Founders Hill


The great downtown location on Main Street affords easy access to the brewpub of Founders Hill Brewing Company via auto, bus, and even train. From both outside and in the lighted brewhouse is highly visible. The 15-barrel Pub system features a mighty four 45-barrel unitank fermenters. A large cherry wood barback separates the bar-lounge room from the dining room, the bar side featuring a mirrored large frosted Founders Hill logo. The long cherry-colored bar sports four blue and gold porcelain and brass five-tap towers pouring the house and guest (Goose Island) beer(s). Overhead, about 200 ceramic mugs of Mug Club members await use. For $35 a year members are entitled to 10% off bar menu items on Tuesdays, no cover charge weekends, and pint prices for about 1.5 times a pint's volume. Three silent TVs display sporting events with an associated closed-captioning play coverage. An electronic darts machine stands safely in the room's far corner. Large whimsical murals brighten the interior walls, with the all-glass front wall bringing in plenty of light from the street. Tables along that front wall provide a raised view of the room and outside activity street-side. Reddish wood tables - large and small, tall and short - populate the room on the tan-colored stone tiled floor. From the 15-foot natural wood ceiling hang electric fans and drop-down lights, all among the black tin ducting. A front brick wall features large framed prints of the house beer labels. The currently available beers are displayed on a chain-linked ladder of wooden signs of beer names at the left end of the bar. When patrons outstrip the available seating, a long wooden shelf along the glass-walled brewhouse wall offers additional space for stand-up drinking. Although smoking is allowed, the ventilation system seems like it would be adequate for people with average taste appreciation to enjoy the favors of their beers and food. From the lounge, the restrooms are fully wheelchair accessible.

Printed flyers announce specials such as $2.50 Wednesday "Reds". Most nights have some house beer for $2.50 a pint but Wednesdays offer half-price growlers as well! Standard prices include $3.50 pints, $2.75 for 12-ounce glasses, $3.50 Sampler Sets, $12 Growlers ($9 refills), 1/4-barrels for $55, and 1/2-barrels for $105. The Sampler comes on a wooden paddle, with insets for the logo'd five-ounce glasses, and a laminated card describing the specific house beers. The Founders Light Lager, at 3.5%, is a clear straw color with a light body and refreshing clean, light, malty flavor. The gold-colored Heritage Wheat, 4.6%, features a wheaty flavor with a crisp hop bitterness. The 4.9% Hidden River Red Ale is a clear amber with a smooth mouthfeel, mild caramel sweetness that becomes dry and bitter into the finish and lingering aftertaste. The Pierces Pale Ale, 4.8%, is a clear amber but light-bodied with a mellow hop bitterness where the pale malt flavor remains subdued before the final hoppy finish. The 5.3% Blacksmith Stout starts with a creamy tan head before producing a creamy mouthfeel, medium body, and a dry malty flavor with hints of roasted barley that lead to a dry finish. As announced by the black chalkboard, the seasonal is the Maibock, with its clear gold color topped by a white head. This medium-bodied brew seems evenly balanced with aspects of a sweet maltiness and even some hops well into the finish. Bottles of Miller Lite appear to be served with little admonishment. Note that the term "Growler" has a special meaning here. Since bartenders do not have a "fill tube" to bottom-fill growlers from the bar taps, a busy bar scene that includes growler orders results in the bartenders admitting to "growling" at the situation.

The Bar Menu seems very popular with the early evening crowd. Appetizers run $5 to $11 and include Nachos, Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Baked Brie, Potato Skins, Spent Grain Pizza, Founders (appetizer) Combo Platter, Buffalo Chicken Wings, and Cajun Fried Crawfish Tails. Sandwiches are $7 to $8 and include Pulled Pork BBQ, the Brewben, Grilled Portabello Mushroom, Heritage Chicken Breast, and 1/2-pound burgers. The well-lit dining room covers two floors, with the mostly booth seating sporting Route-66 upholstery designs offering good views of the colorful murals and framed local scene prints. Weekends offer live music on premises. Weeknight crowds tend slightly toward men in their 20s, 30s, and 40, with a healthy supply of appreciative regulars. Light Rock & Rolls tunes permeate the room, from either the house system or the CD jukebox. A display case offers souvenirs such as Growlers, T-shirts, and ceramic mugs. Founders Hill seems to be a popular neighborhood brewpub that knows what the market wants. Stop on by to see if it's got what you look for in a brewpub. Hours are Monday through Wednesday 11 to 10 (bar 11 to midnight), Thursday through Saturday 11 to 11:30 (bar 11 to 1), and Sunday 3 to 9 (bar 3 to 10).

Founders Hill Brewing Company
5200 Main Street
Downers Grove, Illinois 60515

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - June 2001

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