In search of a good barrel aged beer
Justin and I took a road trip yesterday to Grand Rapids, only two hours from metro Detroit. Our destination was the very popular beer release hosted by Founders Brewing Company. The brewery’s release of its Kentucky Breakfast Stout (or KBS), a barrel aged stout, has grown exponentially in recent years, prompting the creation of “KBS Week,” use of online ticketing, limited distribution and structured pick up times. It’s pretty crazy (and pretty cool if you’re the owner of Founders!). But we were lucky enough to score two of the tickets that sold out online in less than 30 minutes.
KBS is a stout beer aged in oak bourbon barrels (supposedly for a year in caves underneath Grand Rapids). Honestly, the first time I tasted it I didn’t love it. I like a lighter beer, such as a wheat or Belgian wit. But I like it more each time I try it (it has hints of coffee and chocolate). My favorite Founders’ beers are Rubaeus and Cherise (sadly Cherise is no longer produced). Regardless of what I think, KBS is a very well-liked, popular beer with craft beer enthusiasts. It reminds me of a beer you’d enjoy on the deck while relaxing with family and friends. A slow sipping, good conversation beer. If you enjoy beer, you know what I’m talking about.
Grand Rapids is only two hours from our home so we decided to do a day trip. We’ve explored the Frederick Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Gerald Ford Presidential Museum during past visits. There are a few other sites I’d like to visit but they’re more for warmer weather and sadly Michigan is not experiencing warm weather this spring.
We arrived at Founders in early afternoon. The brewery had plenty of signage around the property so we knew where to pick up our bottles. I wanted to visit the store to pick up some pint glasses for our brother-in-law and us but the line was SO.LONG. Founders did a tap release of KBS yesterday morning so people from all over were there to experience it. Seriously, it was at least a 40 minute wait just to get inside the taproom, then we would have had to stand in line for a drink and/or to get inside the store. Crazy! I enjoyed seeing their success – it’s a testament to the great product they produce but also to the creative marketing strategies they are using, both traditional and online. Since I do PR/marketing for a living, I always enjoy seeing various tactics in play (and successful!).
So once we purchased our beers, we decided to head to HopCat for dinner. Founders does have a food menu with good options. We’ve eaten there in the past but it was so crowded yesterday that we opted for a different location. Founders has a ‘seat yourself’ policy, which works when it’s not very crowded. Otherwise, it gives me anxiety – people hovering near tables, watching diners eat, then looking around to make sure no one else is going to take the newly available table. No, been there done that. Not for me.
We’ve been to HopCat once before for dinner, and there is rumor a HopCat will be built in downtown Detroit. The restaurant offers more than 40 craft beers and a variety of food. It’s located in downtown Grand Rapids so is always busy (but wait times haven’t been too long when we went) and has plenty of foot traffic walking by (great people watching when sitting by the windows!). There is something about the ambiance, friendly staff, patrons, food and beer that make this place a favorite of mine. If the location in Detroit does come to fruition, I hope it offers the same welcoming atmosphere.