The state of beer in ‘Beer City’

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 18,000 beer, wine and food enthusiasts gathered in downtown Grand Rapids over the weekend for the annual international festival at DeVos Place.

It’s no secret that beer is king in Grand Rapids, but have we reached a point where people in West Michigan are ready to step away from the bar and say “no more for me thanks.”

It seems you can’t toss a stone without hitting a brewery in Grand Rapids.

In fact, experts say there had been a more than 50 percent increase in Grand Rapids-area breweries bringing the number to 32 — and there are two more slated to open in downtown Grand rapids over the next few months.

So 24 Hour News 8 asked the experts, has there been too much growth?

“Until we’re at the point where we have a brewery on every corner just like we have as many churches, we’ll be alright,” said Steve Smith, a craft beer specialist.

The excitement is hard to ignore here at this tasting event where it is clear people are doing a lot of tasting, but will that sustain?

“The number of breweries has been growing year by year, more slowly over the last couple years, but still growing. It’s really exciting times,” said Ben Darcie, an expert brewer who has founded “Experience Beer” — an industry coalition of beer business people in West Michigan.

“We still have quite a ways to go in terms of saturation point but the quality benchmark is so high in Grand Rapids.”

He says the growth will continue outward.

“We’re going to keep opening breweries in more remote outlying locations,” Darcie said.

Smith, a craft beer specialist and educator, says the limit is far from reached in Grand Rapids.

“Still a lot of room for growth, a lot of room for improvement as well, but no, I think we have plenty of space for good competition,” Smith said.

Darcie agrees.

“People aren’t looking for beer so much these days as their looking for an experience, they want something unique and engaging and uplifting,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean that just anyone can do it.

“When there’s so many different breweries that are around now, if you don’t have a hook, if you don’t have an angle, something that separates you from the all the other breweries, you’re kind of just another brewery,” Darcie said.

“As long as you’re making something that’s really high quality, really a lot of passion put into it, it’s going to make a mark and it’s going to stick,” Smith concludes.

The growing thirst for Michigan craft beer isn’t limited to brew pubs, even Meijer says it’s seen a double-digit growth in craft beer sales within the past three years. Meijer says Michigan-based craft beer, Meijer says sales have jumped 20 percent since last year. The economic impact of local craft breweries tops $100 million, the retailer says.