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Tour breweries, sample beer, learn your history

Brian Haik combines two of his passions - beer and history - in his entrepreneurial venture Grand Rapids Beer Tours.
Brian Haik, owner of Grand Rapids Beer Tours

Brian Haik, owner of Grand Rapids Beer Tours /Grand Rapids Beer Tours

Brian Haik, far right, sits with a tour group at Founders Brewing Co.

Brian Haik, far right, sits with a tour group at Founders Brewing Co. /Grand Rapids Beer Tours

Samplers at The Mitten Brewing Company tour

Samplers at The Mitten Brewing Company tour /Brian Haik

History buff and beer enthusiast Brian Haik is putting his knowledge of beer and Grand Rapids to use with his new business, Grand Rapids Beer Tours. He offers guests the opportunity to visit several local breweries, sample some of their selections, tour the facilities and learn more about beer- all while driving them around, leaving them free to sample as much or as little as they wish. 

“I’m passionate about beer and passionate about Grand Rapids and the history of Grand Rapids,” Haik says.

Grand Rapids Beer Tours prides itself on offering more than just transportation from brewery to brewery. 

“Other companies will take you to the places, but they don’t do anything else. They don’t know about the beers, the history or the breweries,” Haik says. He is eager to impart some of his knowledge of beer on his tour guests. 

A Grand Valley graduate with a degree in history, Haik worked as a barback at Founders Brewing Co. for two years before deciding to start GR Beer Tours.

“When I was a barback working the tables, I would see people come from out of town wanting to go on a beer tour. [People would ask] where all these other breweries were. I saw a tour group come in one time and thought ‘I wanna do that,’” he says.

During his time at Founders, Haik became cicerone certified to learn more about beer. Cicerones are trained experts in the selection, serving and storing beer. They are also trained about the brewing process and proper pairing of beer with food. 

“I scored higher during my tests than a lot of the servers [at Founders] did,” Haik says. It’s that experience that Haik draws on during his tours in order to educate tour groups on different beer stylings and the different breweries visited.

“Instead of just making it a party bus, we’ve included a lot of really interesting information,” he says.

The public tours consist of visits to a predetermined set of breweries with samples of different types of beer and a brewery tour at each stop. Visitors are driven from one destination to the next in a 15 passenger van driven by a licensed chauffeur.

Private tours are also available for varied rates depending on trip distance.

“That’s what’s great about private tours: you can go anywhere you want,” Haik says. “The private tours are really customizable.”

With both private and public tours, Haik hopes that visitors enjoy their time, even if they aren’t as enthusiastic about beer as he is.

Tour groups are guided behind the scenes at the various breweries, giving their beer experience a whole new dimension, Haik says.

“Going to the breweries is an actual experience you can’t get by cracking a beer at home,” he says.

Haik has been working since January on building relationships with as many local and statewide brewers and breweries as possible to expand what he can offer visitors. Through his networking, he’s had the chance to meet a lot of new people.

“That’s a fun [part] of the job- getting to know people in the community [and out of it],” he says.

Helping the community is also a priority for Haik.

“We want to make it a cultural experience with people, and show why Grand Rapids is Beer City,” he says.

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