Grand Rapids' Founders Brewing adds $6.6M beer manufacturing expansion to meet market demand

Last week at Founders Brewing Company, patrons might have noticed a little more chaos beyond the usual hustle and bustle of a busy brewery.  Moving the restaurant kitchen to its new, larger space, as well as rushing to get everything cleaned and ready for customers in the midst of new construction certainly created an added stress to an already fast-paced environment. But Mike Stevens, one of the owners of the popular microbrewery, still wore a smile.

Stevens, Dave Engbers, and the company's other investors should all be smiling. Not only did Founders (235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids) experience a record year in 2010, the company will soon open a $6.6 million, 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that doubles its brewing operations.

"The skinny on the whole thing is we've been fortunate that our product has been in such great demand," Stevens says. "The limitations have always been our infrastructure and capacities. When we moved here from our old facility on North Monroe, we expanded from 5,000 barrels to 30,000 and went from 18 employees to 70 employees. At 30,000 barrels, we were at capacity and we're now taking our capacities to 70,000 barrels."

And that's not all. Stevens says they've added a brew house that increases production from 30 barrels to 115, a bottling line that caps 250 bottles per minute, and plans for the new facility to enable future expansion to 150,000 barrels a year.

Besides brewing new taproom favorites every month, the company distributes 15 bottled beers --Dirty Bastard, Red Rye's PA, Breakfast Stout, Devil Dancer and others -- to a 16-state market and can't meet the demand.

"We've seen 78 percent growth in 2010 and we're forecasting those markets to grow around 58 percent in 2011," Stevens says. "We're getting a lot of recognition in the beer community and that has created demand for our product. When we first started in 1997, we'd say 'please, please, please, will you take my beer?' and now we're just trying to keep up with demand."

Construction was handled by Pioneer Construction.

Source: Mike Stevens, Founders Brewing Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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