Brewer Bytes with Founders Brewing Co.
An Interview with Jeremy Kosmicki, Head Brewer
Posted on 2/26/2013 by Chops
It's hard to believe that the Founders Brewing Company once faced bankruptcy for making beers that were merely great. They solved this "problem" by focusing attention on the beers that originally excited them: "complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor." Not only did this strategy save the company, but it also thrust Founders into the spotlight as one of the most exciting trailblazers of the craft beer movement. Big bold beers like the Curmudgeon, Dirty Bastard, and the highly coveted KBS have solidified Founders as a pillar of the American craft beer scene. As huge fans of the brewery, you might say we were positively giddy when Head Brewer Jeremy Kosmicki agreed to participate in Brewer Bytes.

What inspired you to get into brewing?

I remember back in 1994 buying a couple of strange looking beers -- Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic and Old Fezziwig Ale. I didn't have much appreciation for the flavor of the American mass produced beers at the time, but these new beers didn't resemble them in the least. My cousin was going to school in Kalamazoo, so we had access to Bell's beers also. That was what really hooked me on craft beer. This led to buying a home brewing kit, and the results were pretty positive. The method was simple -- more ingredients equals more flavor, and that was good enough for a bunch of 20 year old kids. In 2000, my future wife encouraged me to take my unemployed ass down to the local brewery and apply for a job. That brewery was Founders and they hired me on the spot to work on their bottling line. By 2002 I was brewing, and in 2005 I took over as Head Brewer.

What are your favorite beer styles?

I'm very much in love with American hops, so I'd have to put American IPA at the top of my list. But I usually like to drink beer all day long, so I find session beer to be more suited to my lifestyle. My solution was to create All Day IPA, a 4.7% ABV ale with enormous hop aroma and flavor, yet a balanced bitterness to go with its light body. I guess when I was younger I was drawn to the higher alcohol beers, but these days I'm looking for flavor and quality without the overwhelming buzz.

How do you feel about beer reviewing and its impact on the industry?

In the case of Founders, I really think it had a lot to do with our accelerated growth. Our KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) is a highly sought after beer these days, due in no small part to the excellent reviews it receives on the internet. But I can remember a time when it would hang out in our to-go cooler for weeks, and I was brewing a very small amount of it. Now people are literally fighting over it, and while it's flattering, it's also difficult because I know I'll never be able to make enough of it to keep everyone happy. Seems like a lot of people don't really understand that -- that some beers are so labor intensive, so special - they will never be mass-produced.

How does it feel to have your beers reviewed on sites like BrewChief?

It's a great resource for a brewer to gather feedback from hundreds and thousands of people who are critically tasting your beers. These people care enough to, on their own time, evaluate and write (sometimes lengthy) reviews, detailing everything they like and don't like about your creations. It may not be as prestigious as the judges' feedback at the GABF or WBC, but it can be a more accurate assessment of how your beers come across to the general craft beer drinking public. That being said, it can also be difficult to read the negative stuff. The internet provides an anonymous soundboard for people to say whatever the hell they want without consequence, and some people's criticisms are just mean and spiteful. So for every ten great reviews I read, there's always a shitty one to rain on my parade. But you've gotta take the good with the bad.

What advice would you give to a new craft beer fan?

There sure are a lot of options these days. It must be exciting and overwhelming for a new guy or girl to approach a beer cooler with so many styles and breweries to choose from. There's really great beer available, but I also think there are a lot of disappointing beers on the market. Thankfully everyone's tastes are different, and some folks may love a beer that I think is mediocre. I would recommend checking out the beer review websites and picking out a few breweries that get generally good reviews and have product available in your area. Try most of their offerings and get a feel for what styles most appeal to you. Maybe you love brown ales right now and should try every brown ale you can get your hands on. Just remember that your palate will change over time. Even today's most hardened hop-heads probably didn't like his or her first taste of an IPA.

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Jeremy Kosmicki, Head Brewer at Founders Brewing Co.
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