Any student of philosophy is certain to encounter a discussion on one of the most far- reaching debates in the history of humankind and one that still remains unanswered: The belief in a supernatural being. The ontological argument takes the position that, once we realize the greatest possible being in our minds, then we have defined a God that must exist in reality. The cosmological argument posits that everything depends on something else for its existence and therefore there had to be one being that started it all, namely God. The teleological argument says that the universe is loaded with things that are extremely complex and ordered and that only a supernatural being could have created them.
I’ve read and studied all of these arguments for the existence of God and while each has its individual merits, I’ve found one that easily beats them all. It’s the Great Beer Now Intensely Palatable Fermentation argument and its premises are based on the fact that some breweries produce beer of such amazing distinction, such other worldly character, and such stupendously complex and delicious flavors that they could never have been contrived by mere mortals. And the best affirmative example of the Intensely Palatable Fermentation argument is Founders Brewing, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I visited Founders Brewing as part of the Great Beer Now Grand Rapids Michigan Brewery tour of 2017 but I didn’t save Founders for last. With my deep affection for this world class operation and curious nature to see divinity in action, there was no way I could wait that long. Founders Brewing was only a short walk away from my downtown hotel and my desire to discover definitive proof of God’s existence meant I had to get to Founders Brewing immediately, if not sooner.
Walking inside Founders Brewing for the first time was akin to entering the Sistine Chapel or the Mahabodhi Temple. I felt like I was walking on sacred ground; my body fully attuned to the sights, sounds, and scents surrounding my being. But before I ventured far beyond the pearly gates, I was greeted by Jeremy Kosmicki, Founders head brewer and one of the people responsible for creating so many memorable malt beverages during his dozen or so years at the brewing helm. I chatted at length with Jeremy about Founders Brewing, outdated state laws, craft beer acquisitions, and much more. Here are my questions followed by Jeremy’s response to each:
Founders Brewing has been around for almost 20 years. What, if anything, has changed in terms of brewing philosophy during that time?
“Founders started out brewing a standard lineup of beer. We brewed a lineup of styles popular at the time but the brewery was not doing all that well and we were not satisfied. Then, the founders of the brewery (Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers) decided a change was needed. We then moved on to creating bolder, complex beer with more flavor.”
Craft beer acquisitions by Anheuser- Busch InBev, Heineken, and others have sent shockwaves through the craft beer community. How has the reaction been from Founders fans now that the deal with Spanish brewer Mahau San Miguel (not a full acquisition, of course- only a partial equity deal) is almost three years old? Does the issue still get raised or do people seem okay with it?
“Well, a lot of people were worried at first. They worried that the beer would change for the worse, but in fact, the partnership has had no negative impact. It’s a cool arrangement. Had it been Anheuser- Busch In-Bev, people would have been even more worried. But Mahau San Miguel isn’t well known and that helped ease the concerns.”
Many states have outdated, anti- beer or alcohol laws still on the books. What Michigan beer or brewery law is the most troublesome?
“The laws in Michigan aren’t too bad but one problem that comes to mind is the limit on self- distribution. Michigan caps this at 1,000 barrels annually.”
What steps does Founders Brewing take to remain as environmentally friendly as possible?
“Founders Brewing is involved in several areas. We work to cut landfill waste when we can. We have a composting and recycling plan to help reduce waste.”
Founders barrel- aged beers are highly anticipated and highly acclaimed. The barrel aged series uses bourbon barrels, but does Founders have plans to introduce other barrels (rum, gin, wine, etc) into its barrel aged series?
“Bourbon barrels are popular because they are used only once by distilleries, making it easy to get them. Founders does use other barrels, like rum, gin, tequila, and scotch, but these are used only for locally available beer so far. This may spread further in the future.”
IPA have ruled the craft beer scene for some time. Do you think IPA has reached its peak?
“I don’t think IPA will go away anytime soon. But there will be further evolution of the IPA style. More hop varieties are being developed. I like coming up with new styles and these new hops will make it easy to develop even more IPA variations”.
Outsiders like me love Founders Brewing for the beer, but we know that a large part of craft brewing is community involvement. What specific involvement does Founders have in the Grand Rapids area?
“One cause we support directly is the White Water Initiative. It revolves around the Grand River and outdoor activity. Founders supports many other community causes, too- no one cause receives all of the attention.”
I have already familiarized myself with Founders beer, trying every last bottle or can I’m able to find in my home state of Texas and grabbing samples of Founders beer at festivals. Since I was at the actual brewery, I knew this would be an excellent opportunity to try beer that I could not otherwise sample. I managed a few of these hard to find brews, plus a small serving or two of some of my all- time Founders faves. Here is a list of what I tried, in alphabetical order, followed by the style and my Untappd rating for each on a 5 point scale:
- Barrel Aged Sumatra Mountain Brown, Brown Ale, 5
- Centennial IPA, American IPA, 4.75
- Mosaic Promise, Pale Ale, 4.25
- Palm Reader, Pale Ale, 3.75
- PC Pils, American pilsner, 4
- Porter, American porter, 4.5
Overall average rating: 4.38
Centennial IPA, Founders Porter, and PC Pils I had tried before, but the other three were brand new to my taste buds. Among them, the Barrel Aged Sumatra Mountain Brown Ale was beyond belief in its deliciousness. As I sipped on this sacred nectar, I imagined a state of Earthly nirvana where this barrel- aged beauty was continuously fed into my mouth at the push of a button, for all of eternity.
Founders Brewing is arguably the greatest brewery in the world and it is rightfully held in high esteem by those in the industry and by craft beer fans who are already jonesing for the next release of Founders KBS Stout. I, too, share these sentiments and I was extremely excited when I learned I would be visiting the great city of Grand Rapids, Michigan and touring this exalted place of malt beverage consecration.
My interview with head brewer Jeremy Kosmicki was an excellent way to learn a little more about Founders Brewing and Jeremy’s own role in brewing such incredible examples of what craft beer can and should be. Once the interview was complete, I took a tour of the brewery and got to witness first- hand the amazing facility that produces the 400,000+ barrels of beer. One thing I really liked about the tour is that the walkway for the guests is above the level of the brewery, on a cat walk. This is quite different from other breweries, most of which take you on a tour through the brewhouse on the main level, on the same ground frequented by brewers and other employees. The catwalk method is not only safer, it also makes for some cool photo opportunities. It is like touring a massive manufacturing plant, watching employees hard at work as you gaze down upon the action below.
Founders Brewing is not only large in terms of its production and brewing system, it is also large and spacious for guests. There is a bar/tasting area that can hold a couple hundred people plus an outdoor patio. I like, too, how the guests taking the tour have their own place to sample beer, upstairs, away from other customers. This is a smart idea because it better ensures that everyone gets served in an efficient manner and that overcrowding doesn’t become too great of a concern.
One of the many pleasant surprises I discovered at Founders is that they also serve delicious food. Sandwiches, pizza, and salads are the mainstays of the menu and, as you might have predicted, the food matches up quite nicely with the beer. I ordered the cheesesteak and immediately fell in love, as it was not only amazing all by itself, but also an unmistakably perfect match with the beer.
Founders Brewing is living proof of the divine and now that I have directly witnessed the actual place where some of the world’s best beer is brewed and met some of the personnel responsible for brewing and serving Founders to the public, I more fully understand what it must have felt like to discover the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Pontius Pilate Inscription. Philosophers will continue to debate the merits of the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments and I doubt they will ever come to a consensus agreement. For me, I will stick with what I think is the best proof of God’s existence, the Great Beer Now Intensely Palatable Fermentation argument. Founders Brewing offers definitive evidence of divine intervention, and those who visit are all but guaranteed to come away from the experience as changed individuals with completely different outlooks on the meaning of life. Pay a visit to Founders Brewing the next time you’re in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. And tell them Great Beer Now sent you.