Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids is the epitome of an extremely popular Michigan brew scene, featuring world-famous beers such as All Day IPA and Dirty Bastard. Although Founders is known for its beer, its food is just as spectacular.
When I first arrived, I was immediately impressed with the sheer size of the operation. As soon as I walked in the double doors, I was greeted with a homely, yet modern atmosphere that made for a great experience. Attached to the restaurant was a large gift shop full of merchandise, and on the other side, there was a vast expanse of brewing equipment responsible for making their wide variety of beers.
The atmosphere was a wonderful part of the experience, but it is incapable of holding a candle to the quality selection of both food and beer that they offered. The large food and beer menus could quickly overwhelm someone, but offer a wide array of choices for which many, like me, make the trip. The food menu offered a unique twist with themed names actually infused with some of their beer products such as the Curmudgeon sandwich, named after their limited edition Curmudgeon beer.
After having a chance to look at the menu, I decided to give the Pork ‘N’ Brie sandwich a try. I have always been a fan of good barbecue, and had heard from multiple sources that it was the way to go at Founders. When the food arrived, I was impressed by the simplicity of the dish. It may not have been beautiful, but who needs beautiful food at a brewery?
Beer, beer and more beer was the best way to describe Founders’ extensive list of in-house brews on the menu. The menu made it easy to find exactly what I would like with color-coded pictures on the left and a “class” on the right indicating price.
As a self-appointed dark beer aficionado, it was difficult to pick only four beers for a flight, but I decided to go with the Curmudgeon, the Lizard of Koz, Doom and B. A. Sumatra. The flight arrived quickly, and I started with the Curmudgeon, an oak aged old ale brewed with molasses. This beer ended up being one of my favorites. The molasses wasn’t overpowering, and the subtle undertones of the oak-aged old ale made the beer slightly lighter than the rest and easy to drink.
Next on the list was the Lizard of Koz, a limited edition beer a little out of my comfort zone. This beer was extremely overpowering, and not in a good way. The bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout with blueberry, chocolate and vanilla was more of a dessert than a beer. If the beer would have had the sweetness toned down, I feel as if it would have been more enjoyable, but it’s safe to say that it was not for me.
Doom helped to bring me back into my comfort zone. The imperial IPA aged in bourbon barrels was strong, but extremely enjoyable and flavorful. Last on my list was the B. A. Sumatra Mountain Brown. This beer was extremely thick, but rich with flavor. The bourbon barrel-aged imperial coffee brown ale was a sipper, and highly rated across the country.
The taste of the pork sandwich did not disappoint, either. Served with Brie cheese, arugula and purred apple on a telera roll, the bourbon barrel smoked pork was mouth-watering. I was worried about the apple being overbearing compared to the pork, but the combination was pulled off perfectly and actually helped to bring out the smoky flavor in the pork.
When I finished eating, I took a look around the restaurant and was glad that I had arrived when I did. When people say that Founders is world famous, it really is. Only 30 minutes after the doors opened on a Saturday, the entire restaurant was standing room only.
Founders is a magnificent brewery and worth the long drive. The seemingly limitless selection of both food and beer allows the customer the choice to try whatever they would like in an atmosphere worth sharing with family and friends.