Founders Brewing Co. has one of those great redemption stories. Two college buddies quit their jobs, take out big loans and almost go bankrupt brewing bold beers that they love, but they bounce back. The company celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2013 by releasing another beer in its avant-garde Backstage Series called Bolt Cutter. It’s a dry-hopped, malty sweet, barrel-aged barley wine, named after the bolt cutters Engbers bought in 2001, fearing the bank might chain his brewery doors shut for defaulting on loans. That same year, Founders revisited its recipe book and redefined its mission statement: Make uncompromising craft beer that they loved.
The learning process took a while. In fact, the first time Founders brewed beer, they contaminated their entire debut batch and had to recall it. Enjoy the story from co-“Founders” Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers in the video above. Because Founders didn’t have all the necessary equipment at first, the duo had to contract brew with Ambleside Brewing in Minnesota, armed only with a homebrewing background. After 18 hours of nonstop work (peeing in trough drains and showering via hot liquor tanks), they had their first batch packaged and ready to head back to Grand Rapids, Mich.
Their launch event took place at a local pub Flanagan’s on March 13. The result? “About two weeks later, we started to realize that all that shit we made at Ambleside is starting to taste like apple cider, and it’s going south, and to this date, it’s the only recall Founders has ever had,” explains Stevens in the video above.