I must admit that I had some pretty grand blogging plans for my current trip to the United States. I had intended to write at least weekly on my various explorations of American craft beer. As you can see though, these intentions have mostly gone unfulfilled. The biggest problem has been reliable internet access. For the majority of our time in the States, we have stayed with family who live in rural Ohio where internet connectivity is extremely problematic. This has meant that most of my internet time has had to come through brief visits to the local Mcdonald’s.
Don’t let my lack of blogging give the impression that I have not been pursuing my beer passions while in the US. Far from it! In fact, I have had some pretty awesome experiences that have included some pretty amazing brews. So, I thought that I would at least throw out a brief post sharing my run in with a rather famous brewery from here in the Midwest. This brewing operation was not on my original brewing “must taste” list, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to sample some of these beers. During a recent excursion to a highly rated beer store in Dayton, Ohio, I had the good fortune to acquire a few bottles – including a hard-to-find brew – from the Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I knew that Founders had a sterling reputation among craft beer enthusiasts here in the States. Much of their rise to predominance is vaguely familiar in terms of craft breweries. Like so many other outfits in the US, Founders was started in the 1990s by a couple of homebrewers with an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit. After many years of unimaginative brewing, the company was stagnate and on the verge of bankruptcy. At this point, the two partners, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, decided to change their strategy. Instead of making what they called “well-balanced but unremarkable beers”, they followed their hearts and began brewing beer they would enjoy – brews with complexity, flavor, and depth of character. This marked the beginning of Founders’ rise to one of the most esteemed breweries in the world.
As I mentioned above, I stopped by a well-known beer outlet during our stay in Dayton, Ohio. Browsing through their selection, I came across a few shelves stocked with Founders beer. Seeing their offerings, I was reminded that Founders had just recently released their Kentucky Breakfast Stout – a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout that is released in limited amounts once a year to much fanfare. I figured it was a long shot, but I asked the employee stocking the shelves whether they had any bottles of KBS left in stock. She flashed a doubtful look and said she would check behind the counter. After a quick glance, she let me know that they had sold out. Much to my surprise though, she then offered to give up a bottle from her personal stash and allow me to purchase it through the store! So, I left that afternoon with a bottle of KBS as well as a few other offerings from Founders.
So, what about that beer? This beauty poured a pure, deep black with creamy, beige head. The aroma is coffee and licorice filled my nose. Taste was something spectacular! There was amazingly smooth and complex with flavors of coffee, chocolate, and bourbon alcohol. On top of that, I found a nice lactose sweetness on the tail end that made it seem like for a split second you were drinking chocolate milk. The mouthfeel was amazing – smooth and creamy, not overly viscous, just perfect. This is truly one of the best beers out there. Thank you lady from Belmont Party Supply!
I pick up a few other Founders beers that afternoon, but the one other brew I wanted to share here was their take on the classic Porter. Aside from the Baltic Porter I had while visiting Three Floyds, I have never had the pleasure of trying a Porter before. I must say, that if all Porters are anything like this offering from Founders, I am hooked! The appearance of the Founders version was a solid black color with medium, beige head. The nose was sweet with roasted malts, coffee and some toffee. And, boy did it taste good – amazingly delicate and complex with dark chocolate and coffee dominant but notes of roasted grains. The real strength of this beer was its hop profile – perfectly balanced with the malty sweetness. It had a pleasant hop grassy and spicy hop notes that’s not overly bitter, which, combined with a nice medium body and creamy texture, was great on the palate. Unlike Imperial Stouts, the real flavors of Porters are not overwhelmed by a heavy body, high alcohol, and huge malt bill. The delicacy and balance have really sold me on this style of brewing.
Well, that’s a quick update on my ongoing introduction to American craft beer. So far, it’s been an awesome experience. My only heartache comes from the fact that there is so much to sample. The more that I try, the more excited I get about the American craft brewing scene. I’m slowly becoming convinced that the good ol’ US of A is brewing the best beer in the world right now. It’s a great time to be a craft beer lover in America.