Beverage Forum

Mike Stevens
Co-Founder & CEO
Founders Brewing Co.

Mike Stevens is Co-Founder and CEO of Founders Brewing Co. Founders has made its distinctive mark on the craft beer community by brewing complex, in-your-face ales, with huge aromatics and tons of flavor. It is one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in the nation, currently ranking among the top 10 largest breweries in the US as of 2018. The brewery has received numerous awards from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival, and its beers are often rated among the best in the world by RateBeer and BeerAdvocate users.

Mike was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and attended Hope College where he met fellow Founders co-founder Dave Engbers. The pair spent their college years dreaming of opening a brewery but, after graduation, ͞real life͟ got in the way. After a few years spent on unsatisfying career paths, Mike and Dave decided they never wanted to look back on life with regrets. They wrote a business plan, secured funding and opened the doors of Founders Brewing Company in 1997.

Building the brewery from the ground-up, the pair was forced to spend time in every role—from bartending to the business office, from bottling to sales. As the brewery expanded and became successful, Mike has transitioned into a corporate-focused role and leads the business side of Founders.

Founders has enjoyed remarkable success, far outpacing its competitors in the craft beer industry. The company has seen its annual barrel output nearly double each of the last seven years while distribution has expanded from seven states to 46. In 2011, the company was forced to expand its facility to keep up with product demand. The expansion included a new 85-barrel brew house, new kegging and bottling lines and the addition of twenty 400-barrel fermenters, increasing Founders’ annual capacity to 140,000 barrels. In late 2012, they expanded again, adding new cellar space. In 2013, Founders added two new vessels to the 85-barrel brew house, installed a pilot brew house, expanded their taproom and built a new beer garden, educational facility and offices. They’re working on yet another expansion that will add brewing and cellar capacity as well as new canning and bottling lines. This expansion will take the brewery to 900,000 barrels of capacity once complete. Founders finished 2014 with around 194,000 barrels shipped, 2015 with 269,687 barrels shipped, 2016 with 347,780 barrels shipped and 2017 with 468,000 barrels shipped. They’re projecting 625,000 barrels shipped for 2018.

Mike, his wife Cathy, and their three kids live in Grand Rapids. Outside of the beer community, Mike can most often be found in the outdoors mountain biking, fly fishing or kayaking.