Back in 2006, we visited my wife’s family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the intention of showing her side of the family our new baby daughter. Like all good newborn parents-travelers, our trips seem to unfold like a well-written sitcom. There’s plot A: us going through the motions of visiting family, with all of its small talk about Wolverine football and home-hunted venison nacho dip casserole, and plot B, where we hand the baby off to the nearest family member and explore the local food, beer, and touristy sites. On that particular vacation, both plots crossed paths in the best ways possible. I fell in love with a beer.
At a multi-floor brick building called HopCat, I had my first taste of a whiskey barrel aged beer, Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders, a local Grand Rapids brewery I’d never heard of. The beer, now called KBS, I knew nothing about it other than it was pricey for what I got, but after seeing the 11 percent ABV heft, said, “why not, I’m on vacation.” I recall the bartender telling me to let it warm up a bit to get all of the flavors, which I did, cuddling the glass patiently. Goosebumps followed on my first sip, with notes of fresh coffee, burnt marshmallow, Tootsie Rolls, toffee, and vanilla unloading into my olfactory. It was intense and unforgettable.
At the time, Founders didn’t distribute into California, and every year the thought of visiting my Michigan in-laws became more of a suggestion than anything. until this past year when the brewery made a huge announcement, “We’re coming to Orange County, and YES there will be KBS!” The brewery’s first initial distribution in 2016 came and went like a flash, but this year, I saw KBS on a local liquor store shelf, purchased a couple bottles, and drove home and poured the first bottle. It was fun reminiscing about that trip and how much has changed over the last 10 years. If you can find a bottle, I highly recommend pairing it with friends or family, with the possibility of unlocking great memories in the future.
Look for Founders beer at Hi-Time Wine Cellar, Hollingshead’s Deli, Provisions Market (on tap Wednesday, April 19th at their Roast & Smoke event), or wherever fine craft beer is sold.