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Atwater Brewery

237 Joseph Campau
Detroit, MI 48207

No place like home for Atwater Brewery

Run the numbers on Atwater Brewery and prepare to be impressed.

The Detroit-based microbrewery, the third largest in Michigan, brewed 25,000 barrels of beer in 2013. That number rose to 40,000 barrels in 2014. Its aiming for more than 50,000 barrels this year. That production allowed Atwater Brewery to hire 20 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 55 people. It also grew its revenue by 68 percent in 2014, crossing the $7 million milestone.

"We are on pace to do $12 million this year, which is 55 percent growth," says Mark Rieth, founder & owner of Atwater Brewery.

That adds up to a lot sales of the brewery’s signature brands like Dirty Blonde, Purple Gang Pilsner, Grand Circus IPA, and Vanilla Java Porter. Those brews are sold in a number of states across the U.S., and Atwater Brewery is working to open in Colorado and New York later this year. However, that doesn’t mean the 18-year-old brewery has lost focus on its roots.

"Sixty-five percent of our sales come from Michigan," Rieth says. "We are all about local. Most of our growth comes from Michigan."

And all of Atwater Brewery's production, too, which was a problem until recently. Back in 2013 the brewery had hit its capacity of about 30,000 barrels. That left it in the position of not being able to meet rising demand.

"We had to pull out of some states because we didn't have enough capacity," Rieth says.

Atwater Brewery overcame that buy going on a bit of real-estate buying spree. It bought its building on Jos Campau just north of the Detroit River. It also purchased a 20,000-square-foot vacant lot next to it for future expansion and a 40,000-square-foot warehouse down the block.

The warehouse will hold the brewery's coolers, and handle its shipping and receiving. It will also become home to Atwater Brewery's expansion into distilling liquor over the next year. The whole expansion allowed it double its capacity.

"This was a game changer for us," Rieth says. "I could invest in it for the really long term."

Atwater Brewery is now brewing in a couple ships practically seven days a week. Rieth is also a partner in the Brew Detroit operations in Corktown, which can account for another 20,000 to 30,000 barrels of production. It is also working to open breweries in Texas and North Carolina for further national expansion. The brewery's end goal is to hit six figures of barrel production within a few years.

"We're in great shape for future expansion," Rieth says. "We want to have a capacity of 150,000 barrels and this gives us that. We want to continue growing in Detroit because the city is an important part of what we’re about."

Welcome to the Year of the Gazelle, an exploration of the fastest-growing startups in southeast Michigan by the Startup team and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI). Not only will we identify the local gazelle companies that are perfecting innovative new products, creating jobs, and generating lots of revenue, we will give you a full accounting of each one. The stories behind the entrepreneurs that build these businesses. The investors that back them. The resources they leverage. How they have all worked together to build Metro Detroit's new economy, and how they plan to do it in the future. In return we will only ask you to do one thing: keep up.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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