In the beginning, 1997 to be precise, there were approximately 30 breweries with membership in the newly minted Michigan Brewers Guild. The purpose of their inception was to form an alliance to promote our state’s emerging beer industry and advocate in legislative matters. Two decades later, with their support and guidance, that number is 239 and growing. More than half of the current members helped celebrate this milestone anniversary at the 20th edition of Summer Beer Festival in Depot Town.
The Guild’s first sanctioned beer festival took place in their inaugural year with a couple dozen breweries and approximately 600 attendees. Eleven of those original participating breweries have returned for this year’s festival, although not all of them have been present at every festival in between.
This weekend’s celebration nearly broke the perimeter of Riverside Park and exemplified the exponential growth realized over twenty years, with more than 145 breweries serving over 1,140 beers, and a two day total crowd of 12,000 people enjoying the wealth of choices.
Several of the breweries participating in last weekend’s edition were also celebrating their 20th anniversary and have grown alongside the Guild. In 1997, Founders Brewing Company was a relatively small operation whose back door read “Canal Street Brewing.” Dark Horse Brewing Co began its first incarnation in downtown Marshall as a now-closed gastropub that would blossom into an entire compound of craft businesses in it’s second life. Dragonmead Microbrewery was formed and preparing to open. Atwater Brewery began producing German style lagers in Detroit’s historic Rivertown district, adding more locations as their range of beers expanded. CJ’s Brewing Company set up shop in Commerce Township, later opening a second location in Plymouth. Woodward Avenue Brewers began “putting the ‘ale’ in Ferndale” and hasn’t stopped. The list of breweries with proven staying power goes on.
Inevitably not every beer business succeeds. As the years have come and gone, so have some of the breweries. Fortunately for enthusiasts there’s a steady stream of new breweries willing to take their place in the game. Those new to the MBG festival circuit this summer include Transient Artisan Ales, Greyline Brewing Company, Speciation Artisan Ales, and several others. Breweries are able to participate as members when they’ve satisfied the Guild’s requirements including a waiting period.
The seasonal festivals planned in 2018 are sure to impress with steadily bigger numbers representing the ever-expanding beer scene as the Michigan Brewers Guild reaches the equivalent years of the legal drinking age in our Great Beer State. In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of Michigan Craft Beer Month and toast a hearty cheers to 20 years!