How much craft beer is too much craft beer? I put that question out on Twitter. The best response: “How many smiles are too many smiles?”
The Michigan craft brewing industry has gone through some “hyper growth” the past five years, according to Mark Stevens, the chief executive officer and co-founder of  Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Surprising? Not to him. “I think the momentum will stick around for the next five years.”

Can we ever have enough or even too many craft breweries?  “I think that is a little different topic than just the growth topic. I do believe we will double the market share but everyone talks about this being a bit of a bubble’” said Stevens.” You can get to the point where there are too many brewers. We could confuse retail a bit with too many SKUs (stock keeping units) out there on the shelf. Eventually, retail operations like Meijer or Spartan are going to throw their hands up and say ‘Enough. We can’t get any more on the shelf.’”

Stevens doesn’t see that happening in the near future. He predicts the “strong will survive, and that is good for the industry. It means you have to pay attention to your product. You have to pay attention to your business. You have to mind what you are doing and make good, sound decisions. Then you will be okay.”

Tom Suprise the chief executive officer and co-founder of Arcadia Brewing in Battle Creek, Michigan is also optimistic about the Michigan craft brewing industry’s potential. He is another brewer who didn’t see this level of success coming. “I don’t think any of us had any clue as to the extent and manner the craft brewing industry would grow. At least from my perspective, we are pleasantly surprised to be in this position 16 years after we started the company.”

The industry is in good shape, nationwide. “There is a tremendous amount of support and enthusiasm for the craft beer culture,” Suprise said. “Our national goal as a community of craft brewers is a 10 percent share or more. There are 18-hundred to 19-hundred breweries in planning now.”

Is Suprise afraid we could ever have too many breweries in the industry? “As long as the breweries that are coming online and those that are in an existing state of operation keep the primary focus on quality and good, sound business practices, there is plenty of room for continued growth,” he said.

Suprise shares the passion for beer and brewing that is expressed by others in the field. “We work every day to make the beer better.”


This is an excerpt from Quenching The Thirst, one of the Restore The Roar: Manufacturing Renaissance ebook series, written by Rod Kackley. Quenching The Thirst is available wherever ebooks are sold including Amazon.

Rod Kackley, a journalist and former news director for WOOD-AM/FM-Grand Rapids, has written for Crain’s Detroit Business, MiBiz, and The Detroit News. He is also the author of Last Chance Mile: The Reinvention of an American Community, the story of the people of Grand Rapids who created the Medical Mile while the rest of Michigan was crashing down around them.

For more of his work, please go to or download his free app available through iTunes and Google Play.