Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Conference

Support and development of state brewers guilds remains a major focus of the Brewers Association. Acacia Coast, the trade group’s State Brewers Association Coordinator has helped the BA become more of a resource for existing and fledgling guilds. Acacia has been busy crisscrossing the country attending state brewers association meetings with many of them centered on initial guild formation.

Recently, Acacia provided an update on her trip to Michigan.

(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) – I recently had the tremendous opportunity of attending the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Annual Winter Conference in Kalamazoo, Mich. Nearly 200 leaders of the state’s craft brewing industry were present at the conference, held in early January at the Radisson Plaza Hotel.

Founded in 1997, the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG) comprehensively oversees the state’s craft brewing industry with many levels of promotion, protection and education. The MBG hosts four annual public events in addition to its annual Winter Conference in January:

  • Winter Beer Festival | Grand Rapids  | February
  • Summer Beer Festiva | Ypsilanti | July
  • U.P. (Upper Peninsula) Fall Beer Festival | Marquette | September
  • Detroit Fall Beer Festival | l October

Currently, the Guild represents 106 member breweries—an outstanding 80 percent of the state’s breweries, and the highest number since the organization’s inception.

The Winter Conference included the guild’s annual membership meeting, the government affairs committee report, multiple technical seminars, a sensory panel, an extraordinary gala dinner, bottomless coolers of delicious Michigan craft beer, an industry supplier expo and the genuine camaraderie of which our industry is so exemplary.

From the technical seminars, loaded with brewer-centric, specialized information, to consumer and marketplace-oriented sessions, there was something for everyone. I found many of the general seminars engaging and full of tangible insights. Speaker gifts were autographed copies of The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer by Lucy Saunders, already my new favorite cookbook on the shelf.

Michigan’s elected officials consistently embrace the MBG as a legitimate organization with the Michigan brewers called a “freight train” and “the most popular group” on the hill. They have been heavily involved in significant conversations regarding 72 comprehensive Michigan law reforms, with 15 of those recommendations impacting craft brewery businesses. They have a lobbyist that keeps a watchful eye on the industry in the capitol, they conduct a legislative day and hill climb in Lansing each May and the MBG is one of only a few guilds that has a PAC fund. The brewers of Michigan wield serious influence in their capital as a result of the strong, unified voice of the guild.

Though they are currently in the process of conducting an economic impact study, the MBG conservatively estimates Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes more than $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million.

The guild also generously offered space for a regional guild gathering in addition to offering free conference registration for one guild leader from every state. The regional guild meeting concept is still very nascent; this is the second after Wisconsin hosted the first of its kind in August 2012. In addition to learning how the guild successfully executes such an advanced technical conference, guild leaders from multiple states enjoyed sharing best practices and listening to insights on the MBG’s successful enthusiast program, membership recruitment, festivals, administrative workings, legislative initiatives and industry education programs.

At the beautiful gala dinner, the MBG presented their “Tom Burns Award”—recognizing the pioneering spirit of the “Great Beer State”—to Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing Company. Fred a.k.a. “The Beervangelist,” is a managing partner in New Holland Brewing Company, past president of the Michigan Brewers Guild and a Certified Cicerone™.  He serves as a judge for the Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival and his first book, Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy is due in Spring of 2013.

 “As a past president of the Brewers Guild and a mentor to many in our industry, there isn’t a person who is more deserving of the Tom Burns award,” said Eric Briggeman, guild president. “Fred is very active at both the local and national level and is one of the top promoters of the Michigan beer scene. His passion for championing craft beer and the Michigan Brewers Guild is second to none.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild offers an official publication, Michigan. The Great Beer State, that is produced annually in partnership with Hour Media LLC. An outstanding promotional piece, the MBG publishes approximately 100 thousand print magazines, distributing them throughout the state’s breweries, tourism offices, hotels, festivals and other optimal venues. State brewers guilds that are interested in a publication tailored for their own market may contact Ed Peabody, general manager, at 248.691.1800 ext. 115 or epeabody@hour-media.com.

There is much to learn from the MBC. The association is an immensely progressive, exemplary guild, with a seat at the most crucial legislative table. The state’s flourishing craft beer industry is a clear demonstration of their efficacy. For more information, including a list of Michigan’s small, independent craft breweries, visit MiBeer.com. To the nation’s guild leaders, especially those in the mid-west, please consider adding the 2014 MBG Winter Conference to your calendar!