GRAND RAPIDS — A festival surrounding an in-progress 40-million-dollar expansion made this year’s Founders Fest challenging, but not disappointing. The six-story-high fermenters towering over the fest made this year’s feel a little more special — a “tiny” reminder to the all of the people in attendance that they help make Founders the 17th largest brewery in the nation and still growing.
“This festival started [about nine years ago] as an opportunity to hopefully raise money to pay our property taxes; it has turned into a festival for about 7,000 of our closest friends,” said Mike Stevens, Co-Founder and CEO of Founders Brewing Co.
The festival is not just a celebration of great beer — music is also an immense part of the culture at Founders. Not one but two stages set the tone with eight different live music acts creating a rhythmic ambiance. The festival doesn’t officially kick off until the The FBC All-Stars play, according to Stevens. Playing cover songs familiar to the crowd, the band is composed of different Founders employees each year. The idea is to showcase the talents of some of the Founders family, from administration to production to the taproom.
There were over 10 Founders beers flowing from the taps, from easy drinkers like All Day IPA and Solid Gold, to sweeter brews like Rubaeus and Blushing Monk, to the special beer made just for the event, Founders Fest Wheat. Planning three months ahead for an event of this capacity, it was expected for the Founders Fest to go through 200-250 kegs of beer.
Food trucks filled a whole block with offerings like pulled pork from Slow’s BBQ, gyros from Pita House and a variety of sandwiches from What The Truck. They helped to fill everyone’s stomach, giving opportunity for more beer drinking.
A separate block showcased booths of local artists, another opportunity at the fest for people to give back to their local community. Carisa Gallegos of Lot Life praised her love of the festival and financial success at Founders Fest in the past. She said she looks forward to being a part of the fest every year with their motto, “finish strong baby!” Other goods attendees could find include print works from Woosah, natural clothing from Conscious Clothing, wood goods made from Founders barrels by McVety Design, and handmade leather products from Hides + Stitches.
With something for everyone, Grace Wysocki described the festival best.
“Founders Fest is one thing that we never miss. We are never disappointed! Music, art and being able to hang out with our friends…there is nothing better!”
The man that knows Founders Fest the best had simple advice to offer for attending the festival.
“Have a good time! Drink beer!” Stevens said.