founders fest

Thousands spent last Saturday ringing in what’s sure to be a very hot summer at Founders Fest 2016. This year’s celebration of beer and music featured eight musical acts, food and goods from local vendors, and carnival-esque sideshows by Super Happy Funtime Entertainment.


In the stifling heat, imbibers promised to hydrate with a water for every beer and enjoyed rare favorites like CBS and Lizard of Koz as well as staples like Red’s Rye, All Day IPA, and Rubeaus. People refreshed themselves at water refill stations, which featured misters spraying cool water.

The block party went well into the night, ending at 11 p.m. Attendees ate, drank, danced, and sweltered. It’s likely that many spent Sunday nursing a sunburn and a hangover.


Photography: Steven Michael Holmes

Grand Rapids–Founders Brewing Co. announced the ninth annual Founders Fest, an outdoor celebration of live music and beer, Saturday, June 18 from 3-11pm. An anticipated 6000+ attendees will make the sojourn to this year’s event, held on Grandville Avenue between Cherry and Bartlett, the streets surrounding the brewery

“We’re very much looking forward to hosting Founders Fest again this June,” said Vice-President of Retail Operations, Mark Dorich. “The festival is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to Grand Rapids and West Michigan for contributing to the success of the brewery. This year is a little extra special, musically-speaking, as every band in this year’s line-up has performed in our taproom at some point in the past.”

founders brewing

The festival features two headlining national acts: The Motet, preeminent improvisational jazz and funk outfit from Denver, Colorado and Lee Fields & The Expressions, one of the innovators of soul and R&B hailing from Brooklyn, NY. Other performers include July Talk, an indie blues group from Toronto, Ontario; The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, American Roots virtuosos from Indiana; The Main Squeeze, funk, soul and indie rock from Los Angeles; Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta, Latin dance from Chicago; The Go Rounds, country-tinged psychedelic indie rock from Kalamazoo. The FBC All-Stars, a classic rock super-group comprised of all Founders employees, will also be part of the lineup.

The list of beers that will be available at the event include year-round favorites as well as a number of taproom-exclusives, which are rarely bottled and distributed.  Local food vendors will again be serving up food at the event. “Artist’s Row,” a space for local designers and artists to sell their wares, will again be a feature of the festival.

Roving and auxiliary entertainment, including stilt-walkers and aerial dancers, will again be provided by Super Happy Funtime Entertainment.

Founders is once again partnering with The High Five Program, a local community organization that assures the prevention of litter and significant reduction of waste streams at large-scale events. In the past three years, the partnership between the High Five Program and Founders Fest saw an incredible over 90% waste diversion and they hope to improve upon that this year.

Ticket sales began Friday April 22, 2016 via and at the Founders Company Store.

founders brewing

Discounted General Admission early bird ticket sales will be available beginning Friday, April 22 at 12pm to Saturday, April 30 with a price of $25 each. Discounted General Admission advance tickets will be available from Sunday, May 1 to Friday, June 17 with a price of $30 each. General Admission day of show tickets will be sold at the gate (as capacity allows) with a price of $35 each. Founders Mug Club members can purchase discounted advance tickets from Friday, April 22 to Friday, June 17 for a price of $20 each with a day of show price tag of $25 each as capacity allows.

The event is limited to ages 21 and older.

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.

GRAND RAPIDS — A consensus was had in a small group standing on the south side of Founders Brewing Co. Saturday during the brewery’s seventh annual Founders Fest.

Although the group of four admittedly hadn’t been to many other city’s street festivals, they were adamant Grand Rapids throws some of the best in the country.

A few had said they had been to a festival in Chicago, another in Indianapolis and still another in Toronto. But those were just street festivals, akin to Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts.

But when they look at what Founders has created and the month’s earlier Local First Street Party, Grand Rapids continues to foster community growth and togetherness by offering a place where residents can come together and share local products, art, music, beer and time together.

All day Grand Rapids drinkers were treated to plenty of Founders beers on the year’s longest day.

A brief conversation with Brent Shirey, the guitarist and vocalist from Grand Rapids’ Valentiger, came to the conclusion that Founders has come a long way since it started making beer in the mid-90s, in the fact that it can bring together more than 6,000 people on a hot Saturday, all having a great time. (Valentiger played a heck of set to help start the day out, by the way. The band also has a new album available for preorder.)

Founders has turned into a very representative look at Grand Rapids. On any given day, one can visit the taproom and see a wide assortment of residents, young and old. The company has put the Grand Rapids name in front of consumers worldwide, making it a desirable tourist destination.

Staple Founders beer poured all day, and specialties were released throughout the day to provide attendees special treats. Local food and art vendors sprinkled the streets that wrap around Founders with two music stages anchoring the far south side of the festival grounds.

Eight music acts took the stage over the festivals course, including local and national acts, including the FBC All-Stars, made up entirely of Founders employees.

Meanwhile, Charles Bradley & His Extraoridnaires rocked the faces off thousands. The 65-year-old former James Brown impersonator has turned into a rapidly rising R&B and soul performer.

The music acts and a toast by Founders Brewing Co. founders Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens was broadcast in 13 bars across the brewery’s distribution footprint for those who couldn’t come. The bars all were serving a wide array of Founders beer.

More can be found, including a video with head brewer Jeremy Kosmicki talking about the development All Day IPA, at

GRAND RAPIDS — Over 7,000 people gathered in front of Founders Brewing Co. on Saturday for Founders Fest, which celebrated the brewery’s 15th anniversary.

The festival, which combines beer with music, food and art, expanded this year to have two music stages for 10 bands that played throughout the day. Amongst the bands who performed were The Crane Wives, Four Finger Five, Soulive and the FBC All Stars.

With lines that grew throughout the day, trying one of Founders’ specialty ales was a bit challenging, but worth the wait. I was able to try Frangelic Mountain Brown (the upcoming release in Founders’ Backstage Series) and Red’s Rye PA with Bourbon.

Frangelic Mountain Brown poured a clear brown with little to no head, and featured an aroma full of coffee. The taste of this brew was coffee-heavy, with some oak and roasted malt as well. The medium mouthfeel was surprising for a Founders specialty ale, but was welcomed on this hot summer day.

Likewise, the cask tapping of Red’s Rye PA with Bourbon was both refreshing and flavorful, with some fruit, rye, oak and a little bit of bourbon mixed with some moderate hops.

Other specialty ales that were tapped included KBS, Devil Dancer and a cask of Centennial IPA with Ginger. Founders also had a variety of “standard” beers available, including:

  • Centennial IPA
  • Founders Fest Wheat
  • Dirty Bastard
  • Red’s Rye PA
  • Porter
  • All Day IPA
  • Pale Ale
  • Solid Gold
  • Cerise

As people enjoyed their Founders brews, they were treated to a wide variety of entertainment — from bands to circus acts. Artists and other vendors were also present at the event.

Food was also available from local vendors The Cottage Bar, What the Truck, Mi Tierra, The Corner Bar and The Pita House.

GRAND RAPIDS — Combining music and beer, Founders Fest is back for its fifth year with a wide-ranging music line-up. While details on special beer offerings have yet to be announced, this year’s headliner is Brooklyn-based Soulive.

“Founders Fest is our biggest party of the year and is always a great time,”said Mark Dorich, festival coordinator and Founders Brewing Co. director of retail operations. “We are excited to celebrate with our community again, and we’re really excited about this year’s music lineup.”

The rest of the line-up includes: Asheville’s Toubab Krewe; Michigan folk favorites Seth & May and Friends; one-man band That 1 Guy out of Las Vegas; the locally sourced improvisational progressive rock band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus; and Grand Rapids indie-folk outfit The Crane Wives. Hometown rockers Four Finger Five and the 12-piece African funk group Afro Zuma join local favorite and SXSW sweethearts The Soil and the Sun and a super-group of Founders employees, the FBC All-Stars, to round out the entertainment lineup.

The June 23 outdoor festival is hosted on the streets near Founders. The brewery expects to cram more than 5,000 participants on Grandville Avenue between Cherry and Bartlett and on the grounds of the brewery.

This year’s event will again feature local food vendors, including The Cottage Bar and the Pita House, as well as a Local Artists Row, which showcases the various works of some of the area’s finest artists and designers. There will be other strolling surprise entertainers sprinkled throughout the day, according to organizers.

Founders calls its annual festival a celebratory “thank you” to Grand Rapids and West Michigan for making Founders what it is today. Founders Brewing Co. opened in Grand Rapids in 1997, and it has grown its brewing tradition from modest beginnings to most recently being rated the second best brewery in the world, for the second year in a row.

“We’re proud of how we’ve grown to become not just a local name but a serious contender on the regional and national beer scene,” says Founders President & CEO Mike Stevens. “We’ll be celebrating our 15th anniversary this year, and we’re proud to say that our crew is making some of the best beer in America. Founders Fest allows us to take a day to toast those efforts with our friends, family and community.”

GRAND RAPIDS — The ingredients for Founders Fest are simple — beer and music.

Attracting about 6,000 visitors Saturday, the annual outdoor event featured some of Founders’ unique brews and an assortment of live bands.

“There are always surprises,” Founders Vice President/Director of Marketing Dave Engbers said. “There’s a lot I really don’t know how to explain.”

Engbers was perhaps referring to a 20-foot tall man-tree walking along Grandville Avenue. Or maybe it was the gymnasts flexing their bodies in unbelievable positions through hoops. Or perhaps Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zack Morris) playing guitar in the Founders Brewing Company All-Stars band.

“It’s a little slice of — I’d like to say West Michigan — but it’s bigger,” Engbers said. “It is what we call it: A celebration of beer and music.”

Among those traveling from outside of West Michigan, Rick Gebhard of Cadillac finally made his way to Founders Fest after years of wanting to go.

“It feels more like a real summer festival than I thought,” said Gebhard. “Great music and great beer — what could be a better way to spend a day?”

For a group of Cooley Law School students, Founders Fest presented itself as the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.

“There are more people than I thought there would be,” Becky Lucas said about the festival, which stretched along the front of Founders taproom from Cherry Street to just past Bartlett Street and about halfway up Williams Street.

Besides beer and music, Lucas and her three classmates saw the festival as an opportunity for people watching. Getting a photo with Gosselaar was also on the agenda, along with trying one of the festival’s specialty beers (Blushing Monk was on Lucas’ radar).

“I’m from Wisconsin, so I kind of prefer Wisconsin beer,” said Lucas, a Kenosha, Wisc. native. “But Michigan does a pretty good job.”

Among the beers on tap Saturday were:

The MittenBrew crew put a few of the specialty beers to the test, and Cashew Mountain Brown (10 percent ABV) came out on top. With a scent of nut and cocoa, the cashew/mixed nut taste was perfectly balanced by the smooth body and medium carbonation of the brew. The dark brown beer seemed to have a hint of cocoa and a touch of maple.

Another specialty brew caught us by surprise. While Founders is known for its high volume of hops, the Founders Fest Wheat could’ve easily been mistaken for an IPA.

Creamy with hints of toffee, vanilla and caramel, the Kaiser Curmudgeon couldn’t hide its 10 percent ABV, but it was hard to resist the creamy delight.

In addition to the beer, eight bands were on stage during the 3-10:30 p.m. event. Local artist and food vendors also joined the festival, including restaurants Cottage Bar, Pita House, Maggie’s Kitchen and Corner Bar.

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