News Founders Surpasses Bells as the Largest Michigan Brewery

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by CNoj012, Jan 20, 2018.


Which brewery do you prefer?

  1. Bells

    82 vote(s)
  2. Founders

    152 vote(s)
  1. CNoj012

    CNoj012 Poo-Bah (1,510) Dec 7, 2014 New York
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    archiebunkerjr and Premo88 like this.
  2. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,450) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Interesting article. Bell's is still calling itself the largest "craft" brewery in Michigan. Either way, it's a great thing for Michigan beer to have both those breweries be so successful.
  3. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,133) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium Member

    The breweries are essentially 'even' in my mind, but I voted Bell's because they are closer to me to visit the pub and there is always something new and interesting on tap. Plus, when I am buying beer, I select Bell's beers over Founders because of my familiarity with their beers.
  4. TriggerFingers

    TriggerFingers Disciple (381) Apr 29, 2012 California
    Beer Trader

    I prefer Founders.

    1) It’s the only one I can regularly find fresh in my area.

    2) Aside from their high quality special releases, All Day IPA’s excellent QPR is another reason I take notice.

    I don’t always buy their beer, but I always consider their products and respect their brand.
    Shanex, tzieser and BWood like this.
  5. CaptainHate

    CaptainHate Devotee (400) Apr 22, 2006 Ohio

    I chose Founders in the poll but I'm glad real life doesn't come down to a binary decision, at least in this case.
  6. MJS08

    MJS08 Disciple (312) Jul 29, 2014 Florida
    Premium Member

    All Day, Centennial, Azazza, and Mosaic Promise keep finding their way into my fridge. Fresh 15 packs of cans are always the way to go, (when in season for 2 of those). On the dark side, FBS is preferred and so is KBS. Mark me down as a FFB. (Founders Fan Boy).
    Dan411, BenHoppy and waltari like this.
  7. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,844) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Member

    Real tough choice as they're both excellent, but have to give Founders the edge partly due to their huge commitment to barrel aging.
  8. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (1,573) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
    Beer Trader

    No option for "Like them both equally"? Two fine breweries, each with multiple world-class offerings. No need to choose. I'll take 'em both.

    Even if they are from TSUN. :grinning:
    Gemini6, Ranbot, jmdrpi and 10 others like this.
  9. Glider

    Glider Aspirant (203) Nov 15, 2004 Massachusetts
    Premium Member

    Founders has a lot of good stuff and they distribute here.

    I really liked the bottles of Two Hearted and Bell's Amber that I tried recently. Funny that my parents can get these in SoCal but I can't get them in MA.
    VABA likes this.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,386) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    The 'best' news I read in that linked article was:

    "Both breweries grew substantially last year: Founders by 34% and Bell's by 9%."

    Hopefully this bodes well for future performance. Reading all of the bad news stories lately of larger distributing craft breweries (e.g., Green Flash, Smuttynose,...) it is comforting to read some good news!!


    @SierraTerence @Sixpoint @StoneBrewingCo
  11. Jag237

    Jag237 Initiate (148) Aug 23, 2014 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    My friend and I used to discuss this all the time because its such a close decision. I chose Bell's in the poll because while I enjoy tend to enjoy them equally Founder's has made a few beers I considered to be misses for my taste. That and the fact that Two Hearted is an excellent easy to find IPA.
    Lone_Freighter likes this.

    DISKORD Initiate (156) Feb 28, 2017 Antarctica

    Founders has a bigger/better variety and it's more affordable.
    Dan411 and waltari like this.
  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,337) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Both of those breweries are still expanding their distribution. Bell’s added a few states last year, TX for example. Founders is in more states than Bell’s, and the Mahou deal gives them overseas distribution.

    Will they hit the wall when both are in all 50 states?
    Ranbot likes this.
  14. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,233) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    They've both got a ways to go to match the +6 million bbl/yr that the previous "largest brewer in Michigan", the Stroh Brewery, Inc., was brewing in Michigan by the late 1970s - before they became a multi-state brewer by buying Schaefer and then Schlitz.

    Heck, it appears that even Goebel and Pfeiffer brewed over a million barrels a year in the 1950s (although Goebel's barrelage likely included the beer brewed in their Oakland, CA brewery).
    Tripel_Threat and Bitterbill like this.
  15. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (4,702) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
    Premium Member

    I grew up on Goebel, Pfeiffer, and Strohs and like both Bells and Founders a damn site better.
    craigo19 and ovaltine like this.
  16. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Aspirant (260) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    What happened with Green Flash?

    (Haven't been on this site as much lately so I must've missed it)
  17. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (667) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Both are good and also different. I like bells Porter more than founders. I like founders IPA's more. Bells stouts are more enjoyable but founders 15 packs are a great deal. Most times are really fresh and right about $15 with the tax.

    I did not vote.

    SN please take note. 15 packs at $1 a beer or less is the way to go. Want to grow your core ,sell a ton more at a bit less profit per can this looks like a good way, although in PA they would end up costing $25 some how. @SierraTerence

  18. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (804) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Hopefully they will l heed what seems to be a more recent lesson that being everywhere for all does not = success. It seems Founders has been more aggressive with larger format packaging and pricing--those 15 packs move.

    Have had more Founders things lately.
  19. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,337) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Founders has expanded the brewery like crazy. The last expansion at the main brewery was a 300 bbl brewhouse. Economies of scale?
    fadgen likes this.
  20. hoagzzz

    hoagzzz Aspirant (249) Feb 28, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Founders all the way, and I say that based their continued innovation. Bells has a handful of beers that no one buys. Oars man ale? Winter white? Amber?? Need to evaluate line up each yr like founders.
    MonkeyBread, matthewp and Greenstone like this.
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,386) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Jeff, you got me there.

    FWIW I often come back to something that Shane Welch (@Sixpoint) has posted a number of times: he states that there is more contemporary brewing capacity than there is demand. If we further consider that new breweries are opening at a rate of 1-2 new breweries every day brewing capacity is ever growing when it is already collectively too big.

    As with any industry there will be winners and losers. The craft breweries that will be winners are those that best serve the demands of the craft beer consumers.

    I have not been carefully tracking Founders but it seems to me that in addition to them expanding distribution into more states there decision to package in 15 packs is a 'winning' decision. I see stacks of Founders 15-packs at my local retailers and they report this format is a popular seller for them (i.e., lots of sales of 15-packs): a combination of a desired package accompanied with competitive (economical) pricing.

    Maybe some of the other larger, distributing breweries will observe the popularity of Founders 15-packs and follow suit?


    @SierraTerence @StoneBrewingCo
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  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,386) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,386) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Yeah, we get screwed for some reason but perhaps SN could sell 15-packs economically elsewhere?

  24. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Aspirant (260) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

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  25. ZebulonXZogg

    ZebulonXZogg Disciple (395) May 5, 2015 Illinois

    I voted for Founder's. I buy more of their product, almost everything they brew is available locally. That does not seem to be the case with Bells, less selection, and the prices seem to be a bit higher. Both are top notch brewers, with outstanding products.
  26. Junior

    Junior Disciple (339) May 23, 2015 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    I didn't vote. I really like them both and can't really say one is better than the other. As a whole I like the Founders dark beers better. While Centennial, Azzaca and Mosaic Promise are good, Founders doesn't have an IPA or Pale Ale that is better than Two Hearted or Hopslam. Both have great taprooms.

    I know that Founders is 30% owned by Mahou-San Miguel, but it is hard for me to consider them not craft.

    The most interesting stat to me was that 62% of their sales is from All Day IPA. That seems very high for a brewery with such a diverse line up. I know that is on volume and not sales $$, it is still pretty high.
  27. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,282) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Founders is a quality brewery no doubt, but Bells aligns with my preferences a lot better so I went with them.
    Gemini6, PatrickCT, Ranbot and 7 others like this.
  28. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,337) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I waffled a bit and then checked my shopping records a bit. After that I voted for Bell’s.
    hopfenunmaltz and Lone_Freighter like this.
  29. RobHB

    RobHB Initiate (135) Aug 20, 2017 New Jersey

    I voted for Founders largely because Bell's is not distributed here in NJ (:sob:). I also would have thought Founders was the largest Michigan Brewery for a while, too.

    I only had an Oberon's last summer because a former co-worker who lives in PA did a bottle share with me. What a delicious beer! (I realize this is me preaching to the choir for many of you.)

    It was interesting to listen to Larry Bell chat with John Holl on the Craft Beer podcast last week but to be honest, I was just hoping at some point Larry was going to say that they'll soon be distributing in NJ.

    Spoilers: He did not say that.
    Premo88 likes this.
  30. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Poo-Bah (5,382) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    Though I can get Founders in Vermont, somehow that joy of taking a ferry across Lk Champlain to get Bell's is always a thrill. Call it the 'hunt', I guess, something of the sorts, or perhaps being able to drink a brewery in my state that doesn't distribute here. I ended up choosing Bell's as a personal preference to what I'd rather have. I can see why Founders is the larger of the two.
    bret717, VABA and TongoRad like this.
  31. Riff

    Riff Crusader (726) May 12, 2016 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    Like both breweries, but the last year I certainly found more Bells in the fridge than Founders. Not a knock on Founders, I think Bells just hit more with what I wanted over this past year.
    bret717, VABA, Mothergoose03 and 2 others like this.
  32. zid

    zid Savant (909) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    That definitely depends on what you're looking at (in both cases). @TongoRad 's post sums it up for me perfectly:
    With their IPA, brown, Pilsner, Oktoberfest, barley wine, wheat beer, and porters (and factoring in availability, price, and personal preferences) - I wouldn't just pick Bell's over Founders, I'd even pick them as the single brewery I'd commit to if I had to commit to just one.

    It's odd seeing importance placed on one brewery "surpassing" another in terms of volume... while most of the other threads in Beer News talk about the dangers of capacity expansion from the seemingly ubiquitous POV that expansion is an obviously bad idea.
  33. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aspirant (243) Jul 30, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Founders for me by far, I love that they offer a plethora of non hoppy interesting beers and the fact that they are always experimenting (DKML was a hit for me). Outside of the occasional Two Hearted I rarely drink Bells (but TH's price did drop in my area so it is a pretty good value now).
    Shanex, tzieser and VABA like this.
  34. pond77

    pond77 Initiate (0) Jan 22, 2011 Michigan

    Founders.. Some of my best experiences. Founders supporting my Bike Races with cases of Red Rye. Better Half showing up at a local tasting. After being aged, having Bolt Cutter at a party . However, IPA's overall goes to Bells.
    Shanex likes this.
  35. Premo88

    Premo88 Meyvn (1,419) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    Yeah, what he said!

    I voted Bell's because Oberon/the brown ale with the Owl on the bottle cap are that important to my fridge, but truth is I love both breweries equally. Founder's Sumatra Mountain is as good as it gets -- and I don't even drink much All Day but just knowing I can get some when I need it makes me very happy.

    So no, it doesn't matter which is bigger? Does it?
    Mothergoose03 and dcotom like this.
  36. eldoctorador

    eldoctorador Zealot (538) Dec 12, 2014 California

    Although I like Bells, Founders may be my favorite brewery, so it's no contest.
    Shanex likes this.
  37. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (591) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana
    Beer Trader

    I often get SN brews for $1/beer.
    jakecattleco likes this.
  38. StartedwithSAM

    StartedwithSAM Zealot (516) Feb 17, 2015 Virginia
    Premium Member

    While both Brewing Companies are excellent, I do enjoy more of Founders' offerings more than Bells', I respect both greatly though.
  39. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (667) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    ot here it close to here.....12 packs are $18-20 and out of state $15 is pretty much the best deal.

    JackHorzempa likes this.
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,386) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Consider yourself lucky you do not live in Pennsylvania in this context. We are closer to 2 bucks a beer here.