Brett And The Beer Factory (A Founders Black Party Tale)

Ten golden e-tickets.  That was the reward offered by Founders Brewing Company to winners of their #BringMetoBlackParty contest where loyal fans were asked to write brief essays about how Founders has impacted their lives.  My golden ticket arrived via email on an idle Sunday night, just a few short weeks ago.  It was what I’d been pining for, but never expected.  My essay had been selected out of a pool of over 2,000 entries as one of ten winners.  The Prize? To attend the prestigious Founders Black Party.  And to top it off, Founders offered to fly in my friend about whom I had written the essay.  When I called him, he screamed.  Then I told him why I was calling.  He screamed again.

A mysterious festival, Black Party is an annual celebration of creators Dave Engbers’ and Mike Stevens’ return from the wilderness.   Years earlier, they had ventured deep into the dark heart of a Michigan forest; a quest to find The Lost City Of Beer and the magical hops said to grow there.  A year later, local papers would report that the two Founders had returned and the Lost City of Beer had remained just that: lost.

But the two founders had not returned empty handed, and a short time later a Dirty Bastard was born.  The Lost City of Beer had eluded them, but there had been truth in the legends:  an ancient Beer-Master Order named the Hoppa Loppa.   The Hoppa Loppa’s are a curious people, whose sole unifying trait is their passion for perfect beer brewing (many of the males could also be characterized by their very large, rustic beards, used to attracts females, like the plumes on a peacock).  The founders quickly hired on this unique and unrivaled talent and brought them back to the Founders Brewery where together they set to work building an empire.

With Golden Tickets in hand, the lucky winners were invited to tour the brewery the day before Black Party.  It was a marvelous sight to behold.  Never before have I seen a facility so utterly spotless and meticulously maintained as the Founders Brewery.  Colossal shining vats created a dazzling labyrinth, while stainless steel pipes wound endlessly between them like the mechanical veins of some robot giant.  The fragrance of hops and malts twisted through the air, hitting the nostrils in delightful intervals.  The Hoppa Loppa’s were scattered everywhere.  Each man and woman serving a crucial and irreplaceable role in an incredibly intricate system.  They worked tirelessly, their focus never waning, yet each one smiled and greeted us warmly as we did our best to stay out of the way.

Their efficiency was showcased again as we approached the “barrel aging area” where droves of Hoppa Loppa’s filled miles of spent oak, whiskey barrels with gallons upon gallons of their delicious brews.  The scene was hypnotic; the Hoppa Loppa’s beating in time on the whiskey barrel corks, like the rhythmic rowing of  ancient Greek warships.  They sang tales of caution to us as they worked:

“Hopp-a Lopp-a, dop-et-dee-dop,

We drank a little, beer off the top.

If you were smart, you’d listen to me.

Don’t drink on this tour, there’s no break to pee.

 

Hopp-a Lopp-a, dop-et-dee dap,

Always look at, what is on tap.

If you get blitzed and cannot see clear,

You could fall down, in the river of beer.”

After our tour ended and we fished my friend, Micah, from the Imperial Stout River in which he nearly drowned, we were treated to a private tasting, the likes of which many will never get to experience.  Straight from the aging barrel, we tried beers (pre carbonated even) that hadn’t hit the market yet.  One beer we tried was still considered top secret and we were sworn to silence.  I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but it was a {*REDACTED*} beer, aged in {*REDACTED*} barrels and it was delicious.  So keep your eye out for it!  All tour-goers were also presented with a unique present; an alteration of Founders’ signature All Day IPA called “Everlasting IPA” which was served in a can that perpetually fills itself and never runs dry.  

Our day ended with dinner alongside the Founders, Dave and Mike.  There was an aura about these two men; a radiating joy.  Their faces etched with knowing smiles (Note: “Perma-smile” is a serious medical condition brought upon by doing something awesome with your life).  They didn’t need to find the Lost City of Beer; they had created their own.  And though they didn’t find magical hops, they did discover the secret to great beer; which is great people.  And when you can share that great beer with great friends, well, that’s something else entirely.   

Long story short, Mike and Dave tossed me the keys to the brewery, named me their heir apparent and sent me flying over Grand Rapids in a glass elevator.  Wait.  No. They hid my keys, told me apparently I’d had too many beers, and sent me flying across Grand Rapids in an Uber.  The night was a little fuzzy by that point.

A sincere thank you to all of the members of the Founders family for making last weekend one we’ll never forget.  I think I can safely speak for the group of #BringMetoBlackParty winners when I say that you’ve created twenty lifelong advocates for your brand.  Your passion for what you do is apparent not only in the beer you produce, but the community you inspire.  Thank you from the beer enthusiasts, the hopeless romantics, the police, the vikings, and the veterans.  Thank you for the beer that brings us together.  Brewed for us. (Cue Judd Nelson doing a fist pump and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”)

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