Beer-cation destination

By Sean Bradley

Michigan breweries, craft beer industry and the impact on state tourism

People from around the country come to Michigan for the sports teams and the music. These days, add craft beer to the list of reasons people visit the state.

With a Pure Michigan radio advertisement airing in the Midwest region and parts of Canada, the state’s tourism office is pushing craft beer as another reason to visit.

“Certainly we seem to be one of the epicenters of the craft beer industry,” Travel Michigan Vice President George Zimmermann said. “I think it’s the quality and the quantity that has put us on the map as a craft brew destination.”

Enthusiasm for the craft beer industry has translated into a $133 million boost to the state’s economy, according to Pure Michigan, which is run through a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The industry grew 20 percent in the past year, outpacing the 12 percent growth of the rest of the country. In the ad, Tim Allen tells us that Michigan ranks fifth in the country in the number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.

Founders Brewing Co. co-founder David Engbers said people have come from all over the country to the Grand Rapids establishment to try specific beers released at special events.

“The beer enthusiast community is extremely engaged in what we do,” Engbers said. “When we have special releases and events, there’s no question about people coming and celebrating with us and to take part in a shared experience.”

Top Notch Entertainment and Events’ Matt Flynn told the Detroit Free Press that 5 percent of all beer purchased in Michigan was made in Michigan and the segment of craft beer purchases is expected to increase another 5 percent this year. Top Notch Entertainment and Events is responsible for putting on events during Detroit Craft Beer Month.

EagleMonk Pub and Brewery co-owner Sonia Buonodono said the economic growth is good for the state and for her business, which has been open for 10 months. She said people from as far away as Texas have come to EagleMonk, 4906 W. Mt. Hope Highway, just west of Lansing.

“We have groups of people, (and) they’ll come in and say they’ll go around to all of the microbreweries around the state,” she said. “We’ve had other people from other states visiting family and see the different microbreweries.”

Grand Rapids, with popular stops on so-called “Beer-cations” like Founders and Brewery Vivant, was voted “Beer City U.S.A.” this year in a survey by Last year it tied with Asheville, N.C. Other Michigan cities also placed high — Kalamazoo came in second while Ann Arbor came in fourth place.