We Took a Road Trip to Founders Brewing Company

Plus beer events brewing this week in Milwaukee.

A Trip to Founders Brewing
I’ve been fortunate to attend some great beer events, but I’ve never been to a big release party – no Dark Lord Day, no Central Waters Anniversary, not even Lakefront’s Black Friday. That, and the fact that I’m a big fan of Founders Brewing Company, was why I was thrilled to make the trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Saturday for the taproom draft release party of KBS Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout.

The party was free (tickets for a KBS allotment to take home were sold a few weeks earlier) and at noon the line to get in stretched around the block. Once inside, it was hard not to be wowed by the massive taproom that resides on the edge of downtown. A vaulted ceiling adds to the spacious feel of the main beer hall. Despite the brisk weather, the adjacent beer garden was packed with revelers warmed by plenty of gas heaters.

Photo courtesy of Founders Brewing Co

I got my ample pour of 2017 KBS (the 2015 and 2016 batches were also available) and found a space next to the small Brass Works Bar in a quieter corner of the taproom. The festive scene was one worth taking in, with hundreds of friendly beer drinkers of all ages enjoying the artistry of Founders.

After my time in the taproom, I made my way to the KBS pick-up area around the corner. There was no line, and I quickly snagged the pair of four-packs and two bombers of KBS – a decidedly generous amount – that I paid for ahead of time.

I need to make another trip to Founders, on a day when it’s not quite so crazy. But the experience last Saturday was fun and friendly – just the way any big beer event should be. Cheers to the good folks at Founders.

Barley Pop of the Week
I really have to choose KBS for this week, don’t I? I’m a big fan of this barrel-aged beer largely because it isn’t overpoweringly sweet. The bourbon booziness is there and accompanies nicely balanced dark chocolate and coffee flavors. The dark chocolate provides a nice, slightly bitter finish. There’s a reason why rating sites like Beer Advocate and Rate Beer give KBS a perfect 100. This year’s version is just another example of excellence.

Quick Taps
Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers announced the Wisconsin beers being served at Miller Park’s new Local Brews bar. Props to The Crew for including lots of new breweries including Third Space, Raised Grain and Good City. Check out the beer list. 

Good City Brewing’s outstanding Reward IIPA earned some big time praise by winning the National IPA Competition put on by Brewing News. The field included big names like Great Lakes, Melvin and Alpine. Reward topped Hype Machine IIPA by Denver’s Comrade Brewing in the finals. I mentioned a few weeks ago how much I like Reward, largely due to the fact that it’s got some resin to it, something the trend toward fruity IPAs leaves out. The brew also earned high praise from beer guru Tom “Grynder” Ciula in his newsletter last week and that means something.

Boulevard Brewing starts distribution in Wisconsin on April 3. The outfit from Kansas City, owned by Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat, makes some great stuff, adding more tough decisions for craft beer fans when they’re in the beer aisle.

Three Cellars closes its original Franklin location on March 18 and heads to 7228 S. 27th St. for a reopening on March 31.

Three Floyds Dark Lord Day tickets go on sale March 18. The debauchery takes place on May 13. Good luck.


Tuesday, March 14
* Quite a few area establishments are getting a keg of “24-hour fresh” Tyranena Hop Whore IIPA. The delicious brew is being kegged on Monday, and then tapped on Tuesday. It’s as fresh as it gets from an imperial IPA. Check out the list of where it will be.


Wednesday, March 15
* 3 Sheeps Brewing pays a visit to Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.), and the brewery is bringing treats like Paid Time Off, a delicious imperial black wheat ale.

*Blackfinn Ameripub (95 N. Moorland Rd.) celebrates its first anniversary by tapping eight standout brews from 3 to 9 p.m. Surly Darkness, Founders Lizard of Koz, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, Bell’s Hopslam, Goose Island Hombre Tropico, New Glarus Enigma and TBD Central Waters and MKE Brewing beers are all slated to make an appearance. A $10 ticket gets you in the door and one of the special beers.

* The Brass Tap (7808 W. Layton Ave.) pairs Girl Scout cookies with brews. Try four cookies with four beers for $15.


Thursday, March 16
*Champps Americana (1240 S. Moorland Rd.) always taps some great brews for the NCAA basketball tournament each year. Secure a barstool by getting to Champps when it opens (10 a.m. on Thursday and 9 a.m. on Friday). 

*Sugar Maple (441 E. Lincoln Ave.) hosts a scavenger hunt from 6 to 9 p.m. in and around the bar for a chance to win Founders Brewing and Sugar Maple schwag. Oh, and they’ll also have six Founders beers on tap, including Backwoods Bastard Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale and the new Frootwood Barrel-Aged Cherry Ale.


Friday, March 17
*It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so raise a glass at whatever establishment you prefer. Just please, don’t drink green beer. It’s not a good look.


Saturday, March 18
*“Beers to convert Miller drinkers” is the subject of the weekly sampling at both Three Cellars locations (7133 S. 76th St., Franklin; N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls) from 1 to 4 p.m.


Sunday, March 19
*The Malt Shoppe (813 N. Mayfair Rd.) hosts its monthly bottle share at 5:30 p.m.  The theme is beer with a number in it. So figure out a way to spin that theme and bring a couple of small bottles or a bomber, and some snacks. 



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.