Saturday, December 11, 2010

My trip to Founders

A few weeks ago my friend Mike, and I made a pilgrimage to Grand Rapids to visit a favorite brewery of ours: Founders Brewing Company. This trip had been the top item of our beer to-do list for nearly 4 months. So, saying we were excited to get to Founders would be a grand understatement. We eventually decided that to make it happen, and to avoid spending an entire weekend in Grand Rapids (no offense intended), an early morning bus trip to Grand Rapids coupled with a late afternoon return would be our best bet.

Our bus ended up arriving in Grand Rapids around 10a (after having departed Chicago at 230a). Unfortunately, Founders does not open until 11a on Saturdays so we had some time to burn, and breakfast to find. Luckily, Mike found a joint called San Chez, which was a convenient place to grab a bite to eat (they also make a great french toast btw). After that, we spent some time wandering around downtown Grand Rapids where it became evident that art is a big part of this city’s identity. We saw at least two murals every 3rd or 4th block, and a real eye grabbing piece of art in the heart of downtown (picture of said eye catcher here) that I stared at for 5 minutes (due to both it’s awesomeness and it’s use of rocket/plane engines). In short, Grand Rapids is an art loving town.

After escaping my art-induced hypnosis, Mike and I finally made our way to Founders. When we walked in the front doors, we were immediately blown away by how homey of a place it is. Founders’ utilizes simple tables, an old wood bar, and plenty of windows to create an environment that is very relaxed and approachable. Simply put, Founders dining/bar area is the club house you wish you had.

After finding a seat, Mike and I ordered our first beer: the Newaygo County Cherry ale. This beer utilizes cherries sourced from Newaygo County, Michigan to provide a pleasant bitter/sweet duet that plays itself out differently with every sip, It was a very enjoyable beer, that ended up being my favorite beer of the day.

After that, Mike ordered their Endurance Ale (a GABF 2010 silver medal winner in the session ale category), and I tried their oatmeal stout. Both beers were quite nice, but Mike’s choice won that round for its aromatic bounty & ballet dancer-esque mouth feel (pleasantly jumping all around).

After the 2nd round, we decided that we had best take the opportunity to hightail it to a liquor store recommended by my friend Michigan Microbrews called Martha’s Vineyard.

I am quite grateful that Michigan Microbrews recommended Martha’s because it is quite a store that not only offers plenty of Michigan beer (from breweries of all sizes), but it also caters to the pastry, snack food, and fine liquor folk of Grand Rapids. It is definitely worth a stop if you have time.

While at Martha’s, Mike picked up a variety of things, but I focused on getting some beer from Short's Brewing. They are a brewery that, up until this trip, I had only read about, and their decision to only distribute in Michigan helped make them a brewery-to-seek for me.

Of all of the Short’s beers I have read about, their Key Lime Pie (a 2010 GABF gold medal winner) was the Alpha-1 numero uno beer I hoped to find. Unfortunately, I did not have any luck finding that beer, but I did find & get the Shorts beers listed below.

Some of the non-Shorts beers I picked up were the following:

After picking up the aforementioned beers, Mike and I returned to Founders for a few final rounds before going to the bus depot. Mike chose to go with the Backwoods Bastard and Nemesis as his 3rd & 4th picks. I chose the Breakfast stout and the Devil Dancer. I had the good fortune of having tried a bottle of all of them before except for the Devil Dancer. That beer is one of the smoothest, most sneaky, yet enjoyable triple IPAs I have ever had the good fortune of trying. It could be compared to a golden retriever in that it is friendly and playful but you had best not ignore it lest you want to risk being knocked down by its (unleashed) playfulness.

In summary, the trip was definitely worth it, the beers were truly great, the people at Founders were very friendly, and Grand Rapids is a place that I could see visiting next summer. So, if you have not been to Founders yourself, make it your New Years goal to make the trip. You will not regret it.

P.s. If you are interested in seeing the rest of my pictures from this trip, go here


AmyLynne said...

Good to see that you found Grand Rapids doesn't suck as much as you thought it might.
We live two blocks from Martha's and spend way too much money there. Nantucket Bakery next door is pretty awesome as well.
Next time you come to town be sure to visit Hopcat - #3 Beer Bar on the Planet according to Beer Advocate.

Midwest Beer Blog said...

I must admit that besides Founders, I had not heard much about Grand Rapids. After visiting, I really want to go back for another visit (and to visit the Hopcat). Thanks for the comment!

sodakbeer said...

Founders sounds like a great brewery to visit! My daughter and son-in-law live nearby, so we will have to check it out.

Midwest Beer Blog said...

It really is a great place staffed with people who are friendly, care about their work/product, and want to make sure that you have a great time.

I cannot recommend Founders enough.

If you go, let me know what you think of the place and Grand Rapids.

Tim said...

As a Grand Rapidian, I'm glad our city made such a good impression on you.

If you're a fan of the art the city has to offer, you should come back late next summer during ArtPrize( The city is completely filled to the brim with art and people.

And finally, if you do make your way back up here, make the trip a few hours north to go to Shorts. You won't be disappointed. I love Founders, and go there multiple times a week, but for me, Shorts is the best brewery in the state, and the brewery is awesome.


Ethan said...

Thanks for the comment Tim. I would like to, and hope to, make it back to Grand Rapids soon.