Although St. Louis, Denver, and Milwaukee like to claim the title of beer capital of the United States, this is the decade of craft beer and in recent years this has meant that Grand Rapids, Michigan has had the best beer scene in the country. Other cities have more microbreweries or more breweries per capita but perhaps no other city has both the numbers and national commercial success of their breweries, highlighted by the “world-renowned Founders Brewing Co.” selling in 46 states and 27 countries, and more than forty other breweries in the area like Brewery Vivant and the original HopCat. Even amidst all the success, the West Michigan city might have to move over for another Michigan city soon; a recent article by Food & Wine is boldy headlined “Detroit Is America’s Next Great Beer City.”
Motor City Brewing Works is Detroit’s oldest operating brewery but Atwater Brewery is surely the city’s most nationally successful operation, serving favorites like Dirty Blonde and Vanilla Java Porter across 24 states and Canada. The Rivertown brewers were even able to crack the Grand Rapids beer scene with an expansion location in 2016 and have big plans in Boston, Chicago, Austin, and North Carolina in the near future. Jolly Pumpkin, Batch Brewing, Detroit Beer Company, Brew Detroit, Traffic Jam & Snug, and the recently opened Eastern Market Brewing Co. round out the big brewers in the city while HopCat and 8 Degrees Plato top the list of beer-centric bars.
The biggest beer news of 2018 certainly comes from Founders Brewing Co.’s opening of a Detroit location a few weeks ago in the Cass Corridor area of Midtown, mere walking distance from a couple dozen more breweries and bars. Co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens reflects on the expansion in the Food & Wine article: “Detroit has been hit hard economically and the town has a real fighter’s spirit. It’s that same spirit that lives within our brewery’s history. We’re looking forward to being a part of the rebirth of one of America’s greatest cities.” The Michigan beer industry employs around 5,000 people and generates $10.5 billion a year and is continuing to grow. In a historically one-industry city, Detroit will look to flex its muscles in the next few years and get a serious cut of the beer business.
By Jared Hoffman
Research Associate, JMJ Phillip Group