They don't call Grand Rapids "Beer City, USA" for nothing!
The second-biggest city in the state of Michigan has slowly but surely turned into one of the best cities in the United States to get your drink on -- more specifically, it's become a destination for delicious craft beer.
Breweries like Founders and Atwater put Grand Rapids on the beer map by distributing their hoppy beverages all over the country, and Founders has even opened another beer outpost in Detroit.
And if you look beyond just breweries, many bars and restaurants have opened in Grand Rapids in the past decade or so boasting an impressive lineup of craft beers from all over Michigan. One of those bars, HopCat, has not only become a Grand Rapids staple, but a true success story, as it's expanded to almost 20 cities in and around the Midwest.
HopCat was the brainchild of entrepreneur Mark Sellers after he retired early from an investment career and found his love for craft beer. Sellers opened the first HopCat restaurant on Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, becoming one of the first spaces to help shape that neighborhood into a booming nightlife area.
The bar offers a whopping 49 different beers on tap, with about 250 bottles of different beer at any given time. Add in the restaurant's signature cosmik fries -- by the way, you haven't lived until you've had cosmik fries -- and an expansive menu of upscale bar food, and you'll get HopCat.
The original restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids is the only location that has a brewery inside the space (it's encased in glass so you can watch beer brew while you're sipping on a cold one) and it's the perfect spot for a night out on the town or before a concert at Van Andel Arena.
The establishment became an instant success and helped put Grand Rapids on the map in more ways than one. HopCat, we should mention, also brews its own beers, like the popular Cat With Two Heads.
The neighborhood surrounding HopCat is now full of quirky bars that serve large selections of craft beers and whiskeys. It's a fun little area of Grand Rapids where you can hop to all the different bars and end the night with a giant burger at HopCat.
Now let's fast forward to 2013, when Sellers decided it was time to expand the HopCat brand.
Sellers launched the second restaurant in the city of his alma mater, East Lansing. Once the doors opened in one of the most iconic college towns in America, there was no stopping HopCat from coming to different cities all over.
HopCat continued to expand to major cities all over Michigan, including Detroit, Royal Oak, Kalamazoo and a second Grand Rapids location, and it even has restaurants outside of the Mitten State, like ones in Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis, to name a new places.
It's even opened up a location in Port St. Lucie, Florida, showing just how much potential this Grand Rapids restaurant truly has.
Each bar looks completely different than the others, with original artwork from local artists and concepts that show off fun designs. For example, the Detroit location is filled with paintings of iconic Detroit musicians, and the Royal Oak location is three stories with a rooftop bar.
The restaurant has built itself up so far that it now has a rewards program for loyal customers, it hosts tap takeovers and even annual beer releases (hello, Oberon!). HopCat has special dinner events where the restaurant pairs beer with delicious food, and the sky seems like the limit. It's become a haven for self-described "foodies" and people who love craft beer.
It will be fascinating to see HopCat expand to more cities -- it's even opened stores in Lincoln, Nebraska and Louisville, Kentucky -- but die-hard HopCat fans will always have a special place in their hearts for the original, just a short drive away in Grand Rapids.