Food Service & Agriculture and Retail

HopCat pours itself a birthday party

January 9, 2013
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Largest U.S. city without a brewery about to be topped off
HopCat in Grand Rapids has been named the No. 3 beer bar in the world by BeerAdvocate magazine and the No. 2 beer bar in America by CraftBeer.com. Photo via Facebook

The No. 3 beer bar on planet Earth, which is also the home of some gooey goodness known as the Killer Mac and Cheese, turns five years old on Saturday, and HopCat’s owners Mark and Michele Sellers are in the mood to celebrate.

The Sellers will be hosting a fifth-anniversary party at HopCat, 25 Ionia Ave. SW, from noon until 5 p.m., Saturday. They’re offering a free order of crack fries with any purchase from noon until 3 p.m., a crack fries-eating contest with a $500 grand prize for the biggest eater at 3 p.m. and a noon release of a limited edition 22-ounce bottle of Oil Rigger Russian Imperial Stout.

There is a two-bottle limit on the Stout, but the draft version will be available all day, along with five other draft craft beers, as well as Grand Marnier and Patron XO.

“We’re grateful the people of Grand Rapids, and beer lovers around the world, have embraced HopCat with such enthusiasm,” said Mark Sellers, a principal with Michele in BarFly Ventures, which also owns the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. among others.

“Thanks to our employees and the more than one million customers served in our first five years, HopCat has far exceeded anything we could have envisioned when Michele and I opened the place with the goal of opening a bar we could hang out at,” he added.

HopCat opened in 2008 and turned a profit in its first year, often not the easiest thing for a startup to achieve, especially in the year the nation’s financial market nosedived. But HopCat accomplished even more that year when BeerAdvocate Magazine, the only monthly publication of its type then, named HopCat the third best beer bar on the planet in late 2008.

“We thought to be listed in the magazine we would have had to be in business longer. We weren’t sure if we were even going to make the top 50 list, and when we got to number 3, I was just really happy to see that,” Sellers told the Business Journal in early January 2009.

Following that distinctive ranking, HopCat earned more accolades. CraftBeer.com named it the second-best beer bar in America and RateBeer.com said it was a top beer bar. At the same time, the readers of Grand Rapids Magazine, a sister publication of the Business Journal, have consistently selected HopCat as the city’s best bar and given it an honorable mention in the best brewery category.

The Sellers really didn’t hesitate to open HopCat five years ago, despite the poor economy in 2008, as both are fans of microbrewed beers.

“I kind of quickly signed the lease. Then over the next few months, I flushed out the idea. Then we did construction very quickly from October to December. In 90 days, we basically built the whole thing,” said Sellers.

The bar’s name came about because he is a fan of jazz music, which has a history of phrases that are all its own.

“If you’re a cool cat, you’re a hep cat,” Sellers offered as an example.

Beers don’t have heps, but they do have hops, so he linked a jazz term with the brews and came up with HopCat.

HopCat has been so successful that the Sellers are opening a second one in East Lansing later this year.

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