[Editor’s Note: We’ve been talking about this (over a few pints) for a while. But since July is Michigan Craft Beer Month we’re introducing Hour Detroit’s Michigan Beer Blog. Gerald Blakeslee, our web project lead here at Hour, also happens to be a home brewer and craft-beer aficionado. His well-developed mustache (scale model below) makes him look the part, too! See Blakeslee’s first blog below.
Welcome to the Michigan Beer Blog, where Hour Detroit will help you keep tabs on Michigan’s thriving brewing industry. Over the last decade, previously unknown beer flavors and their widespread availability have taken hold here. Breweries have sprouted up all over the Mitten; members in the Michigan Brewers Guild currently account for just over 100 of those breweries. Our state has experienced a 20 percent growth in craft breweries compared to the 12 percent national average for 2012.
It’s a great time for beer drinkers.
A Little History //
But it wasn’t always this good for us. After Prohibition, the Michigan beer world was decimated. Many independent breweries were purchased and taken over by a handful of larger companies, which homogenized the brewers’ recipes for mass acceptance and marketing purposes. True craft beer was a rarity, and consumers were forced to buy imported beer if they wanted any variety of styles and flavor profiles.
Decades later, passionate brewers and drinkers were rewarded when several laws were passed (both nationally and locally) — ones that gave home brewers the right to make their own beer. At the same time, it gave smaller breweries (brewpubs and microbreweries, specifically) the ability to increase production. In 1992, the pioneers at Detroit’s Traffic Jam & Snug were the first officially designated brewpub in the state.
Today, the proliferation of Michigan breweries has led to national and global recognition at competitions. Powerhouse brewers such as Bell’s Brewery and Founder’s have expanded well beyond Michigan’s borders, while smaller operations such as the Detroit-based Atwater Brewing Co. are right on their heels. Short’s Brewing Company has expanded operations, yet remains committed to supplying local demand first. And brewpubs and microbreweries like Bastone, Jolly Pumpkin, Dragonmead, and Kuhnhenn have garnered numerous awards, including some global medals, for their creations.
Why It Matters //
Not only is beer approaching the same level of snobbery as wine, it’s also creating a large number of jobs. Several Michigan brewers are using locally sourced ingredients like barley, wheat, fruit, and hops. An increasing number of bars and restaurants have added Michigan brews to their tap lineup. Clothing manufacturers, package designers, distributors, merchants, guided tour companies, hotels, and more — have all benefited from the growth of craft beer.
Retailers have a huge impact on exposing drinkers to new and interesting flavors. Specialty stores like 8 Degrees Plato in Ferndale and Holiday Market in Royal Oak host occasional tasting events, where you can sample a variety of beers and share your thoughts with the other attendees, distributors, and sometimes even the brewers themselves. The employees at these retailers are a wealth of information and can often recommend the appropriate beer for almost any occasion. And many larger grocery stores and chains (Kroger and Meijer, for example) now include at least a few Michigan brews.
Restaurants and bars like Ashley’s Pub in Ann Arbor, One-Eyed Betty’s in Ferndale, and Lockhart’s in Royal Oak play host to tap takeovers, limited-release beer events, and beer-themed dinners, where patrons can sample hard-to-find specialty beers and enjoy menu items paired specifically with a brewery’s offerings.
Celebrate Michigan Beer //
It’s official: July is Michigan Craft Beer Month. (Even the government says so!) If you’re not a craft beer fan yet, take time to expose yourself to something new. Try a new brewery’s offerings or sample an unfamiliar style. Arbor Brewing Company, Arcadia Ales, Brewery Vivant, Greenbush Brewing Co., New Holland Brewing Co., North Peak Brewing Co., and Oddside Ales have all met with favorable reviews and can be found at several local quality beer stores.
You might also want to try and get a ticket to the 16th Annual Summer Beer Festival — held July 26-27 at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. Judging from the response to the Winter Beer Festival, it might already be sold out by the time this goes to press. Michigan Brewers Guild festivals (there’s one in Detroit in the fall, too) provide a great opportunity for beer aficionados to sample a diversity of offerings from every corner of the state, including some from “non-distribution breweries/brewpubs” (folks who don’t sell in bottles or cans) like Blue Tractor Brewery, The Great Baraboo Brewing Co., Sherwood Brewing Company, and Woodward Avenue Brewers.
For more information on breweries, beer tours, and other events, visit michiganbrewersguild.org.