GRAND RAPIDS — A new Founders taproom has opened its doors today following a 12-day closing for renovations.
Featuring 40 percent more floor space, it would be difficult to pinpoint one highlight of the latest expansion for the 30th largest craft brewery in the U.S.
“This will allow us to give a better customer experience,” said Dave Engbers, Co-Founder and Vice President of Brand & Education. “Ultimately our goal in this expansion was to serve our customers better.”
One highlight is an entirely new section on the north side of the taproom featuring the original bar from Founders’ first home in the Brassworks Building on the city’s Northwest Side. The area resembles the original taproom location — tap handles and all.
“That’s a piece of our history,” Engbers said. “The day I came and saw it, it literally brought tears to my eyes.”
Outside, a massive beer garden stretches across the entire front of the taproom. This adds a third location where patrons can get a freshly poured draft brew, taking the pressure off one centrally located bar.
The beer garden is built for accommodations to last through three seasons: gas heat — both built in and with room for freestanding heaters — as well as two built-in fire pits. The concept is one that could only be dreamed by Mitten-natives.
“Mike (Stevens) and I are both born and raised here in Michigan,” Engbers said. “We enjoy having a beer outside.”
Founders also expanded its kitchen by 30 percent, adding new menu items which will be prepared from scratch, in-house going forward.
The expansion came on the heels of a production facility expansion, expanding its footprint to brew up to 320,000 barrels annually. The brewery produced 71,000 barrels last year and expects to brew about 125,000 barrels this year. According to Engbers, the latest renovations came with the mindset that Founders is a destination for many beer enthusiasts.
“When people from all over come here we want to give them a great experience,” he said. “I think we have done a pretty damn good job.”
Later this fall, Founders plans to finish its education and event rental space. The taproom, 235 Grandville Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight on Sunday.