Mich. beer industry has room to grow

Thousands turned out for Winter Beer Festival at 5/3 Ballpark. (Feb. 22, 2014)

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — Thousands gathered in a parking lot at Fifth Third Ballpark for the ninth annual Winter Beer Festival Saturday afternoon.

When tickets for the event went on sale they sold out quickly. Around 6,200 tickets in under three hours were sold.

John Fenton came all the way from Hawaii for Saturday’s event, which featured nearly 90 breweries from around Michigan.

“Somebody looked at it and it was like  4,400 miles or something, but for the right beer,” said Fenton.

It took beer enthusiast, Rhonda DeBretto, even longer to get to West Michigan.

DeBretto was one of nearly 30 people who took a charter bus from Marquette to get to the festival.

The group left Friday morning, but because of terrible travel conditions due to the weather and the Mackinaw bridge being shut down for hours, it took the group 23 hours to make a trip that normally takes about 8 hours.

“The opportunity to cross the bridge got delayed again and again and again,” DeBretto said.

She said the group still had a good time, and it was worth the long trip.

“It was fun because we were with our friends, and we were all safe, but it was a long journey.”

It’s that enthusiasm those with the Michigan Brewers Guild hope continues so the industry can keep growing.

“There is really dramatic growth. Double digit volume growth, year after year. The number of brewing opening is growing year after year and its really accelerating,” said Scott Graham, executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

Graham said while all of that is great, Michigan beers still only represent about 5 percent of beer sales in the state and he hopes to push that percentage beyond ten percent.

“There is going to be a lot of volume growth for years to come. It’s just going to kind of evolve and mature.”

The Michigan beer industry pumps more than $133 million a year into the economy and Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for it’s overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, according to the Michigan Brewers Guild.

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