The Detroit Fall Beer Festival and the future of craft beer in the city

If you like good beer, it's a great time to be in Detroit.

By year's end, HopCat, a highly celebrated Grand Rapids-based chain of craft beer bars, will open its newest location on Woodward Avenue in Midtown Detroit. (HopCat already operates in three locations, Grand Rapids, East Lansing, and Indianapolis, and will expand to Ann Arbor early next year.) Dexter-based Jolly Pumpkin is also in the process of opening a taproom and production facility in Midtown on Canfield Street inside the Willys Overland retail complex. Batch Brewing, winner of the 2013 Hatch Detroit contest, is getting closer to opening its doors in Corktown.

Even Hollywood wants a piece of the local beer scene. According to MLive Detroit, Jason Momoa, star of HBO's Game of Thrones and the forthcoming superhero flick Aquaman, has his sights set on Detroit as a potential location to open a brewery.

In addition to newcomers to the Detroit beer scene, longtime local favorites Atwater Brewery (which recently opened a taproom/biergarten in Grosse Pointe Park), Motor City Brewing Works, and Traffic Jam & Snug continue to flourish.

And on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26, the city's premier craft beer event, the Detroit Fall Beer Festival, will take place in Detroit's Eastern Market.

"This year's festival is more of the same, just with more breweries and more beers," says Scott Graham, executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, an organization that works to promote and protect Michigan's booming brewing industry. Over 75 Michigan breweries and over 600 beers will be present at the festival this weekend.

The Brewers Guild has put on the annual Detroit Festival since 2008 and sponsors three other major beer events across the state: the Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti, the Upper Peninsula Fall Beer Festival, and the Winter Beer Festival in Grand Rapids.

"When we decided we wanted to expand our festivals, it made sense to do something in Detroit," remembers Graham. "It was just natural to do it in Eastern Market. They've treated us like family."

Graham is optimistic about the development of Detroit's and Michigan's beer industry, which has grown considerably over the past two decades.

"It's grown from a niche industry into one that has real business issues. It's exciting to see an industry that's got that going on in Michigan."

When asked about what has made Southwest Michigan's beer scene so successful (Grand Rapids twice has been voted "Beer City U.S.A." in a contest administered by the national Brewers Association), Graham can't quite put his finger on it.

"It's a little confounding to see why so many of the packaging and distributing breweries are in Southwest Michigan and not Southeast Michigan. Of course, that's not to say there isn't great beer culture in Detroit. Traffic Jam and Motor City are two of the oldest brewpubs in the state."

Graham sees strong potential in Detroit's further development into a destination for beer tourists.

"It's exciting to see the success HopCat has had, and the Detroit location will add to the great variety that's already in Detroit with great beer bars like Park Bar, Foran's Grand Trunk Pub, and Slows. Beer tourism is interesting. It's very common to see beer places as a sub-destinations while traveling."

This weekend, however, beer tourists can let the brews come to them at the Fall Beer Festival in Detroit's Eastern Market. Saturday's event is sold out, but tickets are still available for Friday, October 25. For ticket information and a list of participating breweries and the beers they will be offering, visit

"It's a fun time," says Graham. "Bring your friends."

Matthew Lewis is Model D's managing editor. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjlew.

Read more articles by Matthew Lewis.

Matthew Lewis is a writer and former managing editor of Model D. He's currently the communications officer for the New Economy Initiative. 
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