We stayed 8 days Michigan, and when we weren’t exploring the UP, we had the pleasure of camping out at our friend Allison’s house on the edge of town. Our stay with Allison and her family was a great time that felt like a vacation from our vacation. It was a lot more than just a place to park; they really took care of us and made us feel at home. It was great to catch up with a good friend, and her parents, Keith and Pat, went out of their way to make our stay comfortable. Our time in Holland and the surrounding area also involved much fine food and drink, as you might expect!
But first, a little bit about the town of Holland. Holland is in the southwest region of the state, and sits along Lake Michigan. As the name suggests, it’s a Dutch town and proud of it. Windmills are prevalent, as are tulips when the season is right. Unfortunately we missed Tulip Time, which is a celebration of Dutch culture that takes place every May. If you are looking for skyscrapers, you’ll have to drive 20 minutes east to Grand Rapids. But there is a nice view from the 6th floor of the Seminary Library, where Allison works, as it’s the highest point in town. The dunes on the lakeshore can be seen out to the west. The surrounding area is mostly farmland and small towns.
We visited two breweries with Allison downtown, the most popular being New Holland Brewing, which is very big and has a full restaurant. The other, Our Brewery, is still new but seems to do well for itself. A third brewing company, Big Lake Brewing, is in a different part of town that isn’t as quaint but their beer holds its own. Our Brewery caught my attention with their unusual selection. Our flight consisted of a Burnt Caramel Quad, Ginger Beard (perfect for Steven!), Careless Whisper IPA, Chocolate Vienna Lager, Vanilla Milk Stout, and a Curry(!) Cider. While slightly skeptical (there were a lot of creative options to choose from), we were very pleasantly surprised. Especially by the Chocolate Lager, which had the depth of a stout.
Our taster was followed up with dinner down the street at New Holland Brewing. They make excellent beer and food and have something for everyone. They have a selection of beers called the Hatter Series, which includes many beer styles, all with a different mad hatter on the bottle. Steven is partial to the White Hatter, the white Belgian style wit bier. Besides the hatters are many other fine options, as well as their own distilled spirits, but it’s hard to leave room for that when there are such nice beers to be had. We made good use of the patio seating while we were there.
One day while Allison and Keith were at work, Pat took Steven and I on a little field trip. She took us in her car to see the Saugatuck Dunes on Lake Michigan. You have to walk a little ways through the forest to get to the beach, so we had a nice mini hike out there. Afterwards we got a driving tour of a couple little tourist towns and a stop for lunch at Saugatuck Brewing. What makes Saugatuck really unique is that they offer brewing workshops where you can come and learn to make your own batch of beer, leave it there for a week or so to ferment, and come back when it’s time to be bottled and taken home.
We drove through some scenic country until we came to Virtue Cider in Fennville. They are a relatively new company brewing many kinds of craft cider with almost all local apples. The owner is the former owner of Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, so he brings quite a bit of brewing experience to the cidery. We got a chance to taste everything they have bottled currently, and our favorite was The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider. It has sparked some inspiration in us for future homebrew ambitions. One of the guys there saw Steven taking photos of the place and offered to show us the “cellar” where they hold all the fermenting tanks. It was pretty cool to see! The building is mostly underground to keep everything at an optimal temperature.
We washed that all down with some good old-fashioned fresh pressed apple juice at Crane’s Pie Pantry on the way home. Pat took us the back way on the return trip so we got to do some more sightseeing. I loved seeing all the old farmhouses and little cottages, to the point of Steven’s chagrin I think. It sure felt special to be chauffeured around for a day.
Tuesday found us relaxing at the house and working on the blog until evening came around and we all went out to Big Lake Brewing. We sampled some beers there and ordered a pizza from next door. They had a lot of darker beers, which was a change of pace from all the summer beers we’ve been drinking. After dinner, we headed down to the Holland State Park on Lake Michigan to catch the sunset. There’s a beach there, with a lighthouse and a pier. We had a funny experience as we walked out onto the concrete pier and found ourselves in the midst of a surprise proposal. The term “surprise” is relative I guess because it was pretty obvious what was going on. It was a very young couple and it was pretty cheesy, but it was fun to see her family trying to hide out of sight while she walked past us and of course said yes with a million eyes burning into the back of her head. Awkward! Even though it was a cloudy sky, the sunset cast a beautiful pastel light on everything and once again, Michigan proved to us how wonderful it’s summers are.
On Wednesday, Steven, Keith, Pat and I took a trip to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. It was a huge place with several large barns full of classic cars, motorcycles, and even some campers! We also found a double decker bus, and immediately saw the possibilities for a conversion. That would be a fun project for a little house. There were so many cars and things to see, it was an impressive collection. I think Steven and Keith each took hundreds of pictures. Allison had to work, but she didn’t mind missing the museum so much. She was more interested in our next stop, Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo.
Steven and I were introduced to Bell’s when we moved to Florida, as we learned about all kinds of craft beer west of the Mississippi that doesn’t make it out to the Northwest. We were looking forward to trying some more of their beer with lunch, and were really blown away. We had a flight of six samples, and loved each of them. They have a really wide range of offerings, everything from their flagship summer wheat beer to a couple Belgian styles, a sour, darker high gravity beers, and IPA’s, to name just a few. When we finished lunch we stopped in at their store for some goodies. It’s pretty neat that they sell home brewing equipment there too.
But the fun didn’t stop in Kalamazoo! Keith had something planned for us that evening, a little thing he likes to call a Bike and Brew. We went back to the house to pick up Allison and load up our bikes, and we set off for Grand Rapids. Our destinations were Founders Brewing and Hopcat. There was a nice paved bike path from a park into the city, so the 8 miles in didn’t feel bad. Founders is becoming an expansive brewery, I’ll be curious to see if we find it back home. They are known for their extremely drinkable All Day IPA and the Breakfast Stout. After a quick taste there we continued on a couple blocks to Hopcat. Hopcat is a cool hangout with lots of taps and a couple of their own brews. We all had burgers and the aptly named and very addictive “crack fries”. As we finished up, we couldn’t help but notice the sun dipping lower and lower, and we still had another 8 miles to get back to the car. So with no excuses to lag behind, we kept up the pace on the way back. I may have taken the liberty of exercising my vocal cords as well as my legs, just to keep myself going. Sorry, guys… We had a great time, and Steven and I have decided to try to make biking to breweries a habit. It feels good to work for your beer a little bit.
We enjoyed one more day at the house on Thursday getting the bus cleaned and reorganized, ready to get back on the road. Allison took us downtown one more time that evening, and then we had a delicious meal of homemade pizza. Michigan was such a great time, and we are so grateful for everything the Van Liere’s provided. It feels like I gained an extra set of parents over the week. I’d love to go back and experience another summer camping trip on those incredible lakes. We were sad to leave it behind us, but it was time to trade out sand dunes for mountains out West. Michigan, we’ll miss you! Until next time.