Further to our recent post announcing our plans for an upcoming Michigan brewery tour we packed the car and headed out on Interstate 80 westbound from Central Pennsylvania, via Cleveland & Toledo in Ohio, then past Detroit & Lansing in Michigan towards our first destination of Grand Rapids. The weather in PA was intermittent rain showers but Ohio gave us some optimism that the sun may make periodic appearances on our trip. By the time we reached the Michigan border the clouds had parted and the temperature was heading into the late 70’s (deg F).
After posting on an existing thread on HomeBrewTalk.com we received various suggestions regarding other breweries we might like to visit and a popular suggestion included Brewery Vivant which was a 6 mile cab ride from our hotel. The outside of the brewpub had an Abbey style appearance and inside was busy but we were able to secure a table instantly.
The food menu had plenty of choice so we opted for the Mussels and Duck Nachos – both excellent. We also embarked upon three samplers.
Sampler #1 (the spare glass was a duplicate pour of Big Red Coq):
- Farm Hand farmhouse ale – 5.5% (front left)
- Triomphe belgian style IPA – 6.5% (back left)*
- Solitude abbey style ale – 6.5% (front right)
- Big Red Coq hoppy belgo-american red ale – 6.0% (back right)*
- Tripel belgian tripel – 8.25% (front left)
- Zaison saison – 9.0% (back left)
- The Abyss Jack Daniel’s barrel aged Midnight Wheat – 6.6% (front right)*
- Tart Side of the Moon dark farmhouse – 9.8% (back right)
- Barrel-aged Menage a Trois wood aged beer – 6.0% (front left)
- Nitro Stout american stout – 4.8% (back left)
- Helter Spelter spelt ale – 5.2% (front right)
- Midnight Wheat black wheat ale – 6.6% (back right)*
* our favourite(s) from each sampler.
Founders Brewing Company
The following morning we headed to our pre-booked tour at Founders Brewing Company which was necessary because if we had just turned up then we would have found all the tours that day full so book in advance is our advice… We had kindly been advised via email that the brewery is currently undergoing major expansion and that more parking is available at the rear of the brewery – great communications!
By noon the tap house part of the brewery was already very busy and we understand from various online forums that on an evening it can be packed out – luckily as part of the expansion a second bar is being added plus a beer garden out front so that should help improve capacity.
Whilst waiting for our tour to begin we sampled the Oatmeal Stout on Nitro and the Porter which both went down well. Prior to beginning the tour we had to sign personal waivers and put booties on over our shoes for cleanliness as well as eye protectors. Photos were invited but not for instrument panels, clip boards etc. Also a DO NOT Touch policy is in place. Apart from that we were free to quiz the tour guides at will.
First we were shown the original 30 barrel systems which Founders had out grown, they also had a 3.5 barrel test batch system on show which had the logo engraved on the shiny stainless steel. After this we were then shown the 2 x 85 barrel brew house from Krones AG in Germany which was huge and shows how much Founders have grown!
Next we went past the Lab and Coffee Grinders and opposite was an automated Keg Washer together with some of the $3m stainless steel kegs (40,000 units) which have recently been invested in. There were also pallets of bottles and cans with the latter waiting for the new Canning Line which will start with the Centennial IPA.
In the next section of the brewery was the bottling line which was frantically running and noisy. This was very interesting to watch the automated washing, rinsing, filling, capping and labelling before being put onto pallets.
The last two rooms contained numerous large dual-skinned fermenters with conical bottoms for yeast extraction and bright tanks with domed bottoms to allow the beer to settle out and clear. The dual skins allow glycol cooling of the fermenters to control fermentation temperature depending on the yeast type and beer style.
At the end of the tour we were presented with a Founders beer glass, sticker, business cards and voucher for a beer. The Beer Infinity crew opted for:
- Oatmeal Stout on Nitro – 4.5%
- Red’s Rye PA (Pale Ale) – 6.6%
- Porter – 6.5%
Below are some video shots taken of the bottling line at Founders Brewing: