More than 20 years ago, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer began carrying its first craft brew. Today, the retailer remains committed to the growing industry and supporting up-and-coming local breweries across the Midwest, it says.

Meijer’s commitment to local craft breweries represents an annual economic impact of more than $100 million across the Midwest, it adds. The company expects to stay on par with its projected double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales, as the retailer has experienced during the past three years. With respect to Michigan-based craft beer alone, Meijer reports that it has seen a 20 percent increase across its six-state footprint so far this year, said Rich O'Keefe, Meijer senior buyer, during a recent exclusive roundtable gathering of some of the best craft beer breweries in southeast Michigan.

“We attribute this growth to establishing a great dialogue with craft beer breweries throughout Michigan and cultivating their popularity across our retail foot print,” O'Keefe said at Atwater Brewery in Detroit. “The consumer response has been tremendous. It proves that the thirst for Michigan craft beer is apparent throughout our retail markets. We are proud of the great products Michigan-based breweries produce and look forward to expanding the availability and building the popularity of other great regional breweries.”

Meijer gathered several Michigan-based brewery owners and founders at Atwater Brewery to discuss product trends and the state of the local craft beer industry. The event kicked off local in-store tasting events with area craft "brewlebrities" on site at select Meijer stores.

The following were the participants who were at the event:

  • Joe Short, founder/owner of Short's Brewing Co.;
  • Mark Reith, owner of Atwater Brewery;
  • Eric Briggeman, vice president/general manager of Rochester Mills Brewery;
  • Kyle VanDeventer, sales manager of Griffin Claw;
  • John Leone, owner/president of ROAK Brewing Co.;
  • Tony Grant, owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Co. and Northern United Brewing Co.;
  • Chase Kushak, co-founder/chief executive officer of Founders Brewing Co.; and
  • Matt Moberly, director of business insights of Bells Brewery.

“The concept of craft beer — especially in Detroit — has grown quickly from a garage hobby to a viable economic engine for Detroit and Michigan,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer, in a statement. “We are proud to celebrate the craft masters who drove this industry to where it is today in Detroit. Their commitment to quality and craftsmanship is fueling demand for craft beer in and around Detroit.”

Meijer began carrying its first craft brew — Bell's Oberon — 20 years ago at a single Kalamazoo store and today sells more than 550 different craft beers from 220 local breweries across the retailer's six-state footprint, it says. Of those, 40 are produced by Detroit or southeast Michigan breweries. Meijer continues to partner with local craft brewers to expand their distribution. In fact, Michigan craft beer sales account for 31 percent of the retailer's craft beer sales and 10 percent of the retailer's total beer sales, it said.

“Being in the same room with this group of craft brewlebrities — knowing their histories and the how far they've come is truly amazing,” said Shannon Long, producer and co-host of Pure Brews America, in a statement. “I think what makes them great is that they are focused on their core and not the next hot thing. They don't need to follow a trend because they are the trend. “

A video of Detroit craft brew masters sharing their perspective on making a good craft brew and their relationship with Meijer is available at