ROAD TRIP! The Canadian Breakfast Stout Release Party at Founders Brewing Co.


Oh, the things I do for beer…  Like travel 3 ½ hours for a beer I’ve never tasted. But when a road trip to Founders Brewing for the Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) release was posted on the CHAOS Brew Club’s event page, how could I not go? The hubby and I are Dark Lord Day pros at this point and this seemed like it may be a similar event. Bottles of CBS would go on sale at 11 am so the first order of business was determining exactly how crazy-early we wanted to get in line. David, the head of CHAOS, Kelli, Daniel, the hubby and I decided to drive up Friday night so we could be somewhat bright eyed and bushy tailed when we arrived at Founders at 7 am the next morning.

We got to Grand Rapids at about 1:30 am. After a (very) few hours of sleep, we were all lured by the free hot breakfast at the Springhill Suites so we got a bit of a slow start.  We drove by Founders at 7:45 am and it looked like no one was there. Could we be the very first ones to arrive? It wasn’t until we drove around the back of the brewery to look for parking that we saw the line and my heart dropped a little.  There were so many people! Were we going to be able to purchase bottles or did we come all this way for no reason? We were dropped off at the end of the line while David parked the car.

Even though I have extensive experience with these types of beer festivals, I was immensely under-prepared for this one.  The main thing I was ill-equipped for was the cold!  It was 38 degrees at 8 am on Saturday morning with no promise of getting warmer until well into the afternoon.  It was a good thing that we packed some winter-warmer beers to share. The hubby and I brought New Glarus Uff-Da Bock which is a big, malty beer. So good on a cold morning!  Next, David opened up a bottle of Firestone Walker Parabola which had a bourbon and roasty aroma.  It was slightly warmer than the temperature outside and this was definitely welcome.  What I liked about this beer is that there was heavy alcohol in the middle but no burn on the finish; this is a very smooth beer. We forgot to bring cups but, thankfully, we had the sense to grab some coffee cups from the hotel before heading to Founders.  Apparently there were many others who had similar ideas as there was an assortment of Marriott, Microtel, and Days Inn cups being passed around. I still can’t get over that I forgot lawn chairs, though.  That is a rookie mistake!

Now, to the average person, standing in line for 4 ½ hours in the bitter cold for the chance to buy an exclusive beer does not sound like a good time.  But let me assure you, you meet some of the most fantastic people.  Josh and Chris were two guys from Flint, MI that arrived shortly after we did and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. Josh was just getting into homebrewing so we talked shop for a little bit. These guys were unprepared for the event, too, although I will cut them some slack as this was their first time to an event like this.  They felt bad that we kept pouring beers for them and they had nothing to give in return. But we assured them that we showed up to our first Dark Lord Day in 2008 sans beer and everyone around us was generous with the pours.  And now Josh and Chris know for the future and will be welcoming to next year’s newbies.

We also hung out with the two couples standing in front of us. They were from Chicago and, like us, decided to come up on Friday night rather than begin the trek at 3 am Saturday morning.  They even fit in a quick trip to New Holland Brewing before crashing at their motel.  We had tried to stop at Three Floyds on the way to Grand Rapids but it was way too crowded.  Glad they had better luck at New Holland!  Janice was more into dark beers like stouts while her fiancée was more of a hop head.  Kelly, a student, spent the majority of the day reading and her husband, Tim, affectionately referred to her as his “bottle mule,” meaning she comes to various events so he has a means of purchasing more bottles when there are limited allotments.

Jascha receiving his number

Since we were going to be in line for a while, and we had friends to save our spot, the hubby and I decided to take a walk to the front of the line.  Once there, we met Jascha from Indianapolis, IN who was the lucky individual who was first in line and received the very first bottle of CBS.  Unlike me he was ready for this event.  After the five hour drive, he arrived at Founders at 1 am and set up a tent. A look in the tent revealed a pizza box (I wonder if he had it delivered?), beer, and sleeping bags.  That’s dedication!

The first 3: Jascha, Austin, and Wes

Bottle Graveyard

When a Founders employee started handing out the numbers that would let us know whether or not we were guaranteed two of the coveted bottles, the hubby and I headed back to our spot in line. It was at this point that the ubiquitous “bottle graveyards” started popping up. You can’t help but look at the bottles and see which ones you’ve had before and which ones you wish you had.  And if you really wish you had been able to try a certain beer, why not just put it to your lips and try to get any remnants that may be left in the bottle?  Believe it or not, quite a few people started doing this, sometimes even getting a nice pour. 

The line moved pretty slowly but we had our bottles by 12:30 pm.  David and Daniel took the bottles to the car while Kelli, hubby and I headed to the brewpub to finally get a taste of the elusive Canadian Breakfast Stout.  But, of course, we had to wait in line to get into the brewpub as they were at capacity.  It only took five minutes for us to gain entrance but then we had to stand in line to get beer. I was really tired of standing in line! But once beers were in hand, it all became worthwhile.  The Canadian Breakfast Stout was roasty on the nose but not in the flavor.  You definitely pick up the sweetness thanks to aging the beer in bourbon barrels that were used to house Michigan maple syrup.  I was really impressed with this beer.  Whenever I asked someone who had previously tasted this beer to provide their opinion, everyone always said the same thing: “I like Kentucky Breakfast Stout better.” For some reason, I interpreted this to mean that the Canadian version was not up to par. But I personally liked the CBS a little better than KBS.  I liked the smoothness and subtle sweetness of the CBS, while KBS can be a little up front with the roastiness. 

I also had the chance to try The Backwoods Bastard, Founders’ bourbon-barrel aged version of Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.  This beer poured an amber brown and had a light malt nose. There was an alcohol burn up front that quickly transitioned to lovely bourbon flavor. I also tried the Gruit, an un-hopped ale made with rosemary.  Historically, beer was bittered and flavored with spices rather than hops.  I personally did not care for this beer but it was interesting and I’m glad I had the chance to try it.  The hubby really liked it and appreciated that Founders experimented with this old-fashioned style of beer.

Founders Brewing Co. Brewpub

At around 2 pm we realized that we hadn’t eaten anything since our breakfast at the hotel.  There weren’t any seats available in the brewpub (and we were tired of standing!) so we decided to head out to Hopcat for lunch.  It turns out that my initial fears that we would not obtain any bottles were unfounded; my friend Christian (@ChicagoBurdman) went through the line three times to get bottles of CBS. On the way out, we noticed that people were still in line and decided to try for an additional bottle or two.  There were 30 bottles left and at the two-bottle per person limit, only 15 people in line were going to receive bottles.  The Founders employee went up to each individual and asked how many bottles they would purchase in order to gauge who would be the cut-off.  Each person said they would get the two bottles except for Andrew Baculy of Grand Rapids, MI; he said that he would take one bottle to allow for another person to have one. So thank you, Andy. You have restored my faith in humanity.  Enjoy your bottle of CBS, you deserve it! And, because of Andrew’s generosity, as well as the generosity of David who only took one bottle, I was able to get the very last bottle of Canadian Breakfast Stout!

Me with David Williams and the very last two bottles of CBS!

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable event.  Even though it was cold, I had a great time hanging out in line, making new friends, and sampling beers for 4 ½ hours. I do have a few suggestions for future years, though. There needed to be more port-a-potties, and preferably separate ones for men and women.  This year, there was one port-a-potty and, as the hubby stated so eloquently, it was “no place for a lady.” Thankfully, once the brewpub opened at 11 am we were able to use the bathrooms there.

Also, I didn’t realize that CBS would be distributed throughout the country.  What makes Dark Lord special is that you can only purchase the bottles on that specific day at the brewpub.  Even though it was a great time, I am beginning to wonder why I traveled all that way if I could have just camped out at my local Binny’s.  I can see how the CBS release could potentially gain in popularity and become bigger and bigger every year, but there needs to be a greater incentive, something that can only be acquired at Founders on this day, to make the trip really worthwhile. Regardless, though, I will probably be back for next year.  I can’t pass up a road trip!  –Jessica


All photographs generously provided by Christopher Murphy.


I'm just a girl... Who likes beer. I typically share my reviews and write-ups on the blog but am ecstatic to have the opportunity to write for Chicago Beer Geeks. Send me a shout out on Twitter @grlslikebeertoo. Cheers!


  1. Awesome write up! It was a total blast. And as the guy who went through the line three times, my intentions are honorable as I am gifting the bottles to friends NOT eBay selling them 😀

    • Christian, I did not for a moment believe that your intentions were anything but honorable! I know you are like me and many others who have a slight beer-hoarding problem! 🙂 Great seeing you there!

  2. very cool article Jess…shoutout to the weirdos taking sips from the bottle graveyard lol.

  3. Next time try the bathroom across the street at the bus station.

  4. Next time you visit, if you can tear yourselves away, hop on the 6 bus from the station across the street to about half a block after Eastern Avenue (about a 15 minute ride) and sample the Belgian-style deliciousness at Brewery Vivant, housed in an old chapel. Door-to-door delivery for $1.50 each way. Everyone’s a DD when you ride the bus!

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