It takes some cojones to quit a steady job and chase your dream of opening a brewery, but that’s just what Founders Brewing Company co-owners Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers did in 1997. Initially they brewed balanced, but unremarkable beers and they nearly went bankrupt. When they switched it up and made the complex and assertive beers they loved, Founders became one of the most successful and well respected craft breweries in the US. Based in Grand Rapids, MI Founders Brewing Company now ships their beers to 25 states. Founders is best known for their hop forward IPAs and their complex malty stouts. While the most well known Founders stout is probably their Breakfast Stout (and the bourbon-barrel aged Kentucky Breakfast Stout), Founders also makes a highly sought after Imperial Stout as a winter seasonal. Founders Imperial Stout is brewed with ten different varieties of malt, with the goal of producing a complex but drinkable brew.
Founders Imperial Stout pours almost pitch black, as viscous as motor oil with a mild dark brown head. The smell is all dark malts, chocolate, coffee and a little dark fruit. The taste is also very malt forward, with dark chocolate, espresso, molasses and toffee as the predominant flavors. Despite all of the malt flavor the beer isn’t overly sweet, the bittering hops add a nice balance. There is a touch of warming alcohol in the flavor, but it is not assertive at all, impressive for a beer with 10.5% ABV. The mouthfeel is very full, but this beer is best enjoyed as a slow sipper. Founders Imperial Stout finishes very clean, with a touch of coffee and bitterness left on the tongue. I’ve enjoyed quite a few stouts and porters this winter, and this is easily one of the best. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.