West Michigan brewers help build Michigan’s Beer Tourism Industry

With national recognition and more breweries on the way, West Michigan is drawing tourists interested in tasting the local ales.

With another brewery set to open its doors in a few weeks, Grand Rapids, Mich. is working to take over sole possession of the Beer City USA crown that it shares with Ashville, N.C. and build on the already growing beer tourism industry in the state. While the original Grand Rapids Brewing Company closed its doors last year, its name and some of its equipment will be put back to good use when Michigan’s first all-organic brewery opens December 6. The “new” Grand Rapids Brewing Company will be located at 1 Ionia St. SW, right across from the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

Some people across the country may have been surprised when Grand Rapids received enough votes to tie Asheville in the annual unofficial Beer City USA competition held by blogger and home-brewing pioneer Charlie Papazian. Especially considering Asheville had held the title for the previous three years. As well as helping to put Grand Rapids on the beer map nationally, this win helped show a tremendous amount of pride by local residents of the city in their beer and breweries. The winner is decided by the voting public and Grand Rapids residents helped make the final push to help the city secure a tie for first.

This pride in a local product is just one piece of community food system development that Michigan State University Extension has been working on. Several breweries also support local agriculture by featuring their products on food menus and have even begun sourcing a portion of their hops from Michigan producers.

The development of a sense of pride surrounding beer in West Michigan is also starting to pay off in the form of a budding beer tourism industry. Asheville has seen significant growth in tourism related to their micro-brewery industry. The Michigan Brewers Guild has even developed a VIP membership program for “Enthusiasts” or “Beer Nuts.” This program allows fans of Michigan beer VIP access to brewery tours and special deals as well as VIP tastings at Michigan Brewers Guild festivals.

With more than 100 breweries already operating across the state, Michigan and its unofficial “Beer Hub” Grand Rapids are poised to capitalize on the growing tourism industry and development opportunities presented by local beer.

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