If you’d told me a couple of years ago that Ireland’s beer community would have access to super-fresh and seriously well-priced brews from Michigan’s world-renowned Founders Brewing Co., I’d have had a right old laugh.
Founders’ gear is in serious demand: more than 20 American States still can’t get their hands on Michigan’s finest, so we’re pretty bloody lucky that five of their core range have recently landed on Irish shores.
Earlier this week, I went along to a meet-the-brewer event organised by the Irish importer of Founders, Grand Cru Beers, at Dublin’s beer haven, Against the Grain. I arrived thinking, Christ, Michigan to Wexford Street is a fair old round trip for a Thursday night beer event. But, in typical ‘it’s a small world’ fashion, Niall (one of Founders’ brewing team) is a Drogheda native who was back in the old country on his holidays and gladly accepted the invitation to come and chat about his beers. Bloody small world, eh?
Niall took us through a guided tasting of the five brews we’ve just received here in Dublin: All Day IPA, Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Centennial IPA, Founders Porter, and the wonderfully named Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.
All Day IPA was the pick of the bunch for me (and for at least half of the other beer-heads in attendance) – light bodied and crisp but full of sweet mango, tangerine, and lightly pithy grapefruit. It’s rare to find a beer of just 4.7% ABV (the weakest brew Founders have ever produced) with this amount of bright hop character. Some folks were airing criticisms about it being unbalanced and a bit thin – aye, they’re right, but that’s what it’s meant to be. It’s a light hop-bomb of a lawnmower beer – an uncomplicated refresher that gives hop-heads a lupulin hit without having to commit themselves to sinking a few 8%-ers.
One of the main themes of Niall’s talk was the importance of freshness to their hoppy beers. Both he and Wally from Grand Cru repeatedly stated how committed both parties are to getting the beers to the Irish drinker in the best possible condition: in fact, Founders insisted that Grand Cru transported their beers the entire way from Grand Rapids to Dublin in a refrigerated container; in Wally’s own words, ‘it’s bloody expensive, but totally worth it’. So, on the day these brews arrived on our shores, they were only 4 weeks old…that’s pretty damn fresh in anyone’s book. All Day IPA is probably the main beneficiary of this costly method of importation: the freshness of the hops literally assaults you as soon as you pop the cap, it’s so bloody juicy in this condition. Give it another three months in the bottle and you’ll be drinking a far inferior product, believe me.
Centennial IPA gave a big, thick and pine-resiny hop hit with more of a caramel malt backing than I usually like – it’s a great brew though, and fans of more malt-balanced IPAs will have a field day. Founders Porter is a real touch of class: full bodied and decadent, with lashings of wonderfully deep dark chocolate, roasted malt, coffee, and some earthy hop bitterness to finish. If you’re into sweet caramel stuff, then Dirty Bastard may well be for you: it’s rich and full of sugary toffee, with some lightly toasted and subtle smokey notes to finish. Certainly packs a bit of a punch at 8.5% ABV…I’d not be recommending this as a lawnmower beer to be fair.
You’ll pick up the Founders range in your local good-beer bottle shop for some seriously fair prices: most of the brews are going for three quid or less. Given the quality, price, and current level of freshness, you’d be absolutely daft to be drinking anything else over the next week or two.