As a Grand Rapids resident, Founders’ taproom can be overwhelming, in a good way. There are three tiers of beers on their list and that list is ever changing, updated almost daily.
Maybe the greatest allure of their taproom is that it can serve as sort of market research group for distribution purposes. A beer that starts out as an innocent addition to the chalkboards soon could be found on Founders’ vast distribution footprint. On any given stroll into the taproom, you might be one of the first to drink a beer that shows up on shelves all over the country. Sumatra Mountain Brown and Redankulous, an imperial red IPA, are some of the recent beers to make the jump from taproom to distribution. Also included are some heavier hitters, such as Lizard of Koz, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout with chocolate, vanilla, and blueberries.
“The taproom is our playground. It allows us to experiment with recipes and take some calculated risks,” said Dave Engbers, co-founder/president of Founders. “The beer enthusiast community is loud and vocal and we love to hear the feedback on our brands both distributed and also those that are exclusive to our taproom. We created an app where our customers can give us feedback pertaining to individual beers and we use that to evaluate whether we should pursue a brand into a potential package someday. Of course there are always multiple factors regarding bringing a beer to market.”
One of those beers that started out as a taproom-only was PC Pils, which I tried a few years ago in its infancy. It might be a case of falling back into our macro Miller Lite roots, but sometimes a pilsner sounds likes the perfect beer in the moment, especially in the summer.
Without a look at the label, you’d think you were drinking a session IPA.”
By using American hops such as Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial, the result could be mistaken for a light-bodied IPA. It pours crisply and cleanly, offering a floral aroma, but plays its hoppiness and bitterness down the middle. It also features a pilsner staple with the taste of bread and grain.
“Our thought process to bring any beer to market is fairly simple and highly selfish. Our motto is Brewed for Us and we really mean it,” Engbers said. “We brew beers that are interesting to us. We tend to do our own thing at Founders. When the rest of the country was exploring adjunct citrus IPAs we decided to explore the Pilsner style. Of course we have our own take on it. We took a highly traditional German style and modified it with Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial American hops that we thought would be really delicious.”
I’ve been ambivalent to pilsners in the past, but PC Pils’ Jedi Mind Trick is successful. Without a look at the label, you’d think you were drinking a session IPA. Mistaking a style of beer might seem irrelevant while consuming, but the tweaking a pilsner ever so slightly is a tasty alternative.
By passing the taproom test and becoming a crowd favorite, PC Pils emerged an alternative to the summer staples of IPAs and wheat beers. If you’re looking for a change of pace, consider PC Pils somewhat of a lateral but adventurous move.