Grand Rapids, Michigan is home to nearly 40 popular breweries. The first and most well-known is Founders Brewing Company, which was established in 1997. Over the next decade and a half, a number of breweries opened, and the city was voted Beer City USA in 2012 and 2013. In 2016 and 2017, USA Today readers voted Grand Rapids the nation’s best beer scene. Experience Grand Rapids seeks to strengthen the region’s economic vitality and quality of life by marketing Grand Rapids and Kent County as a preferred visitor destination. As part of this effort, Experience Grand Rapids promotes the area’s craft breweries and related attractions. Because the craft breweries attract numerous visitors to Kent County, and the Beer City Brewsaders program has been in effect for several years, Experience Grand Rapids commissioned Anderson Economic Group to conduct a study of the economic impact of beer tourism on Kent County. A prior study on beer tourism was conducted in 2015, which found that over 42,000 beer tourists visited Grand Rapids, generating an economic impact of $12.2 million in the county during the analysis period.
We found that the numerous breweries in Grand Rapids and Kent County are popular tourist attractions, attracting over 94,000 beer tourists in the study year. We estimated that beer tourists spent $23.9 million in Kent County on craft beer, accommodations, food, transportation, and other spending. This spending by beer tourists generated a net new economic impact of $38.5 million in Kent County during the study year. Lastly, we estimate that beer tourists supported 378 jobs and $9.9 million in earnings in the county.