.46am On Saturday January 23 And It's Happy Hour Right Now at 4 Bars In GR

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Craft Beers of Michigan: An Idiot’s Journey

Hello, friends.

Yours truly here has been summoned by the evil overlords at Beer O’Clock GR to write a beer column for this here website, though I’m not entirely sure why. Is it because they know I will class the place up with my wit and intellect? That can’t be it. Are they looking for an attractive young man who will draw in the internet masses via his undeniable sex appeal? Given that I look like a cross between Gary Busey and a gerbil, this also seems unlikely.

My working theory is that the malevolent brain trust that runs this here brilliant website had one few too many beers at one of the awesome establishments they feature in these pages, then inexplicably decided that affording space to a man that thinks an amber ale actually involves a girl named Amber in some capacity was a good idea.

Not that I’m complaining.

Truth is, though, boys and girls, I don’t drink all that much beer. I’ve been on a master cleanse sporadically over the last year of my life or so and this involves me drinking countless gallons of colon blasting herbal teas. It also involves me running to the bathroom every five minutes to explode like Mount Vesuvius. Frankly, it is no way to live, but it’s the choice I’ve made.

Okay, so that’s not entirely true, but it is accurate that I don’t drink a ton of beer these days, certainly not as much as I use to. And you know what? I feel like such a statement might be true in your own life too, dear reader. You’re probably not in the same bar every night hanging out with your drinking buddies Norm, Sam, and the good doctor Frasier Crane, pounding back round after round of whatever beer the characters on the sitcom “Cheers” drank (it was Boston, so my guess is Sam Adams).

You are interested, however, in trying some new local watering holes and craft beers, because you love the Furniture City and the amazing state it resides in, but you don’t want to pay through the nose just to get a bottle or pint of some alcoholic goodness. You just want a tasty beer at a tasty price and that’s what brought you to Beer O’Clock GR.

Hopefully you’ve found this website helpful thus far (I know I have, even with my limited alcohol consumption), because let’s face it, kids, when it comes to bars, breweries, and the beers they serve, both here in Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole, especially in the way the craft beer scene has exploded over the last decade or so, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It can all be a bit overwhelming at times.

To illustrate this, let me tell you a story that is repeated ad nauseam in my life. No, it’s not about me getting shot down by women because, at this point in the game, I usually just save everyone the time and trouble and throw the drink in my face myself. Rather, this is a story about those sporadic times I go to pick up a six pack of beer at Meijer.

“Meijer?” I can hear you saying with an incredulous inflection in your voice. “Real original.”

Look, it’s not like I’ve never been to Smitty’s or Martha’s Vineyard in my life. It’s just that as I grow older, I grow lazier (considering I started as zero on the motivation scale, this is an accomplishment) and it’s just easier to do all my shopping at Meijer. In fact, 92.5% of the clothes I’m wearing right now came from their men’s department (it would be 100% but I’m only wearing one sock for some reason). Also, I enjoy shopping at an establishment that allows me to buy a cheese wheel and an actual wheel at the same time because, well, that’s just awesome, unless you end up trying to use a chunk of Gouda as a spare tire.

So, anyway, my first stop on these trips to Meijer is usually in front of the craft beers. Wait, that’s not true. First I stop to take a ride on the Penny Horse, though I usually get kicked off of it pretty quickly. Apparently, those things aren’t made for grown men who currently weigh around 215 pounds (it’s all muscle, I swear).

It’s then I find the craft beers, specifically those made in our neck of the woods. While I am of the opinion that we should avoid the trap of automatically declaring something good just because it is made locally, you would be harder pressed to find a bigger Michigan or Grand Rapids booster than yours truly, unless we’re talking about Petey the Porter, who is a giant Founders beer bottle made out of foam and the new mascot for Grand Rapids as Beer City, U.S.A. (think Surly from Duff Gardens on “The Simpsons”).

It doesn’t take long for me, however, standing there in front of the craft beers at Meijer, to get a bit staggered and overstimulated by all the options in front of me. Countless brewers. Bottles. Cans. Tiny kegs. Stouts. Lagers. Regular I.P.A.’s. All Day I.P.A.’s. Ten Second I.P.A.’s (I.P.A. that’s made with Ipecac). It’s then I get a bit light headed and my knees buckle. Falling to the ground, I begin rocking back and forth in the fetal position while muttering to myself “Too many beers, too many beers” over and over again.

Eventually, a Meijer employee (usually the same one that kicked me off the Penny Horse) comes over and instructs me to buy something and get the heck out of the store. “That kind of crap might fly at Whole Foods,” they usually say. “But not here!” To that end, I stand up, dust myself off, grab a six pack of Labatt and a box of Fudgesicles, and make like an amoeba, or, like most of our parents, and split.

So there you have it. My name is Paul (“hi, Paul) and I am a habitual drinker of Labatt Blue (and apparently a big fan of Fudgesicles). On top of that, I’m not even Canadian, though I am a Michigander, which is close.

Look, I genuinely enjoy the taste of Labatt and a GR Griffins hockey game doesn’t feel complete without one, especially if I only paid a dollar for the pleasure of drinking it, but mostly, in any and all situations that resemble the one that I described above, I choose the Blue because it’s easy. Like I said before, I’m really frickin’ lazy. People like myself find themselves enjoying corporate brands, partly due to price, but more due to the fact, I think, that we know what we’re getting when we open a can or remove the cap atop our bottle (for instance, in the case of Busch beer, the opportunity to shart in one’s pants).

Sure, I want to be a craft beer connoisseur, especially of those suds made within the borders of our blessed state, but I’m afraid. Not in the same way I’m afraid of clowns but, you know, still scared. I’m scared to experiment. To try new things. To maybe have to sip an overpowering beer or a beer that doesn’t hit my pallet right. To walk into a brewery I’ve never been to before and figure out what the heck I want.

But that, my friends, ends today, because I know, if I don’t resort to passing out in the craft beer aisle at Meijer, if I hit a microbrewery I’ve never been to before, if I talk to and learn from people who know beer and how to make it, that even if I have to, in those rare times, drink something I don’t care for, it’s all going to be worth it, if for no other reason than I get to experience a small piece of what makes this city and this state so dumbfoundingly wonderful.

As the corniest amongst us might say, “The destination is the journey” and I am ready to embark on a Michigan craft beer journey, ready to raise the bottom of my glass or bottle to the sky and let the hard work and passion of my fellow Grand Rapidian and Mitten State (don’t forget about the U.P., eh?) neighbors wash down into my gullet.

So don’t feel bad if you think you can’t tell a good beer from a mediocre one. Your good friend Paul is here and he’s dumber than a Rob Schneider movie. We’ll all learn together.

And if you do know what you’re talking about when it comes to beer, I need your help, as you can plainly see. To that end, I would be eternally grateful for any thoughts, suggestions, advice, etc. you could send my way. Hopefully, with you in my corner, this illiterate beer type will be able to cram some priceless knowledge in through one of his “knowledge receptacle holes” (what I call ears), which will lead him to pouring some tasty beer into his “lower face mastication and drink intake zone” (uh, my mouth, I guess). As we all hope each individual Kardashian will one day say, “I’m stupid but I want to learn.”

So thanks for stopping by and be sure to do some exploring around the rest of Beer O’Clock GR for some great deals on some great beer in the greatest city and state in the world.

Until next time, cheers amigos!