Should Founders add another facility in
west Grand Rapids, it would join a current
auxiliary space that focuses on Founders’
unique barrel-aged series.
The beers made in its “barrel house”
are transferred to oak barrels, then stored
for months in a former gypsum mine
beneath the city.
“I don’t know if it’s the largest in the
world” for barrel-aged beers, Engbers
said, “but it’s pretty damn close.”
Founders helped jump-start the
barrel-aging of beer by storing an
imperial stout — available without the
months-long aging process as simply
Breakfast Stout — in former bourbon
Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which is only
available on a seasonable basis, racked
up a slew of awards and now headlines a
series of five barrel-aged beers, including
a cherry ale, imperial IPA, scotch ale and
a malt liquor. A sixth variety is slated to be
Although the barrel-aged series
helped establish Founders’ bona fides
to hard-core craft aficionados, its
substantial growth largely stems from a
more conventional craft style: the India
A Lighter IPA
As domestic drinkers increasingly
embraced hoppy beers in recent
decades, Engbers said that craft brewers
instinctively moved toward stronger
flavors by evolving from pale ales to
India Pale Ales to Imperial IPAs.
Founders was no exception, but as the
company’s decision-makers grew older,
they also opted to make a pale ale that
wouldn’t make them want to take a nap
after a couple of pints.
The result was All Day IPA, which
features a lower alcohol content suitable
for, as the name would suggest, enjoying
a few bottles or cans across the course
of a day.
Although Engbers was adamant that
Founders doesn’t offer a flagship beer, All
Day IPA accounts for more than half of the
company’s skyrocketing annual output.
On a warm June evening in Grand Rapids,
cans of the beer reached toward the
ceiling of the Grandville Ave. brewery.
Founders’ rapid growth comes at a
time of significant change for the craft
beer industry as a whole.
The segment now comprises more
than 10 percent of the overall domestic
beer market and climbing, which makes
its companies increasingly attractive to
industry giants seeking growth in an
otherwise stagnant market.
Companies from U.S. staples Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors to Dutch
giant Heineken and Mexican beer brand
July/August 2017 ■