On February 24th we opened our doors for our first tasting event featuring brews from Founder's Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The tasting featured a range of their full-bodied, full-flavoured beers including: PC Pils, All-Day IPA, Azacca IPA, Dirty Bastard, KBS, and Lizard of Koz. The crowd favourite was the KBS, or Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which came as no surprise. In this post I share my thoughts on these brews as well as some of the things I learned about Founder's Brewing in preparation for the tasting.
Founder's started making beer in 1997 officially and was the brainchild of Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers. As their story goes, they quit their jobs to open a brewery that initially was making balanced, yet unremarkable beers. After nearly going bankrupt they decided to take a risk by brewing much "bigger" beers that they preferred - not just what they thought people wanted. The result was a line-up that remains popular to this day with some of their most recognisable brands such as: Dirty Bastard scotch ale, All-Day IPA, Centennial IPA, Breakfast Stout, KBS, and Rubaeus raspberry ale.
Of the six selected beers I went with a combination of three hop-forward beers and three malt-forward beers. Beginning with the hop-forward, we started with the PC Pils which takes the base of a traditional pilsner and combines it with the aroma and flavor of American hops. They used Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops which give it a pleasant floral and slightly piney nose and lingering bitterness. This beer was received quite well from the attendees and I really like it as an alternative to the sometimes harsh flavor of a more typical german pilsner. It's a seasonal beer for Founder's, released at the end of the summer/beginning of fall. I think Hong Kong could use this beer much earlier in the year!
Next was the All-Day IPA which really never gets old to me. They call it a "session ale" since "session IPA" is kind of a misnomer now due to the overlap with pale ale and session IPA in beer style categorisation. This beer is an easy drinker with plenty of aroma and flavor that I like to pair with just about any meal that I'm eating. It's also serves as a nice introduction to the IPA style without the West-Coast IPA style that can be overpowering for those that are new to craft beer.
The third beer in the tasting is a new one to me. The Azacca IPA, named after the primary hop that was used has more of a caramel-malt backbone than the All-Day and resembled more of the Founder's style of strong aroma and full-flavored beers. The Azacca hop, a dwarf variety grown in the USA, has a tropical fruit character, although not as strong as those found in New Zealand. I found the beer to be not quite as harsh as the Centennial IPA, which carries that West-Coast style. The late additions and dry-hopping were not as noticeable as in the All-Day.
After finishing the hop-forward beers we moved on to Dirty Bastard, the scotch ale/wee heavy. I normally find this beer to be too intense in terms of booze and malt flavor but it is regarded as a nice representation of the style and many of the attendees appreciated the caramel malt on display.
The Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an aged version of an already-delicious Breakfast Stout that is brewed with oats, coffee, and chocolate. The bourbon barrels infuse a noticeable amount of whiskey flavor to the beer, which retains the smooth mouthfeel from the oats and the rich chocolate and coffee notes that make it almost dessert-like. There is certainly a reason why this beer goes so quickly after being released.
Last in the tasting, and unfortunately also the least according to most attendees, was the Lizard of Koz. The head brewer's last name is Kosmicki and he reportedly wanted to make a beer inspired by his sister who apparently loves blueberries. He put together a barrel-aged imperial stout with blueberries, chocolate and vanilla that can certainly be described as "different". One taster was reminded of a "blend of red wine and stout". The sweet, juicy blueberry notes couldn't be missed and I could see the comparison with red wine. It's an interesting beer for a conversation starter but I can't say that I'd buy it again.
If you missed out on February's Founder's tasting, then maybe you can join us for the March tasting event, featuring beers from Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits. They are relatively new to Hong Kong so this would be a nice way to be introduced to this established brewery.