Craft Brewer Founders Risks Going For Lager Lovers

Founders Brewing’s motto is, “We don’t brew for the masses.” 

After failing to make a splash with unremarkable Amber and Pale Ales when they launched their brewery in 1997, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers vowed that they would henceforward stick to brewing brew beers that they wanted to drink. 

That was inherently risky, as they were often a bit ahead of trends, even within the experimental craft beer market — such as their early release of a “big malt” Scotch Ale dubbed Dirty Bastard, noted a profile. In fact, the company didn’t break even until 2008. 

Now, having grown into an award-winning top-10 craft brewer and the 16th largest U.S. brewer overall, with eight year-round offerings — including All Day IPA and KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) — plus seasonals, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Founders is still taking risks. 



But this time, Founders is sticking its neck out (so to speak) by venturing outside the craft world and its lineup of “bold, heavy-hitting” ales. The brewer is going after a larger segment of beer drinkers with the launch of a lager. Called Solid Gold, the brewers describe it on the Founders site as “our take on a classic — a drinkable premium lager brewed with the highest-quality ingredients” that “challenges what a lager can be.” 

Fittingly, Solid Gold’s launch campaign, from the Minneapolis-based Solve agency, is risk-themed. Taglined “Brewed to Take on Life,” its anthem video (below) advocates being fearless. 

“Life isn’t measured by the number of trips you manage to take around the sun, but by the moments when that tiny voice in the back of your head decides to speak up, urging you to play it safe — and you completely ignore,” says the voiceover. Visuals show young adults looking determined, and vignettes that convey that the creation of Solid Gold itself was a gutsy move. 

The campaign — the largest in Founders’ history to date — breaks  on March 5, in conjunction with Solid Gold’s national distribution rollout. 

In addition to video, it includes print, point-of-sale and digital and social content. Media partners include Hulu and Esquire. 

“We’re continually inspired by Founders’ bravery and dedication to brewing what they want to drink,” says Solve account director Andrew Pautz. “It takes guts to go head-to-head with mass beer. It’s something most craft breweries wouldn’t ever imagine doing.”

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