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On April 10, The Brewers Association announced their inaugural list of the 50 Fastest Growing Craft Breweries of 2017, and Lansing’s very own Ellison Brewery & Spirits made the list, along with only one other Michigan craft brewery.
“We focus on quality. We want flavor.
Our beers sell so quickly, I think, because of that,” said Aaron Hanson, owner of Ellison Brewery & Spirits.
While mega beer producers like Anheuser-Busch and Heineken create consistent, quality products, smaller breweries like Ellison, focusing more on flavor and unique styles, are popping up across the nation, especially here in the Mitten State, and are doing quite well.
“We’re focused on growing, but growing smartly,” said Hanson. “I’m not trying to add a lot of debt overhead, I’m trying to pay as I go. I’m not trying to spend millions of dollars on brand-new facilities, this is our only facility.”
The breweries that made the list included 50 craft breweries from 26 states.
In order to be considered to make the list, breweries had to be small and independent breweries (all of their production at their own facilities), they must have opened on Dec. 31 of 2015 or earlier, and the list only includes breweries that have reported to the Brewer’s Association’s annual Beer Industry Production Survey.
Also, in order to be considered, breweries must have collected data from last three years, consecutively.
“We went from just a couple of hundred barrels in the first year (2015), to 1200 in 2016, and 3300 in 2017,” said Hanson, noting that Ellison is on pace to produce anywhere from 6-6,500 barrels this year.
According to the brewer’s association website, the median growth from 2016 to 2017 for these breweries was 216 percent; the median size of breweries on the list went from 284 barrels in 2016 to 963 barrels in 2017, putting Ellison above the bar on the list for growth. Hanson said that currently, they are producing approximately 15,000 gallons per month, and in their facility, there is plenty of room for expansion before needing a second brewing facility.
“Even with just this facility, with the tanks we have, we make 450-500 barrels per month right now and we could add another 250-300 barrels of production capacity without any infrastructure updates,” said Hanson, adding that the company is looking to expand to add a second brewing facility in the coming year.
The other Michigan brewery that made the top 50 Fastest Growing Breweries list was Paddle Hard Brewing, located in Grayling.
“The market is so saturated right now, especially in Michigan that some of the brands that have been around for a while are starting to really hurt,” said Hanson. His plan to stay above the curve is to keep making good beer, and increase production and awareness.
To increase awareness, Ellison has hosted and participated in many national and regional brewing events, one of which is going to be happening this month in Vermont.
The event, Vermont Loves Michigan!, is put on by a beer distributor called Vermont (VT) Beer Shepherds.
“The distributor puts on this event every month that sort of highlights certain states, so they buy the beer and import it to Vermont, where they show what’s going on in that particular state,” said Hanson.
Similar to the idea of a “tap-takeover,” this particular event, hosted by VT Beer Shepherds, will feature four Michigan breweries to represent some of the best in the state. Both Ellison and Old Nation’s beers will be in attendance, representing greater Lansing, but Ellison is one of the only ones sending representatives.
“I’m actually going and I’m excited to meet more people from the beer scene in Vermont,” he said, noting that Vermont is the home to some amazing brews, inspiring many brewers in Michigan.
“It’s fun to go back with our stouts and IPAs and show them, ‘hey, we can make these just as good if not better than you guys can.”
Ellison Brewery & Spirits
4903 Dawn Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823 Mon.-Tues. 3 to 10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs. 3 to 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Noon to Midnight Sunday Noon to 8 p.m. www.ellisonbrewing.com (517) 203-5498