June 2007 Lansing, MI House of Representatives State Capital building. That was when a great thing for Michigan’s growing beer industry happened. House Resolution No. 301 was introduced by State Representative Rebekah Warren of district 53 out of Ann Arbor. Resolution 301 declares the month of July to be Michigan Craft Beer Month. One of the best things the state government has ever done; honoring the independent business owners and the glorious beer that they make. This has become an annual event and now coincides with the Michigan Brewer’s Guild (MBG) legislative day.
MBG legislative day, June 2010; Rep. Warren again gets the honor to introduce Resolution 301. Even though it wasn’t announced until the very last moment of the House session, it was worth the wait. Not only did the House of Representatives make me happy to be a Michigander, but the Senate made the wise choice to present a concurrent resolution. Senate Resolution No. 164 is the first time that the Senate jumped on board.
Michigan has over 70 different breweries through out the state. Employing locals and supporting the tourism economy of the communities around them year round. Only about 26 breweries distribute and have become beer lover favorites. More customers are searching for Michigan beers and restaurant and store owners have been taking notice. Julie Sawaya, owner of Woody’s Oasis in East Lansing has been supporting Michigan breweries for over 9 years. “We have had Michigan beer on since we opened in 2000” Sawaya says, “and even now that we have twenty taps, we still rotate different beers in.” The amount of great beers made in Michigan can make deciding which ones to put on tap an amazingly delicious decision. National awards, acclaim and press have helped increase the demand of Michigan brewed beer. With the attention gained from winning at some beer festivals, like the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), customers are demanding craft beers at their favorite watering holes and party stores.
Some places make July special by focusing on Michigan made brews and even taking it further to featuring other Michigan products. Crunchy’s in East Lansing calls July “Michigan Month”. Michigan Month is kicked off by a changing of the taps. All 27 taps are changed over to only Michigan beer. Bold move and a great idea, but not the only ones that have gone all Michigan beers on tap. The French Laundry in Fenton, MI went all Michigan beer year round last summer and all though 5 of the 22 beers on tap at the Wrought Iron Grill are out of state those out of state beers are still craft. Thursday July 8th the Wrought Iron Grill will feature the best that Mid-Michigan has to offer. All beers and food will come from within 100 miles of Owosso. This is so amazing that a governmental resolution could promote the buying and focus of Michigan made everything. It’s like we, Michiganders care about who we are buying from when given the choice.
National chain restaurants and stores always have that certain meal or your favorite package of frozen corn, but if you want to make a difference you first have to choose. Do you want to put the mass marketed beer/food on your menu or store shelf? That is where it starts. The customer can not buy what is not made available. July being named “Michigan Craft Beer Month” is a great start and maybe we can get the House of Representatives to dedicate an entire season next time?
When I spoke with a few of the brewers that went to this years MBG legislative day everyone had great things to say about how receptive their Senators and Representatives were about the needs of the growing brewing industry here in Michigan. Isaac Hartman Ambassador of Great Beer & New Holland Artisan Spirits at New Holland Brewing Company spoke with Senator Kuipers and Representative Haveman. “(Both Kuipers and Haveman were) very impressed by the addition of jobs in our community” Said Hartman. Also the Senators and Representatives as a whole seemed to marvel at the amount of beer shipped out of state. The number of breweries also seemed to amaze as well. The number I’ve always found shocking is the percentage of total beer sold in Michigan, and that Michigan beer only makes up only 3%. Travis Fritts Owner and Head Brewer at Detroit Beer Company said “(Having) a second (legislative day) every year, would be my only suggestion.” Fritts went on to say “Having a fact sheet would be helpful. How many jobs the brewing industry provides. As well as tax dollars to the state.”
Brewing is a skilled trade and skilled trade jobs are slowly being driven (no pun intended) out of this state. Michigan is number 6 in most breweries per state and we in the beer industry take great pride in calling Michigan “The Great Beer State”. Pride is something that we need to have in ourselves again as a populace. We lost the auto industry, not out innovative spirit. That spirit is being personified by the breweries here. Showing double-digit growth in a state economy that’s one of the nation’s worst, these “beer-geeks” are defying the odds. So when you are out on the town or picking up something for the BBQ, think/drink/eat LOCAL.