Bring Me to Black Party Contest Winners!
Since launching our Bring Me to Black Party contest, we received over 2,000 love stories, tales of friendship and adventure, thrilling recounts of beer-seeking expeditions and more than a few tearjerkers. Half of our story is how we design and brew the beers you love to drink and this contest gave us the chance to hear the other half: how our beer has become a part of some of your most beloved memories.
Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing stories from the ten winners that will be joining us at Black Party (April 15-17). They will also enjoy private tastings, tours and the opportunity to meet our team. It’s going to be one hell of a weekend!
We’ll be announcing the winning stories throughout this week – keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the rest of them:
My dad, being a huge fan of Founders, took my roommate and I to Grand Rapids to experience his favorite place. He has made us forever fans of Founders. Our video will explain our trip. I would love to win this trip for him!
For years, my daughters have known I am fond of great beers. Time and again they have had to listen to me rant about how fortunate we are to live in Michigan, which I consider is undeniably one of the greatest beer states in this nation.
Now, neither of my daughters are real beer drinkers, they haven’t acquired a taste for it as yet, but I still bend their ears on how I love my Michigan beers and how we are only 150 miles from one of the worlds greatest breweries. The girls have seen me chase beers for years and with so many Founders brews on my list of favorites the names All day IPA, Backwoods Bastard, KBS, Devil Dancer, Sweet Repute and Blushing Monk just to name a few have been mentioned around our house countless times.
A few years back while in Grand Rapids with her friends, my oldest daughter visited Founders to have lunch and texted me pictures of her visit. Knowing she had limited funds at the time, I never would have asked her to bring me a souvenir. But when she got home, she surprised me with a 4 pack of Devil Dancer, a calendar and a Founders bottle opener.
Knowing she chose to spend her hard earned money on making me happy meant more to me than she will ever know. It wasn’t about the beer or the swag, it was about her unselfishness and knowing it would mean something to me. I enjoyed those Devil Dancers one per week for a month and thought of her generosity each time I had one.
Now she surprises me with other Founders favorites from time to time last year she spent 4 hours chasing down 1 KBS for me. I can usually get my hands on a few KBS each season, but that 1 bottle meant a lot to me. She put it on the table at home with a card so I could see it when I came in from work that day. On the card it said “KBS For Dad Love Tay.” I saved that card, it is on my back bar at home right next to that very bottle of KBS which I am cellaring for a very special day.
Working as a law enforcement officer in a medium sized town in Tennessee allows me to experience all of the “big city” crime but still affords those opportunities to forge connections and help people. For several months we received calls of a “scary looking mountain man” at a city park. When I would arrive, not a sign. One day a little girl pointed to a direction in the woods that the “scary man” went. I followed a slightly worn trail and came upon a well-made little campsite by the river, so well hidden that I was literally in it before I spotted it. “I guess I need to move along officer”, came from a voice I wasn’t expecting. From behind a tree stepped a medium frame man with a half silver/half brown beard and the most calming brown eyes I have ever seen. We talked for a while. I found out his name was Jimmy. Jimmy went on to inform me that he had no drug or alcohol dependencies, that he was homeless by choice. Jimmy did mention that he used to enjoy a pint with his son on Sunday’s, watching football, but said they hadn’t spoken in a couple years. I went on my way. I had really liked Jimmy. I also knew Jimmy was hiding from something. As I got off one evening I realized I still had a couple Founders All Day IPA’s on ice, from the weekend. I stripped off my uniform and threw on jeans and a shirt, grabbed two All Day IPAs and made my way to Jimmy’s camp. Jimmy was fishing in the river and seemed ecstatic to see me. Jimmy went on and on about how he had never tasted a beer quite so good. My weekly visits with my “Flounders” as Jimmy called it became a tradition. Over the course of a couple months I learned that Jimmy was from Arizona and had been a well-known contractor. Jimmy finally told me that his son had been driving when he was involved in a wreck that killed Jimmy’s wife and 21 year-old daughter. Jimmy told me the police report listed his son at fault for being “inattentive”. Jimmy said he packed his backpack and here he was. He told me I reminded him some of his son. I told him that “inattentive ” was a catch all term and didn’t mean his son ever meant to hurt anyone and that his son would probably like to see him. A couple months later I came down to the river with our “Flounders” and Jimmy was gone. The camp was gone. Were it not for the trodden ground it would have been as if I dreamed it all. Six months passed without any word or sign of Jimmy. I had bought him a prepaid phone but it was disconnected. Then one day, out of the blue, I got a message from a strange number. It was a picture. It simply said, “Me and my boy.” It was Jimmy! Then I noticed in front of each of them was a Founders All Day IPA. Jimmy went home.
New Britain, CT
A few years ago, I came up with a ridiculous idea for a three-dimensional dry erase board and founded Twisted Boards with my father. Being from Connecticut, we had a difficult time finding manufacturers who could mold plastic as thick as we needed. One night, while enjoying a Breakfast Stout, it dawned on me that car parts are made in Michigan and they would have a ton of manufacturing facilities. Inspired by my beer, I began my search for a manufacturer in Grand Rapids and now am manufactured, assembled, and distributed from three separate businesses all in Grand Rapids! All because of a delicious Founder’s Breakfast Stout! After our first successful run of product I was able to get my dad and I out to Michigan and the celebratory stop was at Founders Brewing which he still talks about today. Thanks, guys! Whether we win or not, keep up the good work.
Richard C. Tomczak
I am writing this story on behalf of my Father, Richard, who is a WWII Navy Vet from Buffalo, NY. He is 91 and now in an assisted living facility; he is still active on his computer, a fairly skilled Xbox player, and now a lover of your products, especially your Centennial IPA. This story however, is about his introduction to KBS, and his greatness as a Dad.
On April 1st of 2014, I secured my two bottles of KBS, and brought one over to share with my Father. I explained to him about the scarcity of the beer, and summarized what I had just endured to procure it. It was of course, unlike anything he had ever tried, and sharing it with him was a wonderful experience for us both.
The following year, on the morning of April 1st, I called him and told him I would be out that morning and early afternoon running errands and I would call him when I was back home. He did not mention to me that he knew the significance of the day, or that he too would be running an errand.
When I arrived home that afternoon, I found him parked in our driveway, and sleeping behind the wheel of his vehicle. I woke him, asked him if he was ok, how long he had been there, and why he was there. He was fine, had been there for over two hours, and said he wanted to give me something. At that point, with great pride and an even greater smile, he handed me a bag containing two bottles of KBS.
When he came in to visit with me for a while I had to take a picture of him (shown below) with the stash he had secured, and I will always treasure that day. The day my 90-year old Father remembered what happens every April 1st, stood in line, then fell asleep in his car after waiting hours for me, all so that he could score us some KBS. A more cool Dad you will be hard-pressed to find. Thanks for your time, and your great products!
My Dad was the typical old-school beer drinker: the cheaper the better. You know, those ones that taste like bubbly water. He resided in Florida but about 2 years ago was up visiting us here in Grand Rapids. I finally had a chance to bring him to my favorite watering hole, Founders of course. I wanted to turn him on to some quality beer for a change. In my efforts to find a beer that might suit his tastes, I started him on the Tier 1 beers. No luck – drat! I knew it was a long shot, but I passed him a mug of what my wife was drinking, one her favorites, Rubaeus. A miracle!!! He not only liked it, it was all he talked about to his friends. During any phone conversation he would ask if we had been to Founders recently. Last year, we knew he was quickly fading from us. We drove through the night to Florida to reach him in time, a howler of Rubaeus tucked safely in with our luggage. When we arrived, he was lying in a hospital bed in his living room, barely responsive. But when we told him what we’d brought with us, that howler of Rubaeus, his face lit up. We poured his favorite Founders into a mug, added a straw, and held it his lips. He smacked his lips and smiled as he enjoyed his last beer on this Earth. He passed only a few short hours after our arrival. Later that day, as we sat together with family, reminiscing my dad, we drank the rest of that howler and said a farewell cheers.
Peering around the corner at you, all I could think of was how thankful I was for the time I had spent with you between this sip and the last time I’d enjoyed Founders beer with you six weeks before.
You were in your element. Before we’d even met you’d told me how one of your favorite things was the rush you got while working a beer festival, and I could see why. I almost pulled out my phone to snag a candid photo of you and that big smile while you geeked out about beer to thirsty festival goers, but instead I slowly enjoyed my 3oz pour of Kentucky Breakfast Stout and just watched you, mentally cataloging this moment as the chocolate, coffee and bourbon notes hit my nose and rolled over my tongue.
My Instagram account proves I love taking photos of aesthetically pleasing, often edited and thoughtfully framed moments in my life, but I’ll be quick to tell anyone that more meaningful to me are my unfiltered sensory memories. Like how no photo could ever capture the smell of hay, manure, old wood and gasoline in the barn on the farm my father grew up on, or how the taste of burnt marshmallows will always remind me of summer camp even though I’ve consumed s’mores dozens of times in many different settings since then, or how whenever I walk down the candy aisle and see Twizzlers now I flash back to the first time I smelled star anise while brewing beer in your kitchen in our underwear.
There’s something so intimate about keeping a memory between you and only the person you shared it with, and thus I’ve tried to do this as much as possible with you. But even when I share photos or tell my friends a story, I’m actually thankful that an image or anecdote can’t come close to capturing that moment’s authenticity I can certainly try, but their mouths could never start to water the way mine does when I think of how it tasted to chase a sip of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout with the last piece of bacon off of our pizza on our second date.
That’s what I love so much about beer. It’s visceral; you have to be present to capture it. A beer can’t show off in a photo. You can’t tell by looking at it if it was barrel aged or contains eight different strains of hops. At the end of the day, after all of the careful branding, hype, history and the perfect pour, it is really just a beer, in a glass, waiting to be enjoyed. You can’t dress it up or garnish it (sorry Blue Moon). There are a lot of people out there that tout lots of beer knowledge, but what makes you such a worthy drinking partner is that you value atmosphere and company alongside a beer’s profile (and of course appropriate glassware).
Contrary to what romcoms tell me I should feel, my feelings for you are more like a well-balanced stout than fireworks. They’re not loud, aggravatingly distracting, on display for everyone to see or only show up well at night. It’s more like beer I can enjoy either on a special occasion or a Sunday in February just because I want to; one that I can keep going back to because it’s smooth yet exciting and I discover new flavors when I pair it with new foods. When I’m with you, I find so much joy in the normal. Cleaning the kitchen while you play guitar. A long walk on an overcast day. Driving together with your hand on my knee.
Sitting across from you at that table on our second date, I watched you close your eyes as you tasted CBS out of the glass we shared after insisting I try it first. Knowing you chose to bring me to the tapping of a beer that both of us quite possibly will never get the chance to drink again was intimate, eventful and humbling. It’s why the one blurry photo I quickly took that evening of our empty glass is so fitting- there was nothing static about that sensory experience or the way I felt that night.
Six weeks later, standing in that old armory, surrounded by booths and bustling people imbibing, the KBS I was drinking hadn’t changed, but I had. My nose and palate were learning how to recognize flavors more accurately, and I’d started to fall in love with a tall beer geek with kind eyes and a great head of hair.
What better way to tell you I love you than to make you read my entry into a competition to take me to Founders? Before you even ask, of course I would try to take you with me if I ended up winning. I’d enjoy nothing more than to make more visceral memories with you and Founders.
Regardless of the competition’s outcome, I’m looking forward to more adventures, more beer and more present moments with you.
Micah and I have been friends since I was a freshman in high school. Though two years apart, we went to the same college where we joined the Reserve Officer Training Corp together. We completed U.S. Army Airborne School together and in May of 2006 we became 2nd Lieutenants in the United States Army. In typical Army fashion, our orders sent us to different directions and I did not see my friend for a very long time. As luck would have it, in September of 2009 our paths crossed on the other side of the world – on Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan. His unit was just arriving in the country and I was returning from two weeks of stateside leave, to finish the last three months of a year-long tour. For thirty minutes we sat across from each other on olive drab cots in a long gray tent, used to house transient soldiers. We knew our time was short, so we talked about things important in that moment, like what mess halls had the best chow and what local shops had the best quality bootleg DVDs. Before long, it was time for Micah to get back to work and for me to catch my flight back to my base, but before we parted ways, we agreed that once we were both back home, we’d meet for a cold beer and a proper reunion. Here’s a photo of our reunion in Bagram:
Ten months later we made true on our plans. For the first time in four years we were both back in Michigan and met at Founders were we had our reunion and our cold beer. I can still remember the table where we sat, to the left of the bar in front of the stage, both enjoying a long overdue Dirty Bastard. We had four years to catch up on and we covered it right there; reminiscing about old time, exaggerating current duties, and griping about unruly Privates. We talked about our families, about our experiences overseas, and about Soldiers that didn’t come home; and as the night wound down, we vowed to never let so much time go by again. Time marches on and life changes quickly. I have since left the Army to pursue other interests (one of which would be becoming employed by Founders) and my wife and I have started a family here in Beer City. Micah is now a Major in the Army, living in North Carolina, occasionally sending me photos of the cases of All Day IPA he is able to find there. Founders has become a tradition for us and we still meet up there every time he is able to make it home. Even when we can’t make it to the brewery, there is always Founders on hand. Most recently we were able to crack two Devil Dancers after my young son’s first birthday party (don’t worry, the kids were already in bed) and this year I will try to get my hands on some KBS, as I know he hasn’t had it for quite some time. A special thanks to Founders for the beer that brings us together.
Beverly Hills, MI
It started simply and innocently enough…two divorced parents talking about typical kid stuff at T-Ball practice. We were familiar with each other, but this was the first actual conversation we shared. Somehow, some way, through what we can only attribute to divine Beer God intervention, the topic turned to beer. And not just beer, but GOOD BEER. She explained to me that at the top of her holy grail beer wish list was Founders KBS. Fantastic choice, obviously. And now running through my mind…”who IS this woman and how could she be so perfect?” I arrived at the next practice bearing the gift of KBS. A bottle of 2015 KBS to be exact. That was it. That was the moment. From there, following that practice, I received a Facebook message asking if I wanted to go out for drinks. SHE was asking ME out. Again…perfect. In the months since, we’ve grown inseparable, bonding over beer, good music, good food, amazing friends and the desire to “Brady Bunch” the hell out of our families. Our story is nowhere near done, but it began as perfectly as you can imagine, brought together by a perfect beer.
My story goes back to my entry into the craft beer world. I was aspiring to be a police officer and while in that process I took a job with Anderson’s General Store in Maumee, OH in the wine and beer department. I didn’t know a lot about beer, except what an average college kid knows, and that I am born on St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy Guinness occasionally.
I was hired as a stocker and was encouraged to try new product. I had no idea where to start and decided Founders Breakfast Stout would be my first craft beer, it sounded pretty good. I WAS HOOKED. I loved Breakfast Stout and decided to start trying the other Founders beers.
Two months later we got Backstage Series: Frangelic Mountain Brown. My knowledge still was not very broad, and my manager asked me if I wanted one. I was unsure and asked how much it was and when she told me, I thought, wow people actually pay that much for one bottle?! After some convincing on the Backstage Series, I decided to buy one. That purchase sparked my passion for collecting craft beer and since that day I have not looked back!
I worked for the Anderson’s for about two and a half years and my knowledge grew. Craft beer became a passion and my collection grew. I went from stocker to beer consultant for the department. I loved my job, met some great people and was able to drink and acquire fantastic beers.
I was constantly asked for recommendations and made sure a Founders beer was always in the conversation. My collection grew bigger and I even became a trader. Over time I acquired all Founders year round, seasonal, specialty and limited beers. I was able to acquire all the Backstage Series Beers from CBS all the way to Project Pam. For Christmas the last year I was working at Anderson’s my manager gave me a Curmudgeon’s Better Half from her collection. I think I almost fainted!
While working at Anderson’s I acquired three beer stands and filled them with hundreds of bottles. Several people used to ask, how much did this all cost you? My response, I’m not sure and I’m not sure I want to know. My collection became a center piece highlighted by my Founders Beers. I enjoy many beers in general, but Breakfast Stout and KBS are my all-time favorites. Founders spread also to my family. My dad enjoys Backwoods Bastard and my mom and wife enjoy Rubaeus.
After some time I finally achieved my goal of becoming a police officer in a great city just outside of Cleveland. Upon getting it I enjoyed a vertical of KBS from 2012-15 with my dad. Talk about an amazing celebratory drink!
From here my story took a bit of an unexpected turn in March 2015. A turn that my family said is something I should share with the people at Founders.
In March 2015 I was in training and working on night shift. I work in the city just a north of where I live. I had an awesome set up and continued my collecting and tasting. Naturally I scoped out the area for the best places to buy and drink craft beer. I was watching my calendar as Founders Blushing Monk 2015 was released. A few days later I received a call from my mom that my dad had a heart attack. I made the trip home to see him. I returned to work and a couple nights later and was on patrol around 4am. I was tired and already felt it was the week from hell. I was pulling onto station to eat around 4am and heard a call over the radio of an apartment fire at my address. As I crossed the highway down the street I could see the flames. Upon arrival sure enough, my apartment building was on fire. My instinct to help kicked in and, along with my coworkers, made sure everyone was safe. After that, all I could do was watch my apartment building burn. I got off shift a few hours later.
I returned home after work devastated. A few days later the management stated we could get into our apartments and grab what we could. I had no idea how bad it’d be. I feared the worst. I walked up to my apartment and you could see the sky above us, the roof was destroyed. I walked through my door and was completely overwhelmed by the destruction. The ceiling and roof had come down, putting a layer of gunk several inches thick over everything.
I began to survey my apartment and I looked over to where my beer collection was and it appeared to be destroyed. I grabbed what I could before returning to where my collection was. I realized some of the beer was still intact in the debris and rubble. I grabbed a pitch fork and began to dig for hours. I dug and dug through the layer of gunk and debris and slowly but surely started finding bottles. I was determined to find all the bottles I could, especially my prized Backstage Series Collection. My emotions high as I would find an average bottle, and think, where the hell is my Curmudgeon’s Better Half etc.?!
I was able to retrieve close to 80 percent of my collection, which was truly a miracle. Most of my Founders beer had survived the fire. I boxed them up and stored them at my aunt’s house for several months. Now at the time I was in the midst of moving from hotels, trying to find a new place, and get married. Months passed and I had found a new place, replaced my things, my dad made a full recovery and I got married! My life came back together. I slowly started to buy new beers and take over some counter space at the new place. My cornerstones of my new collection were of course, 2015 KBS, reDANKulous, and Project PAM! Upon feeling settled I had gone through the last of my stuff from the fire and brought my boxed up collection to my new place.
I was extremely nervous, just because I saved the beers did not mean they were still good. I began to unbox and clean bottles. God bless my wife as she sat by my side and helped me clean every one. She got annoyed from time to time as I said be careful with that one! She just shook her head.
It was time, there was only one way to know if the beer was still good, try it! I was going to try a Breakfast Stout. It had been my favorite craft beer from day one and how fitting, I thought, to try my first and favorite beer first. It was a good temperature, I cracked it and poured it into a Project Pam snifter. I put the glass down and looked at my wife and simply said I am nervous. Nervous to drink a beer? Yes, I absolutely was. Were my hundreds of saved bottles, ruined? I took a deep breath and took a sip.
The Breakfast Stout was just as good as it was before the fire!!! I could not believe it. My wife laughed at me and said how happy she was for me. I sent pictures to my friends of me drinking a snifter of Founders Breakfast Stout that had survived apartment fire destruction and aging a few months. Some of the other beers did not hold up, to be expected, but most did.
That sip of Breakfast Stout was like closing the door on the fire chapter of my life. It was an amazing beer, if not the best one I have had in my life for so many reasons. My collection is safe again, I have my Founders Beers and the rest of my collection, and I am beginning to restock and combine my old collection with the new.
While writing this I decided to open a Project Pam. I figure what better beer to drink and tell my story with a chance to go to Black Party than Project Pam. Another spectacular beer!
I am a Founders man and a trip to Founders for Black Party would be a DREAM trip to celebrate what will be close to the year anniversary of my apartment fire. To be able to go to a tasting, tour, and meet the Founders Team, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate.
Your beer truly has given me an amazing story and I am more thankful for it than I can explain here, especially for that sip of Breakfast Stout. Keep doing what you guys do, and I will keep chasing and enjoying your beer!
Cheers and please Bring Me To Black Party!