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Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers

Founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers

 

BC: Does All Day IPA follow a similar “Brewed For Us” development?

Mike: I look at the way we still go through product development today. I think All Day (IPA) is a perfect example. Throughout the U.S. it is the number one selling session ale by volume and there are some big players. Bigger breweries than us and we are outpacing their volume. Everyone is saying ‘Oh the session ale category is so hot and you’re on top of that’ but the reality is we didn’t make All Day IPA because the session ale category was the next hottest thing. We made All Day before the session ale category even existed. It was a beer we wanted in our portfolio.

We started the brewery in our twenties and now we are in our forties going to all these promos. We grew up drinking all these eight, 10 and 13 percent ABV beers. We can’t do that anymore at our age. Can we make something that is “Founders-esque” in style, flavor and aroma but yet be under 5 percent? Our whole goal was not to get into a category because as I said it didn’t exist.

Our idea was to make a beer for us. We never look to the marketplace to dictate our product development. We always look within. It took us four years to develop All Day until we were satisfied with the aroma, being well balanced on the malt side. We felt really good about it. It wasn’t too sweet, it had nice crispness to it and there were a lot of things we did to that recipe to make it suitable for our desires. By the time we came out with it and the name All Day the session ale category was suddenly becoming a big thing.

BC: When you approach brewing a new beer, are you more of a grounded brewer, where you start from a known place and process making changes from there or do you like to just start with a clean sheet of paper and let your imagination run wild?

Mike: There are some fundamentals I believe in and that are inherently found throughout Founders. I think you will certainly find it with Dave and also Jeremy our head brewer. We strongly believe in balance between hops and malts. I respect East Coast and West Coast. But certain regions accept more of what I would think of as out of balance than we do. If we are going to pack a lot of hops in there, we are going to pack a lot of malt to help it balance itself out. So I think balance in that regard is big for me and it lives here.

Once you get beyond that we do enter into let’s throw out all the rules and let’s start messing around. We don’t worry things beyond that. We like going to the extreme.

Dave: Our brewing team is dialed in. We made our mark with the higher gravity, bolder beers. We don’t really have a rule book here. When it comes to recipe development it is a very collaborative effort. Mike and I really talk to our team. It’s not a huge group and now we probably play devil’s advocate more. We give our brewer’s as much runway as they need. We talk about what will set that beer apart.

One thing I can say is we don’t look at trends. We don’t brew this because so and so brewed that.

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pchchicago's picture
Founders Tap Room is NOT family friendly or able to handle large groups. On Saturday, November 24, 2018, my attempt to coordinate a family holiday gathering at Founders Brewing Tap Room at 235 Grandville Ave SW in Grand Rapids, resulted in harassment by Tap Room Manager, and assault by a wait staff employee. The day started when I called the Tap Room early to see if they would accommodate a reservation since we were bringing a larger group of 11 people that included 2 senior citizens, 4 children and someone with a broken ankle. I was informed that the Founders Tap Room that they do not accept reservations, but I was assured that at our desired arrival time of 4 pm, there would be plenty of room to accommodate our group without waiting. A few minutes before 4 pm, my husband and I arrived early to set up our seating arrangements ahead of the rest of the group. We found a larger table in the first room we entered, but it only fit 6-8 chairs. I asked a wait person with purple hair how we could arrange the table to accommodate 11 people. She told me that people usually move table and chairs together from other parts of the restaurant because that was “easier for her”. At first, her comment was offensive since she was stating that the workload of employees was more important than accommodating paying customers. Then I noticed a smaller table that had been vacated nearby that would add room for 4 more chairs. My husband and I moved the table and chairs (even with my broken ankle in a cast) next to the longer table. We arranged the chairs for 11 guests and a different wait person started setting place settings to get ready for our group. Out of nowhere, the Manager, Aimee Stevenson, arrived with a negative attitude telling us that we could not move the tables together without a valid explanation. I explained to her that her staff member with the purple hair told us to move the tables together, but she refused to listen to our reasoning. I asked her for another solution since we had 11 people about to arrive for a family reunion, and she did not have a workable solution. She pointed out smaller tables in the same room that could fit 4-6 people, and then told me to walk into the other room to see if tables were available. Based on her suggestion, I hobbled over to the other room with my broken ankle in a cast, and I looked up to see her walking so close behind me that she was almost hovering over me. I told her on a few occasions to “get away from me” since I could figure out a solution on my own. Her only suggestion was to use a table that was the same size as was available in the other room (up to 8 seats). She recommended that the other 3 people sit on a bench without a table surface to eat from. This was an unacceptable solution since were planning to eat appetizers, dinners, drinks, dessert – not just a casual gathering. As we were walking back to the original table, I told her that I wasn’t sure this place was going to work for our needs, and that I was going to write a negative review about how I was being treated, and how the Founders Tap Room was not able to accommodate large family groups based on lack of reservations and larger tables. To my extreme surprise, this is the point where she snapped. She told me that I had to leave the premise immediately. When asked, she did not provide me with any reasoning, and I am was utterly shocked since I purposely and carefully avoided yelling, use of profane language and interference with any other patrons. She told me she was going to call the police if I did not leave immediately. I have NEVER been threatened like this in over 50 years of dining at restaurants. I asked her for the name of the President since I wanted to contact him about this experience. She refused to give me that contact name, but she said she would get me a card for her District Manager, and then left. While waiting for the contact name, I walked outside to let our guests know what was going on. I walked inside and out a few times checking to see if she had returned with the business card. The last time I attempted to go inside to retrieve the card, a wait staff employee wearing a skirt who was waiting on tables outside, walked up to me and told me that I was “not allowed to enter the restaurant anymore”. When I asked him why, he provided no response to my question. I told him I was waiting for the Manager to provide a business card for me, and I continued to walk toward the door. He then pushed me, and he placed his arm across the door and across my throat. When I reached for the business card from the Manager, his arm pushed against my throat. This violent action out of line for the situation. Also, by refusing to serve our family group, Founders Tap Room refused service to someone with an obvious handicap, and persons based on age since 7 people in our party were over 40 years old, and 2 of them are over 65 years old. As I mull over the situation, I cannot arrive at any conclusion that would justify the violent treatment I received at Founders Tap Room. I took all of the necessary steps to create an excellent experience for my group who had never been to Founders before including calling in advance for reservations, arriving early to secure a large enough table, keeping an open mind for Manager to provide options (which she did not have any), and avoiding any confrontational behavior such as profane language, yelling or disrupting other patrons. The Manager and her staff acted inappropriately. This behavior is especially ridiculous when aimed at a group of church-going, family members who were far from being rowdy. The good news is that we moved our family reunion down the street to New Holland Brewery at 417 Bridge Street NW in Grand Rapids. Our group spent over $400 on appetizers, drinks, dinner and dessert, and the service and staff at this venue were excellent. They were easily able to accommodate a spacious location for our large group, and the food and drinks were both unique and tasty. We all agreed that we would both recommend and return to New Holland for a future event.

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pchchicago's picture
Founders Tap Room is NOT family friendly or able to handle large groups. On Saturday, November 24, 2018, my attempt to coordinate a family holiday gathering at Founders Brewing Tap Room at 235 Grandville Ave SW in Grand Rapids, resulted in harassment by Tap Room Manager, and assault by a wait staff employee. The day started when I called the Tap Room early to see if they would accommodate a reservation since we were bringing a larger group of 11 people that included 2 senior citizens, 4 children and someone with a broken ankle. I was informed that the Founders Tap Room that they do not accept reservations, but I was assured that at our desired arrival time of 4 pm, there would be plenty of room to accommodate our group without waiting. A few minutes before 4 pm, my husband and I arrived early to set up our seating arrangements ahead of the rest of the group. We found a larger table in the first room we entered, but it only fit 6-8 chairs. I asked a wait person with purple hair how we could arrange the table to accommodate 11 people. She told me that people usually move table and chairs together from other parts of the restaurant because that was “easier for her”. At first, her comment was offensive since she was stating that the workload of employees was more important than accommodating paying customers. Then I noticed a smaller table that had been vacated nearby that would add room for 4 more chairs. My husband and I moved the table and chairs (even with my broken ankle in a cast) next to the longer table. We arranged the chairs for 11 guests and a different wait person started setting place settings to get ready for our group. Out of nowhere, the Manager, Aimee Stevenson, arrived with a negative attitude telling us that we could not move the tables together without a valid explanation. I explained to her that her staff member with the purple hair told us to move the tables together, but she refused to listen to our reasoning. I asked her for another solution since we had 11 people about to arrive for a family reunion, and she did not have a workable solution. She pointed out smaller tables in the same room that could fit 4-6 people, and then told me to walk into the other room to see if tables were available. Based on her suggestion, I hobbled over to the other room with my broken ankle in a cast, and I looked up to see her walking so close behind me that she was almost hovering over me. I told her on a few occasions to “get away from me” since I could figure out a solution on my own. Her only suggestion was to use a table that was the same size as was available in the other room (up to 8 seats). She recommended that the other 3 people sit on a bench without a table surface to eat from. This was an unacceptable solution since were planning to eat appetizers, dinners, drinks, dessert – not just a casual gathering. As we were walking back to the original table, I told her that I wasn’t sure this place was going to work for our needs, and that I was going to write a negative review about how I was being treated, and how the Founders Tap Room was not able to accommodate large family groups based on lack of reservations and larger tables. To my extreme surprise, this is the point where she snapped. She told me that I had to leave the premise immediately. When asked, she did not provide me with any reasoning, and I am was utterly shocked since I purposely and carefully avoided yelling, use of profane language and interference with any other patrons. She told me she was going to call the police if I did not leave immediately. I have NEVER been threatened like this in over 50 years of dining at restaurants. I asked her for the name of the President since I wanted to contact him about this experience. She refused to give me that contact name, but she said she would get me a card for her District Manager, and then left. While waiting for the contact name, I walked outside to let our guests know what was going on. I walked inside and out a few times checking to see if she had returned with the business card. The last time I attempted to go inside to retrieve the card, a wait staff employee wearing a skirt who was waiting on tables outside, walked up to me and told me that I was “not allowed to enter the restaurant anymore”. When I asked him why, he provided no response to my question. I told him I was waiting for the Manager to provide a business card for me, and I continued to walk toward the door. He then pushed me, and he placed his arm across the door and across my throat. When I reached for the business card from the Manager, his arm pushed against my throat. This violent action out of line for the situation. Also, by refusing to serve our family group, Founders Tap Room refused service to someone with an obvious handicap, and persons based on age since 7 people in our party were over 40 years old, and 2 of them are over 65 years old. As I mull over the situation, I cannot arrive at any conclusion that would justify the violent treatment I received at Founders Tap Room. I took all of the necessary steps to create an excellent experience for my group who had never been to Founders before including calling in advance for reservations, arriving early to secure a large enough table, keeping an open mind for Manager to provide options (which she did not have any), and avoiding any confrontational behavior such as profane language, yelling or disrupting other patrons. The Manager and her staff acted inappropriately. This behavior is especially ridiculous when aimed at a group of church-going, family members who were far from being rowdy. The good news is that we moved our family reunion down the street to New Holland Brewery at 417 Bridge Street NW in Grand Rapids. Our group spent over $400 on appetizers, drinks, dinner and dessert, and the service and staff at this venue were excellent. They were easily able to accommodate a spacious location for our large group, and the food and drinks were both unique and tasty. We all agreed that we would both recommend and return to New Holland for a future event.

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