Sunday, August 15, 2010

Michigan: Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids)

Beer in a barn. Founders is a huge, barn-like structure located on the outskirts of downtown Grand Rapids. The wide-open dining room is littered with tables of varying sizes and has a stage at one end, where they might have live music on any given night. Founders was not on my list of Michigan breweries, but it made more sense to stop there instead of trekking out to Kalamazoo after a long day of fighting The Man. Plus my cousin Brendan—who was supposed to trek with me that evening—talked me into staying in G-Rap with him so he could hang out with his mom. I don't mean this as a slight, but let's look at this for what it is: Brendan is 25 years old and about to start med school; he has lived in Dallas for the past few years in order to teach underprivileged urban kids and do volunteer work; he has a science degree from University of Michigan and can sight read guitar music like no one I know; and he won’t break a date with his mom. So Brendan, Aunt Beth, Uncle Fred, and I had dinner at Founders.

I did not detect any kind of underlying theme at Founders, other than being generally innovative with their beers like the other Michigan breweries. Their big seller is the Centennial IPA, which is distributed all over the state, but most of their other brews sounded experimental and interesting.

Lastly, if you are wondering about the yellow kayak hanging from the ceiling in the picture above, I have an explanation. Founders is supporting a local movement to "Bring the rapids back to Grand Rapids." Apparently the city's namesake is as rare as the Michigan wolverine. The brewery donated $50k to a local group to help turn GR into a kayaking destination. That leaves them about $9.95M shy, so please donate, unless you are hydrophobic or do not support public transportation because it threatens personal freedoms.

Centennial IPA
. This is not an intrusively hoppy IPA, but a mellow one with floral notes that kind of float along, appearing and then disappearing. Just a little honey sweetness on the front end. Very pleasant. When I asked the bartender what he recommended, this was the first name out of his mouth. Definitely has the kind of staying power that a flagship beer requires.

Red’s Rye PA. The standout flavor in this beer is celery. I’m not kidding, and I’m also not offended; somehow it works. It’s kind of like, when you’re eating a bunch of candy, and, even though candy is delicious, you really just want some carrot sticks to wash it down with, because you’re sure one more piece of candy will cause a tooth to fall out. This beer is the healthy-feeling carrot stick. Very different. Pragmatic. No nonsense. Just here to be beer. But still complex enough to be interesting. And fascinating. If I come here again, I will likely have one.

Oatmeal Stout. I honestly don’t remember much about this beer. I got to talking with my family and note-taking went to the wayside. I remember that this was the first beer I finished because I liked it so much. I know, useless. I guess if you like my recommendations in general, you’ll like this beer.

Bourbon Apple Cream Ale
. Much lighter than any bourbon beer I’ve had. Beers that get aged in bourbon barrels tend to be darker beers. The Apple Cream was light and sweet, very easy to drink. It didn’t get great reviews at, but I liked it.

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