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Grand Rapids, Mich. – Founders Brewing Co. is happy to announce the fourth annual KBS Week, in honor of the release of KBS this year. The beer will be available starting March 13 in Michigan and April 1 across the remainder of the brewery’s distribution footprint, which includes 42 states. Visitors and residents of Grand Rapids will be able to enjoy it March 6-11 when it is tapped at various local establishments as well as the taproom release party.

KBS Week

KBS is an imperial stout brewed with massive amounts of coffee and chocolate and then aged in oak bourbon barrels in the caves beneath Grand Rapids. KBS is the second installment in the brewery’s Barrel-Aged Series, a lineup of 6 different barrel-aged beers released throughout the year. It is consistently ranked as one of the highest rated beers in the world, according to Ratebeer.

KBS Week began in response to the overwhelming notoriety KBS has developed over the years and a desire to share that with the West Michigan beer-loving community on a broader scale. This year will mark the 4th annual KBS Week and fifteen Founders-supporting bars and restaurants in the Grand Rapids area will each tap a keg of KBS during a designated timeslot between March 6 and 10. KBS Week will culminate with the Founders taproom release party, where KBS will be poured all day on Saturday, March 11.

“Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) is a quintessential representation of who Founders is as a company and the legacy we’ve established in the industry,” said Co-Founder and President Dave Engbers. “Fifteen years ago it debuted as an experiment with no agenda; a beer that no one asked for and, at first, no one wanted. The outcome was and is magical and we think it’s a perfect example of the innovation that is central to craft beer culture. We love the chance to celebrate the phenomenon of KBS each year and to share it with the West Michigan community first in gratitude for their support. ”

Bottles of KBS available for pickup in the Founders taproom will be released using a pre-ticketed reservation process via Ticketfly. Bottles can be reserved beginning on Saturday, February 18, at 11am EST, and they will be available for pickup March 7-12, 2017.

A handful of area hotels will be offering KBS week packages—including discounted room rates, limited edition gear in rooms and more—with information available on the Experience Grand Rapids website.

KBS will be available throughout Michigan on Monday, March 13 and throughout the rest of the Founders’ distribution footprint on April 1.

For full KBS Week details, head to kbsweek.com.

GRAND RAPIDS — Sunshine, a brisk breeze, good beer and the smell of grill smoke are the makings of the perfect winter festival. All of the above were present at Saturday’s second annual Founders Firkin Freezeout, which featured grilled kielbasa kebabs, ice sculpting and up to 42 available varieties of firkin-conditioned beer.

“It’s a celebration of real beer and another great excuse to enjoy the splendors of winter in Michigan,” said Dave Engbers, Vice President/Director of Marketing of Founders Brewing Co.

Attendees from around the region milled around the Founders outdoor beer garden, socializing and sipping uniquely flavored takes on favorite standards.

“[Having events] reinforces the beer culture, not only here in Grand Rapids, but really regionally,” said Engbers. “If we can use the energy that the craft beer category has right now, and we can bring people from all over the region into Grand Rapids and introduce them to our city, then that’s awesome.”

Jamie Dublin traveled to the festival with her boyfriend from East Lansing.

“My boyfriend and I love craft beers, and we’ve always been fans of Founders,” she said. “I love firkins. We’ve come [to Founders] a few times when they’ve had firkins on and they’re really cool.”

Dublin said she enjoyed the beers from firkins because they add a unique twist to some of her favorite beers. She said she favored the All Day IPA with Bloody Mary ingredients, but she was looking forward to the tapping of the Dirty Bastard with cinnamon, vanilla beans and maple syrup.

“Obviously we like the standard, but it’s really cool to switch it up,” Dublin said.

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For the most part, however, attendees of the Freezeout were locals and mug club members who are regulars at Founders. Grand Rapids citizen Mary Mitus came to the festival with her family.

“We live in Grand Rapids, and we’re members of the mug club,” said Mitus. “Our daughter’s visiting from Brooklyn, and she loves Founders too. It’s just something to do — be outside. It’s a beautiful day.”

At a balmy 36 degrees and sunny, this year’s festival was much warmer than last year’s. The weather isn’t the only thing about the festival that has improved since last year.

“Last year being our first year, it was a learning process,” said John Merizon, Retail Beer Supply Coordinator for Founders.

This year, the team organizing the event decided to start an hour earlier and have more firkins on at a time in an effort to avoid heavily concentrated lines. The changes made for a more even distribution of attendees, making the environment in the beer garden much more relaxed.

Ultimately, the festival was an opportunity for brewers and Founders fans alike to try takes on their favorite beers that they won’t experience anywhere else.

“We really let our brewing team get experimental and work with different flavors and spices. We always have a few tricks up our sleeves,” said Engbers.

“We give our cellar team a lot of freedom in deciding what they want to experiment with. And that’s what our firkin program is. It’s just an outlet for us to experiment with flavor,” said Merizon.

“Some of the firkins have names taped on the sides of the barrels because there’s a little bit of an internal contest between the cellarmen to see whose is the most popular,” Merizon said. “There’s a smattering of cellarmen in the crowd kind of eyeballing to see whose is whose and what’s getting drank the most. They’re all asking me, ‘When’s mine going to get tapped?'”

For the second straight year, Founders has collaborated with ArtPrize to produce a beer specific to the world’s largest art event. The beer, Mosaic Promise, was highlighted during ArtPrize on Tap on Wednesday night at Founders.

The brew will be released in bottles at Meijer stores throughout Michigan on Sept. 14, and released elsewhere on Sept. 15. It will also be available on tap at Founders throughout the art competition.

The beer will be available throughout Michigan, but also in New York, Illinois and Wisconsin. It features a single type of hop — the Mosaic hop — and a single type of malt — Golden Promise.

ArtPrize on Tap is free for Art Club members, and will be held next on Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.

For more photos, visit Stellafly on Facebook >

GRAND RAPIDS — Class is in session. Everyone find a seat. Take out a pen. Please don’t drink any of the beer in front of you just yet.

This is no back-to-school dream. This is reality, thanks to the new Founders University courses, now enrolling for the fall.

Last Tuesday, Founders held its first “Sensory Perception” class — the graduate-level complement, if you will — to the Beer 101 course that also opened this August. A handful of paying students (and one lucky scholarshipped reporter) sniffed, swirled and tasted their way through a series of beer samples with the goal of refining palettes and broadening beer knowledge.

The classroom was Founders’ Centennial Room, the private area accessible only by elevator in the new addition.

The professor was the jovial John Gautraud, Founders’ Education Ambassador, joined on this occasion by Dave Engbers, bona fide Founders’ co-founder.

The “desks” for the evening were tables scattered around the upstairs bar, each holding two placemats, which themselves held eight specialized beer tasting glasses, each filled with two inches of identical golden ale. A water glass and a pint of Founders Solid Gold flanked the placemat, and a bowl of crusty bread (for palette cleansing) occupied the middle of each table.

Though Gautraud offered a few good-natured jokes as the class filtered in — “Don’t worry, this isn’t a prison diet” — it was clear this would be a fairly sober class. The pint glass was a “control” beer, meant for reference more than enjoyment. The samples were all tainted beer, each corrupted by a common “off flavor” produced by a common error in brewing or storage.

Over two and a half hours, the class gradually worked through the eight mistakes. Gautraud would give students a few minutes to smell and taste the profile of a sample, asking everyone to compare notes and compare against the control beer, and then would reveal the error, describe its flavors and explain its causes.

A bite of bread and a swig of water, and then on to the next sample. Sniff, sip, ponder. Eat, rinse, repeat. This was no wine-tasting waltz through the countryside.

The emphasis on what can go wrong with a beer, instead of what can go right, and the large chemical words — acetaldehyde, dimethyl sulfide, isovaleric acid — characterize the class as something homebrewers might appreciate best. When a basement batch tastes like movie theater popcorn, it might be helpful to know what causes it (diacetyl) and how to fix it (let the beer mature longer). For most consumers, however, sniffing for rancid butter before imbibing probably won’t add much to the beer experience.

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But both Gautraud and Engbers agreed the course isn’t just meant for homebrewers. Engbers said he hopes the class will engender a “better beer consumer,” one who can hold breweries, bars and restaurants accountable and thus help improve quality across the craft beer industry.

“As a consumer, it’s your choice to say, ‘This isn’t right,’” said Engbers — and if you can explain, say, that dirty tap lines corrupted your beer with acetic acid, you might be convincing.

The class “does have a great benefit for homebrewers,” added Gautraud, “but it’s not necessarily just for them.” Ideally, he said, the sensory perception course will help participants “enjoy [good] beer, enjoy the quality a bit more and have a bit more appreciation afterwards.”

This proved true at least in the immediate context of the class: the free pint of good beer offered at the end certainly was appreciated after all the bad.

And even if no one in the class graduated a beer genius, Gautraud was still generous with his grades. “It being the first one, I’ll probably be more lenient,” he joked. “I think everybody’s getting A’s so far.”

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.

GRAND RAPIDS — While it is true that beer is only made of four simple ingredients: Barley, yeast, hops, and water, each beer is uniquely crafted with varying recipes and methods, and each brewery takes a different path to get there.

Founders Brewing Co. opened its brewery for public tours in 2013, and with the help of a very enthusiastic tour guide — education ambassador Gabriel Rains — I was able to get a glance into the company, from its early beginning to its hopes for the future.

Our tour group began our journey in the older part of the brewery, the quaint, 30-barrel system, geared up in close-toed shoes, footies and safety glasses. This extra precaution is absolutely essential to participate in the tour to ensure that no beer is contaminated in any way. Rains regretfully informed us that he was forced to turn down five people who showed up unprepared (so don’t make that mistake).

Gathered around in this first room, Rains began filling us in on the brewery’s operations from the very beginning, starting with the founders of Founders.

Recently out of college, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers left their careers to pursue the world of craft beer. At first, their beer wasn’t quite cutting it, but after a threat of bankruptcy, they revolutionized their beer in hopes of at least going out with a bang.

This “bang” began selling, and soon enough, they were back on their feet and barrel rolling toward success.

Founders is now the 30th largest brewery and ranked in the top four breweries worldwide by Ratebeer.com.

After describing Founders’ climb to the top, Rains asked the question of which ingredients go into making beer. Although these four ingredients seem very simple — Founders’ ingredients all come from unique sources, and the way in which they go into making the beer is a complicated process.

The tour then led us through an expansion, the kegging, bottling and canning lines (the canning line is brand new, with a hoard of empty cans waiting), and into the final stop which will expand Founders production even further. This all was not without in-depth explanations, stories and a couple of laughs.

The $10 tour is just enough to keep out freeloaders, yet affordable enough to be enjoyed by many. At the end of the tour, each participant is given a Founders pint glass with a ticket for a free Class 1 beer and other Founders memorabilia, which is, needless to say, well worth the cost of the tour.

So whether you love Founders or beer in general, this tour gives an adequate insight into both the company and the craft. If you’re in the area, stop by; otherwise, it makes for a good kick-off to a trip to Grand Rapids and a tour of BeerCity USA.

COMSTOCK PARK — Preparations are under way for the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival at Fifth-Third Ballpark, just outside of Grand Rapids. And, like many of our readers, we’re anticipating some great beer.
We’ve looked over the beer list and we’ve selected our top five beers to try, and top five breweries to visit this year.

Top five beers to try

A record number of beers (625, to be exact) will be available to try at this year’s festival, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the lineup.
1) Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout — Bell’s bourbon-aged beers are always good, but combine a cherry stout with some more booze? It can’t get much better than that.
2) Brewery Vivant Helen Wine Barrel Sour Ale — Vivant is widely known throughout the state for brewing some great beers. And that doesn’t stop with its sours — in fact, Vivant’s sour ales are some of the best around. Being such a limited brew, Helen won’t last long.
3) Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock — BeerAdvocate ranks this as a 98, and with chocolate, raspberry and caramel notes, Raspberry Eisenbock will certainly impress. And the fact that it holds a captivating 13.5% ABV only adds to its anticipation.
4) New Holland Rum Barrel Aged Dragon’s Milk — New Holland’s signature stout gets a rum treatment that should make for a rich, tasty, boozy drink that’s perfect for those cold temperatures.
5) Dark Horse Brewing Co. — While we didn’t mention a specific beer to try, you should definitely make it to one of Dark Horse’s four tables during the festival. At least once. Or twice. You’ve probably heard of Plead the 5th? Well, that’s just the beginning.

Top five breweries worth checking out

There are 19 new breweries showcasing beer at the Winter Beer Fest this year. While no new brewery can match the tap list of a Bell’s or Dark Horse, new breweries bring something different to the table, and no doubt will be popular with attendees.
1) Pike 51 Brewing Company — In my recent visit to the new Hudsonville brewery, I was overly impressed with its beer. Former HopCat brewmaster Jeff Williams heads up a lineup of flavorful beer that will keep you coming back for more. Beers served: The Kush IPA; Sabotage Milk Stout with Coffee; Sinister Kid Imperial Porter; Weizenbock; Knight’s on Mastadons Imperial Brown Ale with Coffee; Batch 51 Rye Wine; Mojo Hand Single Hop Black IPA; Cherry Triple.
2) Greenbush Brewing Company — Greenbush and Dark Horse always seem to battle with which brewery can bring the most beer for each festival. This year, Greenbush is bringing a whopping 48 taps to the festival, many of which are barrel aged. On my list? Chai Life and Bourbon Barrel Vanderbush. Beers served: Too many to mention.
3) The Livery — Being that many brews are aged and brewed months before festivals, this may very well be the last chance you get to experience Steve Berthel’s influence at Benton Harbor’s top brewery. With three barrel aged brews being served, and a few other brews that sound quite tasty, The Livery is definitely on my list. Beers served: McGillan’s American IPA; Basket Case Imperial Chocolate, Rye, Oat, Milk Stout; Agent 99 Belgian Quad; SMaSH Summit American IPA; Double Paw Double IPA; Barrel Aged 33 1/3 Lager; Barrel Aged Verchousity Dark Trippel; Barrel Aged Bastard Cousin Stout.
4) Founders Brewing Co. — Founders always brings an A-list lineup to the Winter Beer Fest, and this year is no exception. Serving up all of its Backstage Series beers, in addition to some regular staples, Founders is a brewery you have to hit at least once. Chances are all of the Backstage Series beers will be timed releases, so keep an eye out, especially for when KBS and CBS is tapped. Beers served: Centennial IPA; All Day IPA; Red’s Rye PA; Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale; Porter; Spite Pepper Ale; Frangelic Mountain Brown; KBS Barrel Aged Imperial Stout; Blushing Monk Belgian Raspberry Ale; CBS Maple Barrel Aged Imperial Stout; Curmudgeon’s Better Half; Bolt Cutter Barley Wine.
5) Short’s and Bell’s — Let’s be honest, there’s no way I could limit this list to five. Two of the best breweries in the state — if not the country — again showcase some extraordinary beers. Bell’s brings out its Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9,000, probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Short’s, on the other hand, has a plethora of seasonal one-offs, including its Gingersnap English Brown Ale. Beers served: Too many to mention.

General Information

This year the Guild has changed the way beer tokens work, ever so slightly. A total of 39 beers are worth two or three tokens instead of the standard one token per pour. You can read more, and see the full beer list, at mbgmash.com. You can also download the festival program.
The Mash website also has information on bus schedules and hotel information.
This year’s festival sold out in a record 13 hours. Don’t have tickets for this year? Several local breweries and bars are participating in GR Beer Week, and will have events going on throughout and leading up to the weekend. Check out the GR Beer Week Facebook page for a full event listing.
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Alex Brown contributed to this article.

COMSTOCK PARK — Preparations are under way for the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival at Fifth-Third Ballpark, just outside of Grand Rapids. And, like many of our readers, we’re anticipating some great beer.

We’ve looked over the beer list and we’ve selected our top five beers to try, and top five breweries to visit this year.

Top five beers to try

A record number of beers (625, to be exact) will be available to try at this year’s festival, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the lineup.

1) Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout — Bell’s bourbon-aged beers are always good, but combine a cherry stout with some more booze? It can’t get much better than that.

2) Brewery Vivant Helen Wine Barrel Sour Ale — Vivant is widely known throughout the state for brewing some great beers. And that doesn’t stop with its sours — in fact, Vivant’s sour ales are some of the best around. Being such a limited brew, Helen won’t last long.

3) Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock — BeerAdvocate ranks this as a 98, and with chocolate, raspberry and caramel notes, Raspberry Eisenbock will certainly impress. And the fact that it holds a captivating 13.5% ABV only adds to its anticipation.

4) New Holland Rum Barrel Aged Dragon’s Milk — New Holland’s signature stout gets a rum treatment that should make for a rich, tasty, boozy drink that’s perfect for those cold temperatures.

5) Dark Horse Brewing Co. — While we didn’t mention a specific beer to try, you should definitely make it to one of Dark Horse’s four tables during the festival. At least once. Or twice. You’ve probably heard of Plead the 5th? Well, that’s just the beginning.

Top five breweries worth checking out

There are 19 new breweries showcasing beer at the Winter Beer Fest this year. While no new brewery can match the tap list of a Bell’s or Dark Horse, new breweries bring something different to the table, and no doubt will be popular with attendees.

1) Pike 51 Brewing Company — In my recent visit to the new Hudsonville brewery, I was overly impressed with its beer. Former HopCat brewmaster Jeff Williams heads up a lineup of flavorful beer that will keep you coming back for more. Beers served: The Kush IPA; Sabotage Milk Stout with Coffee; Sinister Kid Imperial Porter; Weizenbock; Knight’s on Mastadons Imperial Brown Ale with Coffee; Batch 51 Rye Wine; Mojo Hand Single Hop Black IPA; Cherry Triple.

2) Greenbush Brewing Company — Greenbush and Dark Horse always seem to battle with which brewery can bring the most beer for each festival. This year, Greenbush is bringing a whopping 48 taps to the festival, many of which are barrel aged. On my list? Chai Life and Bourbon Barrel Vanderbush. Beers served: Too many to mention.

3) The Livery — Being that many brews are aged and brewed months before festivals, this may very well be the last chance you get to experience Steve Berthel’s influence at Benton Harbor’s top brewery. With three barrel aged brews being served, and a few other brews that sound quite tasty, The Livery is definitely on my list. Beers served: McGillan’s American IPA; Basket Case Imperial Chocolate, Rye, Oat, Milk Stout; Agent 99 Belgian Quad; SMaSH Summit American IPA; Double Paw Double IPA; Barrel Aged 33 1/3 Lager; Barrel Aged Verchousity Dark Trippel; Barrel Aged Bastard Cousin Stout.

4) Founders Brewing Co. — Founders always brings an A-list lineup to the Winter Beer Fest, and this year is no exception. Serving up all of its Backstage Series beers, in addition to some regular staples, Founders is a brewery you have to hit at least once. Chances are all of the Backstage Series beers will be timed releases, so keep an eye out, especially for when KBS and CBS is tapped. Beers served: Centennial IPA; All Day IPA; Red’s Rye PA; Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale; Porter; Spite Pepper Ale; Frangelic Mountain Brown; KBS Barrel Aged Imperial Stout; Blushing Monk Belgian Raspberry Ale; CBS Maple Barrel Aged Imperial Stout; Curmudgeon’s Better Half; Bolt Cutter Barley Wine.

5) Short’s and Bell’s — Let’s be honest, there’s no way I could limit this list to five. Two of the best breweries in the state — if not the country — again showcase some extraordinary beers. Bell’s brings out its Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9,000, probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Short’s, on the other hand, has a plethora of seasonal one-offs, including its Gingersnap English Brown Ale. Beers served: Too many to mention.

General Information

This year the Guild has changed the way beer tokens work, ever so slightly. A total of 39 beers are worth two or three tokens instead of the standard one token per pour. You can read more, and see the full beer list, at mbgmash.com. You can also download the festival program.

The Mash website also has information on bus schedules and hotel information.

This year’s festival sold out in a record 13 hours. Don’t have tickets for this year? Several local breweries and bars are participating in GR Beer Week, and will have events going on throughout and leading up to the weekend. Check out the GR Beer Week Facebook page for a full event listing.

__
Alex Brown contributed to this article.

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