Founders Brewing comes to Tampa

A craft beer lover's favorite finally hits Florida’s shelves and taps.

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click to enlarge IPA LOVERS: Founders Brewing Company’s Centennial IPA quite literally sets the standard for American IPAs. - FOUNDERS BREWING COMPANY
IPA LOVERS: Founders Brewing Company’s Centennial IPA quite literally sets the standard for American IPAs.

With so many new, big-name craft brewers coming into Florida’s market recently, it can be tricky for the uninitiated to know which new beers to try.

Well-known beers like Fat Tire from New Belgium and 420 from Sweetwater get people excited because they’ve either heard of them already or tried a sip while traveling out of state. When a less widely-known brewery comes to town, newcomers to craft beer might shy away from an unfamiliar name. So let me introduce you to the new beer in town: Founders Brewing.

Founders Brewing opened in 1997 in Grand Rapids, Mich., under the name Canal Street Brewing, named after Grand Rapids’ Canal Street district, home to several breweries in the 1800s.

Canal Street's original labels featured an old black-and-white photo of the 19th-century breweries, with the word “founders” printed above it. The brewery eventually took Founders as its name and attained a reputation as one of America's — and the world's — best. Last month, Founders beers became available in Florida for the first time. Here is what you have to look forward to.

Founders Pale Ale is a dry-hopped, delicious pale that is easy to drink, light and crisp, with just the right balance. The aroma of citrus and floral hops is not overwhelming, and the slight malt sweetness is just enough to keep the bitterness in check. At a very drinkable 5.4 percent ABV, this is the perfect go-to beer for any occasion.

As an admitted and unapologetic hophead, it is sometimes hard to find a good lupulin-heavy brew that isn’t going to knock me on my backside after only a couple. With ABVs that often reach into the 8 percent and 9 percent range, a little can go a long way. Founders All-Day IPA is made for the hophead who wants to enjoy hops without the heavy kick. At a very modest 4.7 percent, this beer is one of my new favorites. Citrus, pine, and flowers dominate the aroma. There's a crisp, clean mouthfeel and it bursts with tropical and citrus flavors.

Centennial IPA is for the IPA lover who wants it all. This beer is such a perfect example of an American IPA that the Beer Judges Certification Program uses it as the benchmark for American-based beer judging. Pouring a beautiful copper-gold color and wafting the citrus, pine, and grapefruit aromas, it teases with a hint of malty sweetness to come. On the tongue it is smooth and silky, with the grapefruit flavors intertwining with the sweet, caramel notes of the malt. This one clocks in at 7.2 percent ABV, so enjoy responsibly.

Come to the dark side with Founders Porter’s rich, flavorful brew. The aromas will draw you in with big coffee, chocolate, and a hint of hops. It pours a thick black with a tan head that lingers beautifully. Your mouth will thank you for the creamy, luxurious feel, taste of roasted malt, dark chocolate, toffee, and just the right amount of carbonation. It would be a delicious pairing with a chocolate or dark fruit dessert.

Breakfast Stout is, yes, a stout made with breakfast in mind. Brewed with flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and Sumatra and Kona coffee, this one makes beer with breakfast not just okay, but encouraged. The fall seasonal, it will not stick around long, so if you see it, grab it. With its super-rich, super coffee-chocolate flavors, and a hefty 8.3 percent ABV, this will be a great match with Belgian waffles, thick slices of bacon, and lots of maple syrup.

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