Living in Grand Rapids and not having a mug club membership at one of the iconic breweries that helped earn this city the title of Beer City USA is just wrong. Having only been 21 for a little over a year and being new to the craft beer scene, I just recently learned that these so called mug clubs even existed. Who knew that mug clubs were the best kept secret that breweries like Harmony Brewing Company and Founders Brewing Company were keeping. Why wouldn’t you want to pay $50-$60 to have a personalized mug kept behind the bar and get exclusive specials every night of the week. The mug club membership would basically pay for itself!
Thus, I began researching all my favorite Beer City USA breweries to see which mug club I wanted to join. That’s when the rain started falling on my mug club parade. These mug clubs were not something you could just join on a whim. Most clubs had strict membership limits that returning members had first dibs on during the once-a-year sign up. After hours of research fueled by craft beer of course, I was determined that I would become a 2014 Founders mug club member. There were 1,700 spots available and returning members had the opportunity to renew their membership up until 24 hours before the first day of sign up for new members began. After inquiring with the mug club coordinator, Becky Ringwalski, she warned me that the mug club generated lots of excitement and people would start lining up outside the doors a couple of hours before sign up officially began.
Was my love for craft beer enough to warrant waiting outside for hours in the cold and possible Michigan weather mix? Heck yes! When I pulled up to Founders on December 1st, three hours before sign up began there was already a line wrapped around the building. That’s when the panic began to set in. I knew there would be a lot of people, but I wasn’t expecting quite that many so early. And I thought I was committed! Once I was settled in line with my McDonalds breakfast, coffee, 2-packs of M&M’s, and 3 layers of clothing to withstand the 32-degree weather I started assessing the situation. After talking to my newfound Founders loving-friends in line I discovered I was about 70th in line. It seemed that everyone in line was estimating that about 100-200 new spots would be available. I was feeling pretty confident about my chances, but I knew I had 3 pain staking hours to go, before I knew if I made it to the big leagues.
I had to see for myself all the craft-beer loving people who had gotten there well before me. The hopeful members were from all walks of life. You had the group of bearded men decked out in Carhart bibs that had gotten there at 7:30am, the group of college-aged women sitting in lawn chairs flipping through magazines, and middle-aged couples that frequented Founders for date nights. I even heard murmurings of people taking a vacation day to wait out in line, and that a mug club membership was similar to passing down a Northern Michigan cottage down to your grandchildren. Despite the cold, the atmosphere was a unique blend of craft-beer loving spirit that you could only find in Beer City USA.
There was still a sense of nervousness in the air the entire morning, and when they finally started passing out the slips the crowd fell eerily quiet. You could hear the sighs of relief when each mug club member hopeful got their hands on the hard earned slip of paper that gave them an exclusive membership. At number 68 I can happily say, I too am a proud 2014 Founders mug club holder. Let’s just say I may have already put this on my resume.
It may be too late for you to become a 2014 mug club member at Founders, but you might just get lucky and find a perfect mug club fit for you somewhere else!
Andrea Filter, Contributing Writer