Sometimes beer drinkers have a voice.
Founders Brewing Co. Vice President/Director of Marketing Dave Engbers announced this week that his Grand Rapids brewery will begin selling 750-milliliter bottles of specialty beers — dubbed the Backstage Series — this summer.
The Backstage Series gives drinkers a chance to uncap at home some of the brewery’s “more eclectic beers that have historically only been available on the tap” at Founders and bars where kegs are distributed, Engbers said.
“We’ve got some great customers that do a great job promoting not just Founders, but great beers from all over the world,” Engbers said. “It’s a way to bring some of those more specialty beers not just on draft but to the retail sector.”
This summer, the brewery plans to release two or three Backstage brews, Engbers said. The special series is possible after an almost $7 million expansion to the brewery, which increased capacity from 28,000 barrels to nearly 50,000 barrels, and included a bottling line that allows the flexibility to bottle and package 12-ounce as well as large format 750-milliliter bottles (that’s just over 25 ounces).
“Using the 750-milliliter bottles is a way for us to bring some of our releases to retailers,” Engbers said.”We thought, ‘What a great opportunity to bring some of these rarities out and let other folks enjoy them.'”
The first Backstage Series release is a fan-favorite.
“We haven’t produced this product in over four years and people have been begging for it — so this is the perfect time to bring Blushing Monk back to market,” Engbers said. “We only released it one time a few years back. With a lot of brews, we will get emails asking when we’re going to brew it again.”
Blushing Monk is a decadent Belgian Raspberry Ale last produced in 2007 that is still highly sought after.
“There’s a bunch of beers that get a lot of attention,” Engbers said, mentioning the ever-popular Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which was finally released in six-packs after much fan support. “We listen to our customers.”
The series is dubbed “Backstage,” because the releases are limited and a response to the brewery’s die-hard fans.
“I think part of what people love about Founders, besides our beer, is that we listen to what they are saying,” President Mike Stevens said. “With our new line, now we can offer them more of what they’ve been asking for.”
The company is not revealing the entire lineup, but Engbers said it would consist of many of the “popular one-offs” that have been offered in the taproom over the years.
“To us, it’s kind of using the brewery as the stage,” Engbers said, making these special released “backstage.” Although Founders gets occasional calls for lesser-known brews from its distributors, even those limited releases are often finished within a few hours of being tapped, so the Backstage Series allows more Founders-connoisseurs to enjoy its specialty brews.
The new series, however, will not take precedence over the brewery’s most-popular beers.
“We’re kind of driven by the beers,” Engbers said. “When the beers are ready, the beers are ready. We have a commitment to our wholesalers and our customers to brew (the normal beers). Those are beers that pay the bills.”
Engbers would not divulge whether each season will bring a new Backstage Series or if it will return annually (or at all). Ultimately, it’s about the beer and loyal Founders enthusiasts.
“We try to push the envelop not just in recipes, but in brewing techniques,” Engbers said.
Lauded nationally and internationally as award winners in its respective categories, Founders Brewing Company opened in 1997. In 2009, it was ranked the second fastest growing brewery in the United States, and it is currently rated the second highest brewery in the world by ratebeer.com.
Founders Brewing Company is located 235 Grandville Avenue SW in downtown Grand Rapids.