Have you ever dreamed of a personalized beer tour in Grand Rapids? Look no further! Perrin Brewing’s resident beer ninja, Jay Green, concocted the ultimate beer experience, “Day with Jay.” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jay had a lot of help in crafting this beer odyssey. His wife Andrea and Andy Ellis, another Perrin brewer, were key contributors! Cheers 🍺 and Thank you ❣️
Day with Jay
“Meet us at Charlie’s Bar and Grille,” Jay’s message said. A hearty meal was our first stop. Because, let’s be honest, you can’t embark on a beer odyssey without fueling up first. It is sort of like carb-loading before a marathon.
Pre-Game Fuel at Charlie’s Bar and Grille
This family-owned joint is one of those gems hidden in plain sight. The food is made from scratch, and their website says, “Serving as much Michigan made as we can. Whether Michigan beer, wine, bread, or kielbasa. We stay as local as possible throughout the year.”
To say their menu is extensive is an understatement; just when I narrowed my order down to two options, Andrea Green, Jay’s wife, flipped the menu over, sending me back to square one.
After a round or two of PBRs and delicious food consumed, we were ready to roll for our “Day with Jay.”
Vinyl Vibes at Vertigo Music
The Day with Jay was as much about beer as it was about experiencing the Grand Rapid’s vibe and meeting Jay’s friends. Our next stop was Vertigo Music, a surprise vinyl stop.
Vertigo has been selling records in Grand Rapids for over two decades. With a jaw-dropping inventory of new and used records, it’s a music lover’s paradise.
And it is popular. The store is huge and was packed when we left with four records. Chuck was giddy when he found Kansas – Leftoverture (1976). It has been on his list for a while, plus several other gems such as Anacrusis – Manic Impressions (1991) and Coroner – Punishment for Decadence (1988) that were too good to pass up.
If Jay wanted to be on Chuck’s best friend list, he was just added after taking us to Vertigo Music.
Hold onto your steins because our “Day with Jay” took a detour into Oktoberfest territory at Arvon Brewing! The place was buzzing with trivia, and thanks to Jay’s Oktoberfest know-how and a crash course from David Ringler—Cedar Springs Brewing Company’s very own “Director of Happiness”—we snagged second place!
But the real nail-biter was Arvon’s Stein Holding Contest. Talk about a grip challenge.
Joining the crew were Hanna Parlo and Chris Cullen, aka “Cullenary Chris” for those in the foodie loop. For those not in the know, they hosted a Quarantine cooking show during the pandemic. They had one urgent tip: “You’ve got to visit the Cheese Lady!” With the clock ticking down to closing time, we revved our engines and zoomed to the next stop.
We slid into The Cheese Lady at the eleventh hour—literally, the clock read 3:59! The cheese ladies were wrapping up but were more than happy to guide us through a maze of mouthwatering cheeses. We left with their top “desert island” cheese picks, feeling like victorious mice.
With our cheesy treasures safely stowed, we rejoined Jay’s ever-expanding entourage at Pux Cider Taproom next door.
Cider Sippin’ at Pux
It was a perfect day for hanging out on Pux Cider’s patio. You may wonder, “I thought this was a beer tour!” Well, hold on, craft beer friends, I promise you’ll love Pux’s! A few more had joined Jay’s crew, including his sister and her better half.
The tasting room is a delightful blend of a wine bar, chic boutique, and dive bar. There is a bit of everything from slushies and non-alcoholic cocktails to cheese boards and, yes, hard cider. We had a taste of each.
If you are a beer person, “Bamboozie” is for you. Don’t let its placement on the fruit/sweet board scare you. Made with fresh strawberries and light hops, it’s a flavor explosion.
We asked Chris Schaefer, one of the Pux’s owners, for his top picks. “Northern Spy and Kingston Black,” he said, both of which are on the dry side. But the real showstopper? The Barrel Aged Goat Father. “It’s a grape skin and cider blend, aged in Rye Bourbon Barrels,” Schaefer shared.
My favorites were the Goat Father and Bamboozie, but you can’t go wrong with any of their ciders.
City Built Brewing: The Main Event
Get ready for the highlight of our “Day with Jay”—a full-on Oktoberfest bash at City Built Brewing! Underberg shots were flowing, like, what is the deal with them? And Joanie (yes, as in “Joanie loves Chachi”) and her hubby Bob couldn’t resist hamming it up at the Oktoberfest photo cutout board.
It was also Ed’s birthday—the man behind City Built himself. As if that wasn’t enough to amp up the festivities, enter Huggy Bear, also known as Mark Lavengood, strumming away on his dobro. Let’s say, when Mark’s in the house, you know it will be a jammin’ good time.
When Casey, the Big Lake’s new rockstar brewer, joined us, it was time for some VIP action. Ed whisked us away to his secret rooftop paradise. We hopped into a private elevator like we were in a spy movie. And the view? Absolutely breathtaking.
Plus, the beers, oh my! City Built rolled out a brilliant selection of German beers. The “Märzännä” was a marvelous Märzen gleaming amber in the sun. It was mild, malty, and well-balanced. The unexpected treat was the “Guest Alt.” This was City Built’s Beer City Brewers Guild ProAM collaboration beer with local home brewer Mark Staves. This dark copper brew had notes of fruit and bread, making it a glorious German Alt.
And the adventure continues! Just when you thought we were winding down, Jay insisted that Greyline Brewing was a must-visit. It’s a good thing we fueled up earlier, right?
The crew was thinning, but the die-hards were still in it to win it. More Underberg shots were had—let’s call them an acquired taste—and a round of scrumptious Oktoberfest beers.
(Photo Credit: Andrea Brown Green)
Conversations turned to plans for “Church at the Birch” the next morning. Intrigued? Keep reading!
NightCap at Perrin Brewing
Our hotel was conveniently close to Perrin Brewing, so how could we resist a nightcap? By this point, it was down to the four musketeers: us, Andrea, and Jay. A toast was in order: “Cheers to the old-timers still standing!” Clearly, pacing is key. Well, that and rideshares.
Hangover Cure: Church at the Birch
Ready for the ultimate Sunday Funday? Welcome to “Church at the Birch,” where Bloody Marys and the communion wafers replace the hymns; wait for it, FREE tacos! That’s right, the Birch Lodge in Grand Rapids is where you’ll want to be to nurse that post- “Day with Jay” hangover.
I was so stunned by the concept of free tacos that I had to triple-check with Andrea. “So, I just grab a plate and go to town?” Yep, it’s that simple! The Bloody Marys aren’t on the house, but they come fully loaded with all the fixings you could dream of.
As we piled our plates high with taco goodness and customized our Bloody Marys, the bartenders switched the TVs to the Sunday football games. It’s like the universe aligned to create the perfect hangover haven.
Our conversation switched to confessing our TV show guilty pleasures; maybe “Church at the Birch” was playing with our subconscious. Andrea confessed, “Ours is Shrinking on Apple TV.” I’m not going to lie; we binged it when we got home. Joanie chimed in, admitting their obsession was “Nashville.” “We spent many hours telling each, okay, one more episode.” We’ve yet to dip into Nashville, but it is on the binge-watch bucket list.
So, if you’re looking for a spot that combines the holy trinity of free food, killer drinks, and sports, “Church at the Birch” is your sanctuary. Amen to that! 🍹🌮🏈
The Last Sip: Reflecting on Our Day with Jay
As we drove back to Ann Arbor, we couldn’t help but feel grateful for this unforgettable journey. From lunch at Charlie’s to the last cheers at Perrin Brewing and every vinyl record, Oktoberfest, taco, and cider in between, “A Day with Jay” was more than just a beer tour—it was a celebration of friendship, community, culture, and the simple joys that make life worth living. So here’s to Jay, the ultimate beer ninja guide, and to Grand Rapids, a city that knows how to throw a good party. Until the next adventure, cheers!
We’ve got more pictures from our Day with Jay in our gallery.
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