I recently had the pleasure of taking a tour of Founder’s Brewery. First of all, I love Founder’s beer. If you have never had it, go to the grocery store (or if you live near Grand Rapids, MI go to Founder’s) and buy some. I really like their Honey Wheat and I never say no to a pitcher of their Pale Ale.
Founder’s was founded by Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers and opened its first location in the Brassworks Building (on Monroe Ave) in 1997. The two met at Hope College and at the time there was only one brewery in Michigan: Bell’s. They both loved home brewing and finally decided that it was time to start doing what they love.
Dave was the one who gave the tour and mentioned that his Mom taught cooking lessons while he was growing up, so he had always been in the kitchen with her. He says that the kitchen work really gave him the base of how to work with flavors that he now uses in making beer.
Along with building a brewery, they added a Tap Room, which kept them afloat for a long time. But finally they said, “we need to do something different.” So they completely revised their business objective to “Its all about the liquid.”
They also started focusing on more unique beer styles, for example Scotch Ales, to entice new segments of the market. When they introduced their now popular Dirty Bastard to their investors, they were told “No way, you can’t sell that, its offensive!”, so they sent it to a beer competition and won 1st place in the Scotch Ale category. “We figure, either you fly or you fall and die. We’re gonna go down on our own terms.” Now, Founder’s is the 7th highest rated Brewery in the World and the 3rd highest rated brewery in America.
It doesn’t look like they are going to fall and die any time soon. Just less than a year ago, they moved to a new, larger location on Grandville Ave. “We had to move because we couldn’t fill all of the orders, we were only filling 50%.” Even with the new building they said that they aren’t filling 100% of the orders. Is an expansion in the workings? “Hell Yes!”
So, to sum up, Founder’s Brewery is growing by following the best business objective I can think of: by putting their product’s quality first. I highly recommend you try what they’ve been brewing.