Fifth Third Ballpark
Team: West Michigan Whitecaps
Affiliate: Detroit Tigers (Single A)
Ballpark Basics: A standard ballpark that more than makes up for it with promotions and beer!
Fifth Third Ballpark (not to be confused with Fifth Third Field in Dayton (or Toledo!)) is just a short drive up US 131 from downtown Grand Rapids. Whitecaps games are well attended and on the night we went the traffic backed up onto the highway for almost a mile as cars attempted to get into the parking lots that surround the park. We decided to take a short detour and head to ELK Brewing (which is across the street) for a quick flight until the traffic died down.
After a quick drink we decided to park in a parking lot of an abandoned bank to save on the parking fee. The area surrounding Fifth Third Ballpark is mostly industrial with some strip malls so your options for free parking are fairly limited. We lucked out with one of the last spots and made the trek to the ballpark.
The concourse is wide and opens up to the field so you can see the action while you are up getting food or drinks. This was a bonus on the night of our visit since it was not only Craft Beer Night but also Dime Dog Night (yes, a hot dog was only 10 cents!) which led to long lines for both.
Crazy promotions are nothing new to the Whitecaps. These include the Fan Food Vote, where fans come up with unique concession items that get voted on with the winning concept getting served at the ballpark. They also host the annual Winter Beer Fest at the ballpark. Couple this with inventive between innings entertainment and the Whitecaps make attending a game an event.
Grand Rapids, Michigan has been labeled Beer City USA and, thankfully, this designation extends to the ballpark. The Craft Clubhouse Presented by Founders is down the third base side and offers 16 taps of local beer. The beers came in two sizes, 20 oz. (regular) or 32 oz. (huge!) and there is even a mug club. Pay $15 for the first 24 ounces and then $9 for a refill.
The Whitecaps have done a great job of creating a fun and unique environment at Fifth Third Ballpark. With an invested fan base (having the parent club just 150 miles away will help with this), and creative promotions along with a ton of local beer options any Tigers fan should make the short trip to take in a Whitecaps game.
The Mitten Brewing Company
Rating: Walk-Off Grand Slam (our highest ever rating!)
Brew Basics: Beer with a baseball theme. What’s not to love?
The Mitten is very Michigan, and everything you got into craft beer for; good beer in a place that is completely unpretentious. It’s family friendly, but still a good place to meet friends, has outside seating, lots of vegan/vegetarian options and known for having excellent pizza as well.
The building itself is a uniquely re-purposed firehouse, and even still has the old fireman’s pole installed. Quality historic Detroit Tigers memorabilia on the wall, and though the beer is clearly displayed on colorful chalkboards with a tiered pricing system, if you have any questions the staff is quite friendly and happy to help you out.
The beers were all good, and if you order a sampler, your six beers arrive on a wooden tray carved into the shape of the Michigan mitten.
Put Me In Kolsch! 5.2 ABV /24 IBU – Pale, but still with a strong golden color. Citrus is more pronounced than the wheat, and the progression of the palate is citrus > wheat > peppery finish. Clear and bright with a sweet flavor that is not subtle or wheatly like your average kolsch.
Mango Gold Wheat Ale 4.5/10 – This was the haziest of the six tasters with a peachy hue. Despite the mango nomenclature, this wheat beer smelled sour like fermented fruit without a hint of mango sweetness. However, the flavor is not as sour as the aroma portends. Light at first, juicy mango burst at the end with a pleasantly tart background throughout. I liked this one less and less as it warmed up and turned into a more traditional sour.
Triple Crown Brown 4.2/18 – The Triple Crown is an English dark and mild, and a World Cup medalist in 2016. It pours chocolate brown and smells oaty with vanilla tannins and coffee, and ends with a coffee blush. On the thinner side body-wise but still full flavored that is both nutty and oaty, and becomes more pronounced as it warms.
Mitten Pale Ale 5.3/38 – This one arrived with a bright white ring of lacing around an orangey-brown beer. Not effervescent at first, but ends sparkly that is a blend of mostly Cascade and Amarillo hops. Juicy front, hoppy end, which mirrors the juicy hopped bouquet. Drink this one cold!
Relief Session IPA 4.5/45 – Another orangey-brown beer like the above pale ale, that’s maybe a hue lighter. Relief Session is almost the exact reverse of the Mitten with a similar juicy hop flavor profile, but while the Mitten starts juicy and ends hoppy, this IPA hits you with hops to begin and then has a juicy end.
Seeing Eye Rye 5.5/55 – True to its name, the Seeing Eye has a pronounced rye nose. The beer itself is a light, light yellow and very clear with a tangy profile. The colder the better here, you’ll find a strong bitterness with the rye that ends with a bready, cracked pepper finish.
West Coast Swing Amber 5.6/25 – Amber color, little lacing. Sweeter than the others with a maple front, but ends up drier and oaty. This one has the typical fingerprints of an amber, with hue, aroma and flavor profile making it a good, standard traditional.
527 Leonard Street NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504