Photo by Michael Conti/Farm Flavor Media

Michigan is brewing a growing industry attracting visitors from across the state and around the country. Craft breweries are popping up across the Great Lakes State, bringing together the agriculture and tourism industries in a new way.

“It’s interesting to look at the agriculture side of this industry,” says Scott Graham, executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild. “We don’t always think about beer as an agriculture product, and for those who do, we think of the hops, which is a key ingredient in making beer. But for many years we’ve also been looking at Michigan-grown products like fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, syrup, sugars and water to use as well.”

Michigan has seen a resurgence of breweries in recent years. When Stroh Brewery Company closed its production operation in the state in the 1980s, there were no large-scale breweries left. Today, that has changed. Graham says there are 350 breweries operating across Michigan and around 40 more in planning.

“That’s more than we’ve had at any time in history,” Graham says. “Even before Prohibition.”

Photo by Ian Curcio/Farm Flavor Media

A New Tourism Venture

Today, Michigan ranks sixth in the country in the overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. This thriving industry contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million.

The new wave of beer business has brought tourism into the state. Tourists are visiting Michigan for tours of its craft breweries, and Michigan residents are finding new treasures in their backyards.

“We’re working to promote Michigan beer to existing and new consumers,” Graham says. “We see people coming from several different states and countries, but we also have people from right here in Michigan thinking about our industry. They’re headed to dinner and they think, ‘Where’s the closest brewpub?’”

Beer Festivals and Events

The Michigan Brewers Guild hosts four beer festivals throughout the year that cover the technical aspects of beer production and sales and marketing, as well as food pairings for various types of beer. There’s also an annual conference for brewers, offering valuable information on topics such as purchasing hops, outsourcing production and more.

And for daily visitors, Michigan offers the Kayak, Bike & Brew, a brewery pub pedal and paddle event that has visitors traveling through Traverse City’s urban bike trails, Boardman Lake and River, and West Bay. The tour’s participating breweries include Right Brain Brewery, The Filling Station Microbrewery, Rare Bird Brewpub, Ferment, Monkey Fist Brewing Co., North Peak Brewing Company and The Workshop Brewing Company. A similar experience, called Paddle for Pints, lets visitors paddle through downtown Traverse City while visiting six breweries.

Coming Back to Agriculture

As the craft brewery industry grows in Michigan and tourism follows, opportunities in agriculture also present themselves. In recent years, the hop industry has expanded. Michigan’s northern climate provides a hospitable growing environment for hops, which traditionally do well in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

There has also been an emergence of more facilities to process malting barley. “These breweries really bring so much to the state,” Graham says. “In tourism and in agriculture. Sometimes where you may not realize it.”

1 COMMENT

  1. n 1999 I purchased a 27 acre rundown farm in Hollister. I renovated this old farm house and some outbuildings. I also cleared out the land of dead walnut trees. I have always enjoyed the beauty of olive trees so I decided to plant 500 olive trees and supply them with a drip irrigation system.
    In 2000 I added over 120 trees which includes many different varieties of fruit trees, a vineyard of syrah grapes, almond orchard, fresh olive trees for canning, and a few large vegetable gardens.
    In 2008 we decided to renovate this 100 year old barn we had falling down. This barn needed to be saved. I than decided to postpone my greenhouse project to save this old barn. We had the plans drawn to create a wood fired bakery and soon a brewery. She sells our olive oil and over 15 different organic breads at the Mountain View Farmers market on Sundays. She also makes other baked items such as graham crackers, croissants, pizza, and sandwiches. Lisa, her husband David, and their son Blake Jensen spend their weekends on the farm enjoying the lifestyle I grew up loving. I enjoy seeing that the passion of sustainable farm living is passing along to our next generation.
    I believe in the land, and in organic foods. I believe in a sustainable farm life. It is not easy, it takes work and dedication to this way of life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We share this life with our customers who I know appreciate healthy, organic food. The people of California can see where the food they eat is grown and I know I am proud of how it is grown and produced in an organic way of living.

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