TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — David Cannizzaro sold his bakery in Vermont, moved to northern Michigan and brewed another recipe for success.
His family poured almost $500,000 into the old railroad depot off Eighth Street in Traverse City, and in February he'll open the Filling Station Microbrewery.
Cannizzaro is a long-time amateur brewer and hopes to carve a niche amid the region's burgeoning craft beer business. New pubs are popping up throughout the Grand Traverse area, existing breweries are ramping up production and beer festivals draw impressive crowds.
"Michigan is definitely booming with craft brewers," Cannizzaro said. "It's a passion for me. Everybody loves to talk about the whole process from start to finish."
The state hosts more than 100 licensed breweries, the fifth-highest number in the nation, according to the Michigan Brewers Guild.
Craft beer sales in Michigan grew more than 21 percent between 2009 and 2010, guild Executive Director Scott Graham said. About 4 percent of all beer consumed in Michigan is craft beer, and 2 percent is made in Michigan.
That heady growth is evident across northwest Michigan. Traverse City's Right Brain Brewery built its popularity in downtown's Warehouse District, but will move to a larger site along 16th Street in an effort to boost production and can its beer.
Another microbrewery is planned for Garfield Township; the business will be tied to a farming operation and will use crops grown there in its products.
Northern United Brewing Co., whose product lines include beer varieties from North Peak and Jolly Pumpkin breweries, produced 5,600 barrels of beer in 2011, a 57 percent increase from 2010.
Production at its facility on Old Mission Peninsula near Bowers Harbor Inn more than doubled last year to 3,757 barrels, while beer sales at its North Peak Brewery on West Front Street increased more than 7 percent last year.
Northern United is among the pioneers of Michigan's craft brew industry. Partner Jon Carlson opened his first small brewery in Ann Arbor in the mid-'90s, and he and fellow Traverse City native Greg Lobdell have since expanded to multiple local sites. They plan more such areas in the Detroit area and increased their use of locally grown hops and other Michigan farm products.
Lobdell recalls the day when his pubs had to feature national beer brands to attract customers.
"Now it's just the opposite," Lobdell said. "Everyone is knowledgeable and passionate about craft beer."
Short's Brewery, launched in 2004 in an old hardware store in downtown Bellaire, is among the country's fastest-growing brewers. Short's beer production increased more than tenfold in the past five years, thanks to a 2008 move to an old manufacturing plant in Elk Rapids, its chief financial officer, Scott Newman Bale, said.
Production grew from 1,127 barrels in 2007 to nearly 13,000 barrels last year.
Short's is set to pour in excess of $1 million into the Elk Rapids plant and add 10 brewing tanks by summer.
"That will take this facility to its maximum," said Matt Drake, Short's production manager. "You couldn't anticipate the growth we've seen at the Elk Rapids facility."
Graham, of the state brewer's guild, contends there's plenty of room to expand Michigan's craft brew sector. His organization's goal is for state-produced craft beer to garner a 10 percent market share in Michigan, attainable, he believes, because other states have exceeded that number.
"The whole state continues to have a thriving beer scene, and it's getting better and better," Graham said. "As the new breweries open, it continues to raise awareness."
But craft beer drinkers are demanding sorts, brewers said. Continued growth hinges not only on making more beer, but also devising unique new products.
"I think there's room for more quality," said Newman Bale, who noted that several small Midwest breweries opened and closed in recent years because their beers didn't meet customer expectations.
"If you don't make a top-quality product, you're doomed to failure," Newman Bale said. "Average doesn't cut it anymore."