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Founders, keepers

Having grown up in Michigan, one of my first orders of business during return visits is stopping by the supermarket in my tiny hometown and picking up some Founders Centennial IPA.

It has enough hops to stand on its own as refreshment, and enough malt character to work well with a variety of foods, from perch to pasties.

Now I can find it here, too. Founders beers started rolling out in Spokane this week, along with the rest of the Northwest – part of Michigan brewers’ plot to conquer the world (or at least a bigger piece of it).

“There’s a very large Midwestern population out here that’s been waiting for this,” says Mark Everett, Founders’ local representative. “Everywhere I go I’m running into people who either grew up in Michigan or know someone who did.”

So far, he’s placed beer at locally based supermarkets – Yoke’s and Rosauers/Super 1 – plus specialty shops including Rocket Market, Total Wine and JB’s, which has both bottles and draft for growler fills. More kegs will start showing up at area bars and restaurants.

The easiest to find is All Day IPA, the session offering that accounts for more than half of Founders’ sales. Look for it in stores in six-pack bottles and 15-pack cans.

I’m not generally a fan of session IPAs, which tend to come off as heavy-handed hop juice. All Day is one of the better examples, nicely balanced at 4.7 percent alcohol by volume and 42 International Bitterness Units; there’s enough malt character for a satisfying mouthfeel, though it finishes slightly sharp and watery. (It certainly tastes sublime under the sweltering sun during a Tigers game at Comerica.)    

The significantly larger Centennial (7.2, 65) is easy-drinking for its strength, lightly soft and sweet with the floral, spicy citrus notes of its namesake hop. While it may not win over hard-core West Coast hopheads, it’s a solid option for more moderate palates.

The seasonal Azacca IPA (7, 70) has a similar amber/orange color and substantial maltiness, with tropical, mango and melon aroma and flavor from that newer hop variety.  

Some say Founders truly shines with its darker beers, and the most legendary is headed our way in April: Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS for short), a 12.4 ABV behemoth brewed with flaked oats, coffee and chocolate and aged in bourbon barrels in underground caves.    

In the meantime, you can catch a variety of Founders offerings at tasting events the week of Jan. 23: at Pints Alehouse on Tuesday, the Flying Goat on Wednesday and The Lantern Tap House on Thursday.     

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