Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Pearly Gates: Founders Visit
So, beer fans. It's high time that I report on my journey to one of America's greatest, Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before things nearly went awry, my plans were to attend the festivities surrounding the release of Founders legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout, its highly sought after, scrumptious, elite bourbon barreled stout. It's the bourbon barreled version of their outstanding Breakfast Stout, brewed with strong coffees. I almost didn't make it. Due to a security alarm problem on my Volkswagen, I was stranded on the Friday night before my journey, which was supposed to begin at around 5 a.m. to ensure that I could get there in time to join the line that would surely await the brewery's opening. After all, the hype surrounding this year's KBS release was out of control. Thanks to Hertz, I got a car by 7 a.m., even though I had to take the train to Chicago Midway Airport to pick up my Hyundai.
I finally managed to get going. 183 miles, $5 in tolls, a cup of coffee and an Egg McMuffin later, I made it to Founders, at around 11:15 EDST. There was a long line awaiting me. Drat and double drat. Fortunately, the wait was a breeze because, as I knew I would, I ran into some cool and interesting beer fans in line. One was a home brewer from Detroit who kept his offerings in a kegerator at home. He even had a fake chalkboard on the kegerator's front exterior and wrote his offerings in fake chalk, as you would see at a serious beer bar or brewpub. Another was my buddy Matt, who took the bus up from Lansing. Another was a local to Grand Rapids who was an enjoyable chat, but quickly departed the line when I told him that KBS cases were $120. Unfortunately, this would end up being an irrelevant fact to me as well.
After an hour in line, I finally made it into the brew pub, then to the front of the line and was tenth in line when the joyous roar erupted from part of the crowd. "They ran out of KBS," someone said. I knew it wasn't true. They had limited buyers to two cases. I only wanted half a case, given my limited funds. Oh, but it was true. No more KBS.
Disheartened, I searched around for lucky patrons who had been fortunate enough to score a case or two of the bottled manna from heaven. A Founders employee spotted me in the midst of this quest and you'll see how that paid off later. I ended up scoring two 4 packs at market price from several kindly beer lovers. Some bad karma jerk tried to sell me a 4 pack at $10 bucks a bottle - double the price! And he was a fellow Chicagoan who had made the journey and knew of the struggles I must have endured to get there!
Anyway, deciding that 8 bottles of the heavenly stuff was enough, me and Matt, and the guy who earlier left the line got down to business: drinking some KBS. It was Matt's first glass and he was in love at first sip. To me, the KBS was like embracing an old lover. It had that smell of whiskey and molasses, that supple mouthfeel, the taste of bourbon, coffee and a hint of molasses. Heaven on earth. I also had to try the seemingly mythical, keg-only Canadian Breakfast Stout. I'll review this separately, but let's just say that it might just be the most perfect thing ever in a glass.
The day got more and more beautiful. I got to chat with Matt and our new friend with whom we later on ended up venturing to the acclaimed Hop Cat bar. Our friend loved the Porter, which was new to him, and it had as many good vibes as it did hops. The Founders employee, named Sparkle, was nice enough to ask if I had gotten any KBS, and offered us a tour of the place that evening, an offer we happily accepted. Aside from the beer, the other star attraction was the brew pub itself. The high ceilings, the long, curvy wooden bar, the wooden picnic tables, the large windows that let in the clear white light, and the festive atmosphere made the environment as pleasant as Christmas morning at home. The smell was rich with fresh hops and spices, like an herb garden.
As promised, a brewery tour followed that evening. Sparkle led the way. We got to see the enormous tanks in the back of Founders where greatness happens. Again, that smell was, dare I say, intoxicating. On that note, it got a little hazy thereafter as I took in as much Canadian Breakfast Stout as I could, knowing I would not taste it again until perhaps my next visit. Of course, I had to enjoy some KBS too - I wouldn't want it to feel cheated upon. As for myself, I certainly did not get cheated, that's for sure.
It was a great experience, one I hope to repeat soon. Thank you Founders for being so awesome and making beer life that much better!