By Steve Patchin
Move over “Great Lakes State” and “Mitten State”! Michigan’s got a new moniker — “The Great Beer State” — and it’s well deserved. Here’s proof:
• According to the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG), Michigan’s breweries are located in every area of the state, operating as community-focused small businesses that collectively employ more than 7,000 individuals and pay more than $144 million in wages. The overall impact of the craft beer industry in Michigan totals more than $608 million.
• The MBG also reports that Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in terms of the overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.
• Michigan’s latitude and the climate are factors in the success of the craft brewing industry, as well as in the malting- and hop-growing industries, says Jim Koch, craft brewing pioneer and founder of The Boston Beer Company, Inc. Michigan’s beer industry is centered on craft hops and craft malt, he says.
• Hops are one of the basic ingredients in beer brewing, along with grain, yeast and water. Hops are the flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant, a member of the hemp family. They contain bitter essential oils that help give beer its tang. Beer makers strive to find the perfect blend between the sweet flavor of malt and the bitterness of hops. Michigan was noted in a Chicago Tribune article last summer as the top hop producer in the Midwest with over 800 acres dedicated to the crop. By comparison, Illinois has only 30 acres dedicated to growing hops.
• The Michigan Hop Alliance (MHA) is focused on increasing hop production in The Great Beer State. The MHA is creating more varieties, expanded hop processing capabilities and an expanded greenhouse operation that will supply clean hop plants for MHA and fellow hop farmers.
• Ten Michigan brewers were awarded medals at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, Colo., last fall. GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world, attracting industry professionals from around the nation.