Here in Michigan, we have lakes. Lots of lakes. In fact, we are referred to as the “Great Lakes State.” We have other great stuff, too, but it’s pretty amazing to be known for lakes.
This is all common knowledge. People from all over the world come to this state just to see our lakes. They are called wonders of the world, are compared to oceans—a whole barrage of titles and phrases that try to describe just how majestic Michigan is.
Michigan also happens to be great at beer.
With this winning combination of beer and lakes came the creation of the Lakeshore Brewers Guild in 2015. As with all great ideas in the craft industry, this one started over a pint of beer and a conversation between friends. They simply wanted to align the collaborative spirit of Michigan craft with the Lake Michigan communities in order to watch them grow and support each other.
Allen Serio, board member of the guild and casually referred to as the “Director of Chaos,” states that, “the idea for the guild came organically” on the foundations of collaboration and community.
“We are uniquely more collaborative than competitive in Michigan. The heart of the brewing industry is each of them loving their communities,” said Serio.
To step back and look around at Michigan breweries, it can definitely be noted that each one reflects their surrounding community and lifestyle, paying tribute to the people and purpose of the area. And vice versa, each city, town, and location proudly gives that support and love back into the brewery.
Great at lakes: check. Great at beer: check. Michigan is also great at sharing.
In this instance, the purpose of the guild is simple and the reach is wide. The first ever multi-state guild, the reach includes all of our neighbors along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. And by bringing lakeshore breweries together, it unites many different identities under common goals and motivations.
“We want to foster the collaborative nature of the craft industry,” said Serio. “The lakeshore and the lifestyle that surrounds us is the core of the guild and has fostered a lot of ideas.”
The purity and simplicity of the lakeshore mission has opened up opportunities for Michigan to join with other lake states, which has created an amazing dynamic of further collaboration and support. Not to mention, it offers different perspectives and practices based on other communities, which promotes even more inspiration.
“The lifestyle is different across the lake. They come to Michigan—to the small beach towns to relax. And on the other hand, we in Michigan love the big cities.”
The exchange of interests and cultures is always win-win in this scenario, especially as more and more breweries pop up every year looking to make it amongst craft enthusiasts. Michigan is known for its craft breweries and diehard fans, but as the number of breweries grows, sustainability comes into question. With the membership of the guild connecting craft communities together, it plants the seeds for future relationships, especially in regards to distribution and brand growth across the lake in all directions.
“The love and relationships should be good for everyone. We can create something together.”
One of Michigan’s lakeshore neighbors and members of the guild is 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. located out of Sheboygan, WI. They have been very excited to join up and share experiences. Grant Pauly, founder and brewmaster, recognizes the mission of the guild, and is eager for the brewery to actively share, support, and promote it.
“It has been very nice to connect with those breweries in Michigan,” says Pauly. “Most guilds are divided by state, so having a guild that we can connect with that crosses that state line is fun.”
Like many of the breweries and members involved in the guild, Pauly grew up along the lakeshore and has a big love for the lake that has joined so many people together.
“I am extremely impressed by the guild. They are so well organized, and their focus just seems to be spot on. Their focus on promoting craft beer has been great, but I really love how they are also championing the lakeshore.”
This belief is shared by many others, such as Milwaukee Brewing Company (MKE). Their Director of Sales, Mike Christensen, represents a craft community that loves the lakeshore as much as Michigan does.
“A great source of water is always an integral part of brewing quality beer and we have that great privilege of sharing in one of our region’s greatest natural resources–Lake Michigan,” says Christensen.
Huge on sustainability, innovation, and sourcing their ingredients locally, this Wisconsin brewery has a plethora of information to offer.
Christensen notes, “Helping to promote and drive attention to all of the craft breweries in the Lake Michigan region through a common guild will, in turn, help bring all of our breweries more attention nationally; and this will help steward an effort to preserve this great natural resource.”
Officially operating for only a year so far, the passion behind this organization has caught hold enormously fast, and Serio is continually impressed and humbled by the interest.
“We feel that we haven’t done the guild justice yet because there is so much more we want to do. That passion and that drive to get to the next level—breweries see that and buy into the same goals,” said Serio.
Last summer the guild hosted their first major event called The Burning Foot Beer Festival. Held on the hot sands of Lake Michigan in Muskegon, the festival boasted a coming together of beer, music, and the lakeshore lifestyle.
And the worst thing that could happen at a beach party happened: it rained.
But it turns out, that didn’t matter one bit.
Serio said, thinking back, “I remember sitting in my car and it was just pouring rain, and I thought that everything we worked so hard for was going to fail. But people didn’t care. They saw the vision we wanted for the event and had a great, fun, unique time. And that was a major affirmation for us.”
It proves that as the craft industry grows, so does people’s love and dedication to it. Craft supporters come for the quality beer and to honor the quality of the community and people behind it. And on a larger scale, Michigan as a whole craft community is embracing other craft communities.
“What we’re seeing right now is amazing. The stories and relationships are amazing to watch grow. You should hear the conversation the Milwaukee brewers have with the Michigan brewers,” said Serio.
This year the guild will host Burning Foot for the second time. 50 breweries from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin will share the lakeshore space, offering a myriad of beer styles and experiences. With the goal of improving on last year’s event, the theme has taken on more supporting elements—all of it locally inspired.
“We want to create an atmosphere that incorporates art and music and structure,” said Serio. “Something that really reflects both the industrial feel of the town of Muskegon as well as the relaxed, summer setting on the beach.”
Local art will be displayed, a lineup of local music will lead the beat throughout the duration of the fest, and local food will be provided, feeding the beach-beer theme.
Also fitting the theme is the option to beach camp this year, with both rustic and RV sites available for those who want to extend their Burning Foot experience
Fest-goers will also have the opportunity to donate funds to Noah’s Project, a kill-free adoption center for dogs. “We like craft beer and puppies…and really, who doesn’t?”
In general, the whole purpose for the guild and its activities is to make their communities better by working together. The beer may be the vehicle, but Lake Michigan is the driving force behind this united front.
“Whether it’s monetary value or volunteer hours, we want to contribute our time and efforts to keeping the communities and the lakes clean and beautiful,” said Serio.
Sharing beer, community experiences, and Lake Michigan seem to reflect the next collaborative evolution of the craft industry.