This past Sunday, August 23, 2015, Fermenta ushered in its one year anniversary with craft professionals, enthusiasts, and supporters alike at Block Brewing in Howell, Michigan. As a supporter of all things craft in Michigan, Fermenta included a variety of vendors in the event—from various hop farm representatives, to craft industry book authors, to brewing supply companies and guest speakers.

“Fermenta exists to bring people together who have a lot of similarities and passions to work together and help each other grow Michigan’s craft industry,” said President and Co-founder of Fermenta: Michigan Women’s Craft Collective, Pauline Knighton, as she opened the celebrations.

Looking back at its beginnings, the growth this organization has undergone is impressive, but not surprising. Comprised of hard-working, driven individuals working as a team for craft education and support across Michigan, Fermenta has successfully progressed with every step it has taken. Hosting monthly events in all the different areas of craft beverage around the state—mead, cider, kombucha, beer and liquor—has allowed for an expansive social network.

With an emphasis on education, the anniversary party hosted guest speakers, Ashleigh Hayden and Alexa Seychel. Hayden, from New Belgium Brewing, guided event-goers through the importance of carbonation in the recipe-forming and serving of beer. Seychel hailed from Vander Mill Cider and discussed the process of cider-making while sharing the history of the cider trend in Michigan. Both seminars involved attendee participation and craft tasting.

It’s not hard to realize that Fermenta’s successes mirror those of much of the craft businesses in Michigan. The keynote speaker for the event, Renee Greff of Arbor Brewing Company, makes this connection succinctly, detailing her and her husband’s craft journey in comparison to the evolution of craft organizations in general.  

“We laid out for ourselves a vision of a successful future,” said Greff.

Vision and belief are what she holds as the primary driving forces behind Arbor Brewing Co.’s success. And those are the same foundations Fermenta was built upon a year ago. Alongside each other, Pauline Knighton, Angie Williams, Manda Geiger, Stacey Roth, Annette May, and Tracey Scholten Kusz created the vision and had the shared belief that women in the craft industry could spearhead a campaign for craft education and growth in Michigan.

“This is what women do for each other. We have a pack mentality. We help each other to see the strengths we have that we don’t see in ourselves. In order to succeed, we understand that we all need to help each other and have each other’s back,” said Greff.

And with this shared applied force combined with the support of ever-growing membership into the organization, Fermenta has become a state-wide recognized craft pioneer for women.

“There are still negatives about women in the industry, and we are changing that. We are making people look at women in a different light,” said Knighton.

With all of the support Fermenta has garnered, it has actually led to expanding its membership opportunities to males as well as corporate groups. During the celebrations, current members voted on this motion, and the motion passed. From here on out, there will be supporting and corporate memberships available. And although this means the organization will no longer be women-only, it still holds to its origins in that all scholarships are only applicable to female members.

As well as holding the first vote and the first elections (the existing board have all been voted into serve another year), Fermenta also announced its first scholarships. With various fundraisers and donations from many craft industry supporters, it was exciting to hear that five different, educational opportunities were available via Fermenta.

The scholarships were separated into three categories: Entry Level, Continuing Education, and Conferences and Certifications. The actual scholarships available for application (by female members only) are attendance to a scotch seminar hosted by Zingerman’s, a BeerSavvy online course for beer server preparation certification, attendance to an off-flavors beer seminar, attendance to a Michigan Grape and Wine Conference, and an attendance to a beer camp class.

Like Greff stated, “Whatever you conceive and believe, you can achieve.”

Indeed, Fermenta’s vision has grown since its conception a year ago, and its members and supporters have shown Michigan craft that anything can be achieved.

Future events, information about scholarships and memberships can be found on the Fermenta website and/or Facebook page.  

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery