Atwater Brewery, Detroit's hometown craft beer brewery, has experienced exponential growth over the past several years and is investing in people and equipment to meet even stronger demand in the future. From its location in a 1919 warehouse in Detroit's Rivertown district, Atwater now produces more than a dozen styles of beer that meet the brewer's singular focus to produce the highest quality craft beers on the market. In 2011, Atwater's award winning brews achieved record production of 7,500 barrels, and Atwater expects to double production to 15,000 barrels in 2012 and double again to 30,000 barrels in 2013.
In January, Atwater took delivery of four new tanks that will enable it to significantly boost production to meet the sharply rising demand. Atwater has added 12 new Detroit-based employees, and hopes to add up to 25 more employees through 2015.
"We're ecstatic that our Atwater family of craft beers is winning new customers and being invited to the best parties," said Mark Rieth, the Michigander at the helm of the company since 2005. "In 2011, we weren't able to meet 50% of the orders we received. Now, we have the people, the facilities and the partnerships in place to meet demand and help put Detroit back on the national brewery map."
In the 1850s, Detroit had more production breweries than anywhere else in the country.
In explaining Atwater's recent growth, Rieth points to Atwater's commitment to using the finest ingredients, brewed in industry-best equipment and managed by many of the best people in the business. Craft brewing, especially German Lagers, has long been a passion for Rieth. He first invested in the Atwater Brewery in 2002 and bought it out in 2005 with a renewed focus on brewing and distribution.
Atwater's four new tanks are expected to increase output by 400% over the 2011 levels. The new tanks join Atwater's existing equipment by Kaspar Schultz, a German company that is recognized as the world's best manufacturer of brewing equipment since 1677. Only four such machines are currently operating in North America. The Atwater brewery runs as much as 18 hours a day, six or seven days a week, producing award winning beer.
The best way to sample Atwater's distinctly fresh and flavorful brews locally is by visiting Atwater's tap room in the production facility itself. There, just a few feet from the brewing tanks, customers can taste Atwater's wide variety of beers, including its biggest seller, Dirty Blond, as well as its other lager, stout, ale, pilsner, porter, and specialty beer flavors that round out the product line.
How to put Atwater beer in your fridge:
Atwater brands are sold at Michigan retailers throughout the state. As the brands grow in popularity, Atwater has formed distribution agreements with select national chains and regional distributors. Through these relationships, and beyond the 60% of its product sold state-wide in Michigan, Atwater is finding customers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and New England.
Most of the Atwater beers are available in cans. "Cans are considered by many to be the preferred vessel for beer since they limit the access of air and light, both of which are detrimental to the precious liquid," said Rieth. "Cans also help us meet our environmental goals. They require less energy to produce and ship and also are more favorable from a recycling standpoint."
Resurrecting Detroit's Relevance as a brew town:
"We use a time tested German brewing process, but we strive to be authentically Detroit in both our flavors and approach. We are constantly perfecting our beer styles to reflect this heritage," said Rieth.
With its current facility humming, Atwater is planning to build a new, full-scale brewery in 2014. "We'd love to be in the same area [on Jos Campau in the Rivertown District], but whatever we do and wherever we are, we'll certainly keep our production and jobs here in Detroit," said Rieth.