Economic Development, Food Service & Agriculture, and Retail

Craft beer industry grows by 20 percent, tops off state’s economy

Report ranks Michigan fifth for breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.

March 22, 2013
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Craft beer industry grows by 20 percent
The brewing industry has an economic impact of more than $133 million annually in Michigan. ©istockphoto.com

LANSING — Want to boost Michigan’s job growth and economy? Treat yourself to a cold craft beer.

Michigan’s craft beer industry grew by 20 percent in 2012, according to a “state of the industry” report from the Demeter Group Investment Bank of San Francisco.

Michigan added 17 breweries last year and outpaced the average national industry growth rate by 12 percent. New breweries opened in Big Rapids, Grand Rapids, Marquette and Lake Leelanau, for example.

The Demeter study used data from an economic impact report from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, based in Virginia.

The report, “America’s Beer Distributors: Fueling Jobs, Generating Economic Growth & Delivering Value to Local Communities,” is one of the first national studies that reflect beer distribution companies’ total impact on national and state economies. It used U.S. government data sources for production, employment, wages, incomes, taxes and investments for the brewing companies studied.

According to the association’s president, Craig Purser, the industry provides an economic boost for every state.

“Distributors benefit the economy of their communities through local business-to-business commerce, local investments, capital assets and tax revenue,” Purser said. “They provide services that improve efficiency for trading partners, especially small brewers and retailers, and they ensure fair prices and a broad selection of products for consumers to enjoy.”

Today, Michigan boasts more than 100 breweries, and that number continues to grow.

According to the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan’s thriving industry contributes more than $24 million in wages, with a total economic impact of more than $133 million overall. The guild represents 87 breweries in the state.

Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in total number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.

According to Sarah Aldrich, communications manager for Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Founders is undergoing a $26 million expansion this year, creating more than 50 new jobs. Vice President Dave Engbers attributes the boom to growing interest in locally brewed beer.

“There’s no question that beer tourism is becoming a bigger and bigger draw all the time,” Engbers said. “And Grand Rapids has become even more of a destination since we were named Beer City USA. We want to continue our support of the industry in our hometown by investing in it.”

Grand Rapids tied with Asheville, N.C., in a nationwide poll for the best beer city in the U.S.

The founders of the Ore Dock Brewing Co. in Marquette, which opened in May, said they’re also committed to helping their local community during the long process of launching their business.

Co-owner Andrea Pernsteiner described being inspired to open the brewery during a road trip in Northern Michigan.

“After years of being craft beer enthusiasts and homebrewers, we’re excited to now be a part of the growing Upper Peninsula craft beer scene right here in Marquette,” Pernsteiner said. “With the central U.P. home to two brewpubs and one nanobrewery, the region’s patrons continue to show their support of locally crafted products in an effort to sustain and improve our local economy.”

With that thinking, Pernsteiner hired only local contractors and artisans to renovate the former auto garage that now houses the brewery, providing more than 30 jobs.

Despite growing local and tourist support, the craft beer industry is still volatile. The Michigan Brewing Co. in Webberville and the Grand Rapids Brewing Co. closed in recent years, although the latter was resurrected with new owners in a downtown location.

Still, the industry continues to expand, and Fred Bueltmann, a managing partner of the New Holland Brewing Co., is outspoken about how much fun the beer business can be. Bueltmann took home the 2013 Michigan Brewers Guild’s Tom Burns Award — named for the Detroit and Mackinac Brewing Co. founder — for being an industry pioneer.

In addition to brewing beer, Bueltmann serves as a judge for the Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival and wrote a book, “Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which will be released this spring.

“The Michigan beer scene is a beautiful thing to behold,” Bueltmann said. “I’m continually inspired by the cast of characters that make up our Michigan brewing community.”

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