Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a five-part series profiling Michigan’s brewing industry.
At 3.8 percent of the Michigan beer market, the state’s craft beer industry is still just a drop in the growler.
But that number has tripled since 1997, and is, as Michigan Brewers Guild executive director Scott Graham puts it, snowballing toward a larger share. The guild’s job is to help promote and support the industry its members make up, and to compete against the beer corporations of the world.
And that’s where the problem stems from, getting consumers to switch over to the better tasting liquids.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t know there’s a brewery down the street or there’s great beer in Michigan,” Graham said. “As more people find beer that’s interesting, it makes them more interested in seeking it out and sharing and bringing more people into the marketplace.
“If they’re a beer lover, they’re part way to being a craft beer lover. Not all of them will decide they like it, but a lot of them haven’t even thought about it or been exposed to it.”
The guild’s job
The guild is an organization made up of Michigan’s craft brewers seeking to get their products into the hands of more beer drinkers, and so far so good.
The guild’s goal is to hit the 10 percent market share, and although the current 3.8 seems a long way off, it really isn’t that far to reach. With states such as Oregon reaching about 20 percent of the state’s market share, it’s a national goal to hit 10 percent of the market, Arcadia Brewing Company owner Tim Suprise said.
“All of us at the guild certainly have our eyes on that goal and I’m convinced it’s possible,” Suprise said. “We’re all doing a great job in growth and awareness, engaging customers locally and culturally. All things combined can help us to that 10 percent mark.”
That sentiment was one Graham agreed with, as the amount of quality beers brewing and the ability of consumers to easily access the product is continually improving. If that’s the status quo, the market share also will steadily increase.
“I really think, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re taking all the right steps,” he said. “It doesn’t happen fast, the quality is important. The more we talk and try to find ways to educate the public and it will come faster and faster.”
In fact, Rex Halfpenny, publisher of Michigan Beer Guide, said the four percent mark will come this year, if it hasn’t already.
The number will only continue to get closer as more merchandisers look to carry the products being made by more than 100 breweries across the state.
“(I look forward to) watching retailers accept it more and realize it’s not only fun for them but good for their business because it draws in different and more consumers,” Graham said. “And to see the guild grow and play a role in building awareness, there’s still a lot of room to grow. There’s still going to be a lot of new ways, just because there aren’t enough of us working on it. It’s great to have those new opportunities.”