CLINTON TOWNSHIP – Kuhnhenn Brewing Company has become such a big player in the craft beer game that now it needs a new building to keep production moving.
The company, whose only present brewery is off Chicago Road in Warren, announced an expansion into Clinton Township that will take over the former Evergreen Home and Garden Center at 36000 Groesbeck Hwy. The goal is for the new brewery to be open and functioning by the first quarter of 2014.
The 35,000-square-foot facility will be used for production, cellaring, packaging and storing, as well as administrative offices and a tasting room for the public.
It was a move the company had to make.
“We’ve been successful and waiting for the right time to make the jump,” said Jon Piepenbrok, director of marketing and sales for Kuhnhenn. “We literally can’t make enough beer in our current location. We needed to expand.
“We wanted to keep it in Macomb County. (We) looked at buildings the past two years, including in Detroit. When we saw the Evergreen (Home and Garden) location, we jumped on it.”
Kuhnhenn, which has been in business since 1998 and brewing since 2001, has become a fixture of the craft beer scene. The company has won numerous awards, including a recent gold medal in the IPA category for its Double Rice India Pale Ale at the World Beer Cup in 2012.
Piepenbrok said it has just been a matter of building up the name through slow and steady growth. The last couple years, he said, there has been so much growth in the industry, and it’s all about finding the right place.
The expansion is big not only for the company, but also Macomb County. Michigan has one of the highest brewery presences in the nation, boasting more than 140 breweries around the state. For Kuhnhenn to keep its brand local and in the same county is a benefit to all involved.
“Our office has worked with them over the last two years in regards to the work force, training, incentives. … We are excited about the fact that they are expanding and hiring more people,” said Don Morandini, deputy director of planning and economic development in Macomb County. “The craft beer industry is growing. It’s not just (about) selling locally but also exporting the product. It increases access to the product.”
Morandini said that the county is diversifying its efforts for a more balanced atmosphere. Rather than just focusing on big businesses that may specialize in defense or aerospace or homeland security, areas like food processing are becoming bigger targets in the economic plan.
And in the end, small businesses help the local economy.
“It will bring some exciting new traffic to Groesbeck in terms of their type of facility,” said Carlo Santia, planning director for Clinton Township. “Besides brewing and the tasting room, they will bring quite a few initial employees. (Groesbeck’s) been struggling because of the economy. This could be a catalyst for change.”
The new location is also in a great spot for people who live in Clinton Township or nearby. Morandini cited the transportation network — easy access to I-696, M-59 and I-94 — as a “win-win for everyone.”
Every brewery specializes in something different and has its own personality. Kuhnhenn prides itself on classic styles that remind drinkers of past eras.
Soon, more people will be toasting one another — from Warren to Clinton Township — and in between.