a different strategy. In 2002, Founders debuted a scotch ale, an
expensive-to-brew, low-profit-margin, relatively unpopular style,
and named it Dirty Bastard — a curious choice in one of the
nation’s most conservative areas.
“It was true to who we were,” Engbers said.
The beer became a top-rated scotch ale and, with considerable
help from fans on the internet’s craft beer communities, helped put
Founders “on the map.”
“When our business wasn’t doing well, we decided to make
the beers that we enjoy and not what the public said we should
make,” Engbers said.
Production began to climb from more than 1,400 barrels that
year to more than 4,000 in 2006. The following year, Founders
moved into a former trucking freight warehouse in downtown
The facility on Grandville Ave. opened with 25,000-square-feet
of space, and enabled the company to brew more than 6,000
barrels in 2007.
That would be the last year of marginal production growth for
the brewing operation. In 2008, Founders brewed nearly 12,000
barrels of beer; by 2012 it was 70,000, and in 2016 the company
churned out 348,000 barrels.
Founders’ beer is now distributed to 46 states and 26 countries,
and officials expect to make 440,000 barrels this year.
The recent completion of its latest — and likely final —
expansion bolstered the downtown brewery to 125,000-square-
feet, and with the addition of new fermenters, it will be able to
house nearly 1 million barrels of annual production.
Once the company reaches that threshold, it will likely look for
additional property on Grand Rapids’ west side.
“We can’t grow this block any larger,” Engbers said of the