Even More Beer

Breweries across the state — and metro Detroit — expand to meet demand

With about 120 breweries and a still-growing demand for craft beer, the Michigan Brewers Guild estimates that the industry contributes more than $130 million to the state’s economy.

Breweries in Michigan are creating new brands, opening new facilities, adding bottling/canning lines and distribution deals, or expanding their operations. Several metro Detroit facilities have recently expanded or announced plans to expand.

/// Atwater Brewery

Mark Rieth, owner of Atwater Brewery, has been extremely busy the past few years. Expanding the original brewery, which included upgrading the fermentation tanks and adding a bottling line, would be enough to keep most people focused. But Rieth had other aspirations, as well.

The renovation of a historic church for Atwater in the Park in Grosse Pointe Park is in full swing, and it could open as early as March. It will serve as the company’s pilot brewery (smaller batches) and the site for winemaking and distillation. A restaurant and an outdoor biergarten round out the complex.

Rieth is also a managing partner in a new facility called Brew Detroit, which will allow for production of around 50,000 barrels annually. The expansion will allow Atwater’s half-dozen or so retail brands — including the popular Dirty Blonde — to reach markets in the southeastern and southwestern United States.

Atwater also released an exclusive beer for the July 2013 grand opening of the Meijer store on the for-

mer Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. The aptly named State Fair Pale Ale is sold exclusively through Meijer and is a “reflection of the partners involved and to celebrate our shared heritage,” Rieth says.


/// Griffin Claw Brewing Co.

Born from the award-winning beers at Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. is bringing Dan Rogers’ beers to retailers and craft beer fans across the state.

More than 20 years’ experience has garnered brewmaster Rogers a well-earned reputation. With 19 medals in brewing competitions worldwide, he’s a go-to resource for brewers experiencing problems with their recipes and/or processes.

Griffin Claw opened its 12,000-square-foot brewing facility, taproom, outdoor biergarten, and tasting room down the street from Big Rock last July (pictured above). They serve a seasonal roster of beers and plan to add a distillery.

Beer drinkers can also find bottles, 16-ounce cans, and glasses of Griffin Claw beer — including the gold medal-winning Norm’s Raggedy Ass IPA, Grind Line Pale Ale, and El Rojo Red Ale — at retailers, bars, and restaurants. The brewery has the capacity to produce 15,000 barrels annually.


/// Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.

Rising from the ashes of an independent family-owned hardware store that couldn’t compete with big-box retailers, the Kuhnhenn family’s modest Warren storefront was transformed into a brewery.

Over the past 15 years, the brewpub on Chicago Road gained acclaim from beer connoisseurs and the general public alike. Kuhnhenn brews gained global attention in competitions, and word spread fast. The demand for beer and adequate space started to exceed supply. Something had to be done.

The brewpub expanded into the space housing Brewing World, the Kuhnhenns’ homebrew supply store, which was relocated across the parking lot. But it wasn’t enough to keep up with the crowds showing up for events like “The Breakfast of Champions” St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the Solstice Releases. The Kuhnhenns were also finding it difficult to keep up with requests to get their beer distributed.

After several years of planning and purchasing equipment, the Kuhnhenns announced plans for expansion in Macomb County: a new production facility and tasting room in the former Evergreen Home & Garden Center in Clinton Township.

The 35,000-square-foot space is undergoing a major renovation, and will include a 20,000-barrel annual output. Brewing, bottling and canning, a tasting room, and eventually a distillery will be housed in the facility. Initial plans call for distribution of the  gold medal award-winning DRIPA (Double Rice IPA) and the popular Loonie Kuhnie Pale Ale.

The original brewpub remains and will act as the pilot brewing system for special-release batches.


/// Rochester Mills Beer Company

Keeping up with demand for their beer, Rochester Mills opened an additional 48,000-square-foot production facility in Auburn Hills. Initially increasing their output capacity by 100,000 barrels per year, the facility will continue to be expanded — the goal is a whopping 200,000 barrels annually.

The production facility brews beer for kegging. They opted for 16-ounce cans that both reduce shipping costs and maintain the integrity of beer flavor, which can be changed with exposure to light.

Rochester Mills has been a key player on Michigan’s brewing scene since it opened in 1998 in Rochester’s historic Western Knitting Mill. They offer 11 selections on a regular basis and a rotating selection of seasonal and specialty beers. Retail beers include Rochester Red, Lazy Daze Amber Lager, Milkshake Stout, and Cornerstone IPA.