Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan & Emmet Counties.

The Craft Beverage Industry: Riding the Wave

Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that the local craft beverage industry is outpacing national growth. 

By: Sam Bailey, NLEA Strategic Initiatives Manager

Locals and visitors alike are familiar with the wave of breweries, wineries, and distilleries opening and expanding in Northern Michigan. The craft beverage industry is booming with an abundance of establishments and drinks to explore, and many businesses are expanding to become event and music venues. The vibrant craft beverage scene is more than just the chance for fun, it is an opportunity for meaningful economic development. Beyond their increasing employment and wages, the proliferation of breweries, distilleries, and wineries creates the additional opportunity to build up the sectors that support them: agriculture, logistics, tourism, graphic design, transportation, marketing, and more.

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in the table below demonstrates the rapid growth of the craft beverage industry in our region—despite some statistical challenges. Although the North American Industry Classification System data is coded as Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing, the NLEA does not know of a business in the area producing tobacco products which indicates these establishments and jobs are centered in beverage manufacturing.

NAICS 312 – Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing Data





Average Annual Employment


Total Wages

Annual Wagers Per Employee

Employment Location Quotient

Total Wage Quotient

Antrim County















Emmet County















Charlevoix County





Cheboygan County





Data is sourced from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

-: Data is not available.

In the last five years, beverage manufacturing added three establishments, almost quadrupled its employment, and increased payroll by over one million dollars in Antrim County. In Emmet County, the beverage manufacturing added four new establishments and fifty-six employees while more than doubling its payroll. Additionally, both Charlevoix and Cheboygan Counties added new Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing establishments. Location quotients—a measure of the importance of an industry to the local economy compared to the national economy—show that the craft beverage sector is an increasingly significant component of our local economy and outpacing national growth. A location quotient above 1.0 means an industry has a higher concentration in the area than the national economy; in the last five years the industry increased its employment location quotient from 1.7 to 3.23 in Emmet County and from 1.22 to 4.40 in Antrim County. A more detailed explanation and discussion of location quotients can be found in a previous NLEA article, “Location Quotient Analysis: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Local Economy.” People familiar with the craft beverage sector in the region would call the number of establishments listed an undercount. It is important to note that this data is based on the “primary business” of an establishment; so, if a local establishment serves food and brews beer, it could be classified as a restaurant rather than a beverage manufacturer.

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suppresses data to prevent personally identifiable information due to the small size of the Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing sector in Charlevoix and Cheboygan Counties. The success of the craft beverage industry is not just being felt in tap rooms and restaurants. Craft beverage makers are filling up vacant commercial spaces across the region, breathing life back into downtowns and communities. Mammoth Distilling’s Rosen Rye Project represents the revival of a historically significant regional crop, an opportunity for local agriculture, and the chance to further elevate the regional spirits industry. The 2016 recognition of the Tip of the Mitt as an official American Viticultural Area and Mackinaw Trial Winery’s state of the art processing facility have been a boon for the local wine scene. The official recognition gives the region increased prominence and Mackinaw Trail Winery has been able to handle the mixing and processing for startup wineries as they develop their personal capacity. High Five Spirits purchased the former Bay Harbor equestrian center to turn it into a distillery and sprawling wedding venue and events center. A larger distillery means increased production capacity while a music and event center will bolster our tourism industry. An increasing number of local businesses are selling their products online, bringing revenue into the region to be circulated through our local economy as they work with marketers, distributors, and others. Furthermore, our vibrant craft beverage scene is helping to attract a younger demographic to the region, something desperately needed as we face a shrinking workforce and rapidly aging population. Northern Michigan needs to develop a cohesive strategy to explore its supply chain and distribution network to support this prospering industry and ride the craft beverage wave.

Learn more about opportunities for our region to leverage the craft beverage industry at the Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase on Friday May 13th at Boyne Mountain. Ben Slocum of Beards Brewery, Chad Munger of Mammoth Distilling, Matt McCann of Detroit Stillworks and Muskrat Distilling, and Dustin Stabile of Mackinaw Trail Winery will serve as a panel of experts examining what makes the region so successful in this rapidly growing industry.

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