Founders Brewing Company Marks its 15th Anniversary

1:42 AM, Nov 18, 2012   |    comments
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  • Founders Brewing Company, which came in at No. 4, is currently expanding its Grand Rapids facility.

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) --  It's been a rollercoaster ride of sorts for Founders Brewing Company.

Saturday, the second largest beer maker  in the state celebrated its 15th anniversary. Founders beer is now on tap in 23 states, making it the 42nd largest beer maker in America.

"We've gone from 5,000 barrels of annual output to next year potentially 140,000 barrels," said Founders CEO and President Mike Stevens.

That's in just five years. The beer business that Stevens co-founded with Dave Engbers 15 years ago almost didn't make it.

"I remember sitting there over beers at the table and you're frustrated, you're contemplating bankruptcy," says Stevens.
He says his company tried to appeal to too many people.  When they started focusing on niche beers, the number of customers grew and the need for expansion began.

"They have good beer, good staff, it's fun, they make beer fun," says longtime customer Patrick Van Bree. "And they remember you," adds Sarah Van Bree.

Founders moved into its current facility on Grandville Avenue in 2007.

"When they first brought me into this building, and it was a big, vacant building, I looked at them and I was like 'Are you nuts? How are we going to fill this place up?'" said Nicolas James Thomasma, who has worked for Founders for seven years.

Since then, the building has expanded four more times. Now people across the country visit Founders for a beer.

"That's amazing, that's a pretty powerful thing, it's something I never would have expected to happen," says Stevens.

Stevens hopes to expand Founders products to a few more states in 2013.  The brewery is also breaking ground on a project that will add cellar space.


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