KALAMAZOO, Mich. — West Michigan brewers said five to 10 years ago the industry looked completely different and can't believe how quickly it has grown.
There was a 15-20% growth in employment in the craft beer manufacturing and distribution industry in 2019. Many expect that level of growth to continue into 2020. Michigan Brewers Guild Executive Director Scott Graham said the opportunity for expansion is there, with around 11% of the beer brewed in Michigan being sold in Michigan.
"I think we've got a long way to go yet, but with all the growth we see the industry maturing and developing, we're still seeing breweries open at a pretty good rate," Graham said.
There are about 400 licensed breweries across Michigan, which is the most the state has ever seen including before prohibition.
Graham said he sees the industry continuing to grow.
"Over $1 billion and thousands of jobs are directly and indirectly attributed to brewing," he said. "So it's a big thing now and it's only getting bigger."
Michigan's brewing industry is bringing in $2.4 billion and over 17,000 full-time jobs.
Bill Simaz, brewer and co-owner of Harbor Light Brewing, said he's been a home brewer for over 30 years and said it was time to join the booming industry.
"The craft beer industry is, I think, taking over Michigan," Simaz said. "Everybody in the state of Michigan is almost rallying around micro-brewing and the craft beer industry."
Simaz said Harbor Light Brewery in downtown South Haven is seeing success after opening almost one year ago.
"I believe it will eventually get to the point where every small town or every neighborhood is going to have their specialty brewery around," he said. "I think there's plenty of room for growth."
According to Southwest Michigan First, Kalamazoo remains one of the largest distributors of craft beer in the state of Michigan, with at least 10 breweries downtown.