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GRAND RAPIDS — Guests of the 14th Annual Black Party enjoyed the best of Founders’ usual black beers, plus a few new surprise brews.

One of the big stars of the tap list this year was Lizard of Koz, an 11.1% ABV stout brewed with chocolate, vanilla and blueberries, then aged in oak bourbon barrels. Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki co-created the non-barrel aged base beer as a birthday present for his sister, along with her husband who also works at Founders.

They were planning to surprise her with it, but the blueberry flavors were still coming through too tart when her birthday came along in December.

“I offered up the great solution of ‘throw it in a bourbon barrel, wait a couple months’ because that always works. So we did that and we were late for her birthday but the beer was much better for it. A good time to bring it out was for the Black Party here and everybody appreciated it,” Kosmicki said.

Kim Leshinski, beer blogger for Hail To The Ale, and her boyfriend Ken Getty stumbled upon the Black Party serendipitously.

“We were coming up for the weekend just to get away. We downloaded the Founders app to see what was on tap and saw the Black Party event and realized this was our lucky day!” Leshinski said.

Her favorite beer of the event? “KBS, fresh; hands down better than any I’ve had in bottles.”

People were also excited about Rye Death, a 10.8% ABV ryewine brewed with a lot of rye, and midnight wheat malt for color.

“I wanted to make a black wheatwine, but we were really short on wheat malt that week so we ended up going with rye instead.” Kosmicki said.

Live music began early in the evening and continued into the night featuring several acts. Perhaps the most notable was the annual black set performed by Oracle, starring Kosmicki, his wife Jamie, and Brewing Materials Manager “Diamond” Deschaine. Songs with “black” in the title or by artists such as Black Sabbath rocked the enthusiastic crowd.

No official word on if or when the legendary beer Black Biscuit (released several years ago) could make a return to the tap list. Plenty of conversations mentioning it were overheard throughout the day. Speculation abounds each year, and maybe it will eventually reappear, but no information has been publicly released at this time.

GRAND RAPIDS — The 13th Annual Black Party at Founders was held on Saturday. Lucky 13 brought beautiful weather and huge crowds to enjoy the many black beers Founders has become famous for, as well as a few new surprises.

If you were fortunate enough to arrive in time to receive the commemorative pint glass, it was probably Paul Eyk who handed it to you. Eyk, manning the door dressed in a tuxedo with tails and a top hat, was Founders’ very first door man at the original location and has attended every Black Party since it’s inception.

“Every year this party gets better and better. People come from further and further away to be part of it”, Eyk said.

Eyk was also one of the very first mug club members. He chose mug number 116, which corresponds with his birthdate.

Fans of the brewery’s Black IPA could choose from many variations of it. The lightest, a session version called All Night IPA, weighed in at 4.2% ABV. The standard Black IPA, an Imperial Black and several barrel-aged versions topping out at 11.7% ABV rounded out the style.

Long time Founders devotee and Grand Rapids resident Brian Chuchla has been to a decades’ worth of Black Party celebrations. “I’m not typically much of an IPA fan but some of the unique flavors that I don’t normally have, I need to try them when I’m here. I love the Maple Barrel Aged Black IPA today!” he said.

Tim Sundt related, saying “We’re in a place that understands subtle changes make for a very different beer.”

Among the tweaked beers on the tap list was Cran Cub, a base of Panther Cub blended with 5-month bourbon barrel-aged CraZpberry SaWce, which was brewed with cranberries, raspberries and crystal malt for the winter holidays. Panther Cub, a porter aged one year in Blis maple syrup barrels with whole vanilla beans, is a favorite of many Founders enthusiasts.

KBS flowed all day long, fulfilling the wishes of many attendees who hoped to have a second pour or more. Overheard many times throughout the day were excited approvals from the crowd, most voicing satisfaction with this year’s batch as well as the quantity made available.

Specialty foods were available in addition to the regular deli menu. The famed Dirty Bastard Bratwurst was being served hot off the grill, complete with Dirty Bastard Sauerkraut and Dirty Bastard Stone Ground Mustard for a trifecta that pleased hungry patrons.

Music was provided by Nathaniel Rateliff, Caroline Rose and Oracle. Guests may have recognized several Founders employees playing in Oracle, including Jeremy Kosmicki, head brewer, whose name once graced the label of KBS.

GRAND RAPIDS — Standing elbow to elbow, waiting for the next big release.

That’s the Founders Black Party in a nutshell.

The 12th annual event took place Saturday, bringing out the brewery’s latest special dark beer releases.

The all-day party featured timed releases throughout the day, a commemorative Black Party pint glass and live entertainment throughout the evening.

Amongst the most popular beers was KBS Devil’s Cut — a version of KBS aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels for two years. The result? A warm, delicious, 15% boozy beer that brings out a bit of sweetness along with the coffee and vanilla flavors we’ve come to love from KBS. This brew easily stole the show, and was sold out within minutes of being tapped.

The event also marked the first time KBS was served on tap at Founders since its March release. Beers were classified in three ranks, with KBS in Class 3.

Other Class 3 beers included Panther Cub, Barrel Aged Frangelic Stout, Doom, Barrel Aged Black IPA and Barrel Aged Party Stout. Popular Class 2 beers included Razzleberry Stout and International Breakfast Stout.

“IBS” featured the base of KBS (not barrel aged), but with more chocolate, hazelnut and coffee flavors. The result was a sweeter, non-boozy version of the popular brew. Having only been released once before in the brewery’s history, this was definitely a surprise as well.

Performing during the event was Oracle, a Founders band featuring head brewer Jeremy Kosmicki, brewer “Diamond” Deschaine and Bret Truskowski of packaging. Also taking the Founders stage was Love Fossil, MiniBoone and Hundo.

GRAND RAPIDS — Standing elbow to elbow, waiting for the next big release.
That’s the Founders Black Party in a nutshell.
The 12th annual event took place Saturday, bringing out the brewery’s latest special dark beer releases.
The all-day party featured timed releases throughout the day, a commemorative Black Party pint glass and live entertainment throughout the evening.
Amongst the most popular beers was KBS Devil’s Cut — a version of KBS aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels for two years. The result? A warm, delicious, 15% boozy beer that brings out a bit of sweetness along with the coffee and vanilla flavors we’ve come to love from KBS. This brew easily stole the show, and was sold out within minutes of being tapped.
The event also marked the first time KBS was served on tap at Founders since its March release. Beers were classified in three ranks, with KBS in Class 3.
Other Class 3 beers included Panther Cub, Barrel Aged Frangelic Stout, Doom, Barrel Aged Black IPA and Barrel Aged Party Stout. Popular Class 2 beers included Razzleberry Stout and International Breakfast Stout.
“IBS” featured the base of KBS (not barrel aged), but with more chocolate, hazelnut and coffee flavors. The result was a sweeter, non-boozy version of the popular brew. Having only been released once before in the brewery’s history, this was definitely a surprise as well.
Performing during the event was Oracle, a Founders band featuring head brewer Jeremy Kosmicki, brewer “Diamond” Deschaine and Bret Truskowski of packaging. Also taking the Founders stage was Love Fossil, MiniBoone and Hundo.

8.7% ABV, Draft

Appearance: Black with a small head.
Aroma: Bourbon, vanilla and caramel.
Taste: Strong maple and vanilla flavors. Sweet, but the flavors work very well together.
Mouthfeel: Smooth but strong bodied.

Founders’ Panther Cub, an exclusive for the brewery’s Black Party that took place Saturday, is a smooth, sweet barrel aged brew with lots of character. Aged in maple syrup barrels for a year, this brew features lots of vanilla, as well as the maple flavors that Founders has made famous with its highly exclusive CBS. The smaller ABV makes it a bit more drinkable than your typical barrel aged brews, but the qualities and warmth that define much of Founders’ specialty brews is certainly present in Panther Cub as well.

GRAND RAPIDS — For Matt Lee and Laura Wolfe, it doesn’t get any better than Founders Annual Black Party.

On Saturday, the two sat with friends they met during the previous year’s Black Party to sample the 10 special “black” brews offered at the 11th annual event.

“Black Party’s great,” Lee said. “Last year was the best experience, so we decided to come back again.”

Hosted at Founders Brewing Co.’s taproom, the Black Party wasn’t limited to just 10 specially-made brews for the event — various firkin were released throughout the day and two of Founders most-famous beers were tapped, KBS and CBS.

Following the release of KBS on March 10, during which patrons were turned away with empty glasses, the company vowed to triple its volume for next year’s release. Having heard about the empty-handed patrons at the KBS release, Lee and Wolfe arrived at Founders by 7 a.m. Saturday after commuting to Grand Rapids the evening before.

“I didn’t want to stand outside in line all day,” said Lee, a Munster, Ind. resident.

“We’re always looking for Founders beer and it’s hard to find (in Chicago area),” Wolfe added. “It makes the trip worth it.”

In addition to some of Founders’ regular brews, these 10 were on tap for the entire day of the event:

  • Milk Stout (4.9 % ABV) — Milk sugar is added to this brew during boiling, creating extra body and a perceived sweetness.
  • Black IPA 2012 (7% ABV) — Using a four variety dry hop (Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe and Zythos), this IPA is brewed using a new malt called “midnight wheat.”
  • Party Stout (6.9% ABV) — Described as “roasty” and “yummy.”
  • Baby Nilla Po (6.1% ABV) — Added Madagascar and Mexican vanilla beans to the traditional porter.
  • B.A. Berzerker 37 (7.7% ABV) — With generous wheat malts, this brew was aged 233 days in bourbon casks.
  • Rock Me Like a Maplecane (8.5% ABV) — Aged for a full year in maple syrup and bourbon barrels, this was award-winning during last year’s tap.
  • Barrel Aged Black IPA (8.5% ABV) — Aged in 21-year-old bourbon barrels.
  • Blackwoods Bastard (9.5% ABV) — Spicy, sweet, oaky and boozy, this was darker-hued take on Dirty Bastard.
  • Rye Aged Rye Stout (8% ABV) — Spicy and roasty after 375 days of aging in rye barrels.
  • Coat2 (5.1%) — Oatmeal Stout in non-nitrogen form.

With the variety of specialty brews and proximity of Founders, Lee and Wolfe call this annual event their “fun secret.” But — with a steady line outside the door throughout the day — not too secret.

“Even in Chicago we don’t have a brewpub this size,” Wolfe said. “This is a unique situation.”

For the two travelers, a trip to Founders for an event like the Black Party is a more enjoyable weekend than trekking through the Windy City.

“The people who work at Founders are really, really cool,” Lee said. “We need to take advantage now before (Founders) is over-saturated with people who want to know more about craft brewing.”