Founder’s Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)

For Friday night in Grand Rapids, we had a reservation at the Raddison – the only hotel downtown that could take us, and it was a disappointing place to stay (the wireless connection and the air conditioning didn’t work…)  But what we liked about it was that we could walk (approximately 1.7 miles) to Founder’s Brewing Company (we planned it that way, and it was a nice evening for walking!), which is in the Brass Works Building and right along the Grand River on Monroe Street.

Grand Rapids has some revitalization going on – warehouses along the river being remodeled into fashionable living quarters, improved buildings and roads emerging from the downtown area – we only saw a small part of it, but it looks like they are using their resources to create a livable city.

Founders Brewing Company consists of almost nothing, which was everything we expected!  Approximately 16 identical steel-topped tables line the floor of this brick warehouse.  There are darts on the wall, a pool table, and a small bar in the far corner (an Apple computer that doesn’t work is placed in the opposite corner.)  Huge windows reminiscent of factory lighting line the front wall, and two other walls give a fish-tank view of the brewing operations.

There is no food menu, but you can get a basket of roasted peanuts or a small cup of spreadable cheese with pretzel rods.  Guests of Founders are also welcome to bring food into the facility (how fun would that be – pack a picnic to come in and drink your favorite beers!), or call for delivery from Bridge Street Pizza.  (We arrived around 8:00 PM, and promptly called for a pizza (a mushroom pesto – yum!) and garden salad.)

In talking to the locals, we learned there are many benefits to being a club member at Founders (I don’t have the specifics here, but I know their pints were $1.50 and growler fills were dirt cheap!)  We also learned that interested beer drinkers get terrific attention from the staff!  Andrea and Kevin – I’m pretty sure they were the only people staffing the place – were informative and accommodating.  They were great hosts to us while managing a Friday night crowd.  We even got a tour of the massive facility which includes top-notch brewing equipment, an impressive bottling operation and plenty of storage.

Founders had a turnover in brewers approximately one year ago.  The current brewer studied under the former brewer, and is keeping many of the favorite recipes.  The entire operation will be moving this fall, so it will be interesting to return to Grand Rapids and see what they do!

As for tasting, the beers were so heavy and plentiful that the discrimination of our palates and our interest in writing were greatly diminished, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about the individual brews.  I can guarantee that they all boasted full and unique flavors.  Read their website…everything they say is true! 

We know our beers aren’t for the masses. We’re dedicated to let those can-crushing, couch larva remain in the mainstream. We, on the other hand, have made the decision to craft beers for a chosen few. You know who you are. Our promise is an over-indulged, excessive approach to brewing.

The Breakfast Stout and the Kentucky Breakfast Stout – the items we couldn’t wait to try at the brewery – were not available on tap or in bottles.  But there were plenty of other choices, and all were available in 12 oz or pints; nothing was on the hand pull. Amazingly, we did not try everything!  While I’m sure the lighter-end beers were good, there were ten other items on the menu that we thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Red’s Rye (6.8% ABV) – this beer just can’t disappoint me!  It stands out as one of my favorite beers of all time.  The aroma and flavor coming from the Amarillo hops.

  • Rübeus Raspberry Pale Ale (7% ABV) – I was prepared for the sweet / sour flavors that generally come from a raspberry wheat, but this pale ale was reminiscent of Penn’s Kriek from Selin’s Grove Brewing.  It was the most beautiful ruby color – I could see it shining on tables across the room.  It had a sour / tart flavor, but nothing vinegary about it.  More than one recommendation was made to mix this with the Imperial Stout (my first thought was “what a terrible thing to do to a stout!”) but it was a smart move.  Combined, these two great beers took on a whole differently enjoyable quality.

  • Devil Dancer IP3 (13% ABV; 153 IBU) – an outstanding IPA, specially designed for the hop heads.  This is obviously a big beer, but the 13% ABV is masked, giving it real drinkability (unlike some other triple IPAs which tend to be enjoyed best one per sitting…)

  • Scalawag Old Ale (9.5% ABV) – this was an “oops!” beer.  Apparently the brewer was using the recipe for Old Carmudgean, but it didn’t quite work out.  The results were not disappointing, just not what he was going for!

  • Imperial Stout (10.3% ABV) – I only had a few sips of this from D’s glass, and then mixed with the Rübeus, but I recall it was an extremely enjoyable Imperial Stout.

  • Centenial IPA (7.2% ABV) – I think by the time I tasted this one, I wasn’t tasting much!  D might have more to say about it.

  • Black Sunshine Dunkle Weiss (5.6% ABV) – the first thing I noticed about this one was how dark it was!  It didn’t carry any of the banana essence expected in a weiss, and carried little spice flavor through with the carmel presence.

  • Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (8.3% ABV)

  • Oatmeal Stout (5% ABV) – this was another one of D’s beers; my only notes were that “this is extremely similar to Shade Mountain Stout,” another Selin’s Grove product comparrison.

  • 4 oz of Porter (6.8% ABV)

  • 4 oz of  Black Rye (6.8% ABV)

Founder’s products we didn’t try:

  • Gold Sunshine

  • Pale Ale

  • Summer Wit



One response

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