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Ticket scalpers messing with the Michigan Brewers Guild can think again.

After reporting via its Facebook page that tickets to the annual Winter Beer Festival sold out in less than 13 hours on Dec. 1, the Guild went on a manhunt for tickets being scalped on Craigslist, StubHub and through other means.

The results of the internal investigation were released today via e-mail.

“Through extensive research, the Michigan Brewers Guild has determined that the majority of Michigan Winter Beer Festival tickets #01-#50 (purchased exclusively at Rochester Mills Beer Company) have been traced back to two individuals who have been illegally scalping the tickets for $80-$120 each…,” said Dianna Stampfler, a Brewers Guild spokeswoman, via e-mail.  “As such, these specific tickets have now been voided and will not be honored at the gate on Saturday, February 23, 2013.”

Although tickets #01-#50 are void,  including two people who purchased a “small quantity for their own personal use” in that number sequence, replacement tickets are available for exchange through MBG’s president, Eric Briggeman. Ticket holders must contact Briggerman via email to make arrangements by Jan. 15, president@michiganbrewersguild.com.

But there is one caveat.

“(T)hat is, if you are able to provide information about the person you purchased the ticket from, which corroborates the results of our investigation,” the e-mail said.

News of the bust brought more than 30 comments on Facebook, mostly a back-and-forth between patting the Guild on the back for cracking down on scalpers versus commenters thinking the Guild should butt out of policing scalping.

“Thanks for taking a stand against scalpers,” one commenter wrote. “With as much demand as there is for these quality events the only ones profiting should be the brewers and the Brewers Guild.”

And another commented, “I’m really disappointed in you guys. Sounds like good people will be inconvenienced and/or screwed because of your cluster followed by your holy crusade.”

The Guild acknowledged the victimhood of those who purchased the scalped tickets in its initial e-mail statement, saying MBG “realize(s) those who bought tickets for more than face value are victims in these illegal activities and charges will not be filed against anyone other than the scalpers themselves.”

After continued gathering of information on the suspected scalpers, the Guild will turn over a formal complaint against them to the Michigan Attorney General.

Michigan law prohibits selling/asking for a price higher than face value for tickets to public events, “except if the request, demand, or receipt is with the written permission of the (vendor).” This misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $100 fine.

Meanwhile, MBG is asking anyone with information to contact Briggerman via e-mail.

“Again, we are not interested in those who have purchased these inflated tickets — we are specifically searching for those who have been profiting at the expense of the Guild and its members,” the email said.

YPSILANTI — What a difference 15 years make. Some out there may not be old enough to remember, but there was a time not long ago when it wasn’t possible to choose from a vast bounty of beers from 100+ brewing establishments in Michigan like we can today. Back in the dark days of 1997, choices were much more limited. More often than not, the seeker of fine beer had to look beyond the borders of the Great Lakes State to satisfy his thirst.

But that was to change with the founding of the Michigan Brewers Guild and the advent of the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, which once upon a time attracted only a few hundred people to a smattering of breweries representing at the fairgrounds of the less-than-enthusiastic city of Livonia. Last Friday and Saturday, all the hard work the Guild has put into helping grow a thriving new domestic industry was on full display as thousands upon thousands flocked to Riverside Park in Ypsilanti to try around 550 beers from more than 60 Michigan breweries.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave — and not a beer cave — you’re probably familiar with this annual celebration of Mitten-made suds.  The tents, the lines, the loud music, the food, the fun, the dunk tank (OK, that was new this year), the wet and sticky weather — although, apart from a brief shower, the customary rainstorm was nowhere to be seen, and even the humidity held itself in check. It was a perfect day to enjoy some Michigan beers.

And what beers! Your correspondent tried something on the order of 25 of them over both days of the Festival (although I maintain that a true gentleman never counts), or less than 5% of what was available. Even the best of us fall short. Below are a few highlights.

Best of Fest

Saison St. Clair, Big Rock Brewery. Mildly sour and tart with a dry finish and a slight funky, “barnyard” aroma. Crisp, complex and delicious. Watch for brewer Dan Rogers’s Griffin Claw Brewing Co., coming to Birmingham in the near future.

Frenchiest Name

Barrel Aged Maillot Jaune, The Livery. Before you say “not another barrel aged beer,” you should know we’re talking about a merlot barrel, which imparted some acidic, vinous complexity to the underlying Biere de Garde style. At 8%, it was about the lowest alcohol offering from the Benton Harbor brewery yet still deceptively drinkable.

Beyond Plain Vanilla

Bean Flicker Blonde Ale, Odd Side Ales. Referred to as a “coffee blonde,” this beer was dominated by beans of the vanilla variety, which suited my coffee-averse self just fine. An interesting concept and cheaper than Starbucks to boot.

Most Thoughtful

Contemplation Belgian Golden Ale, Brewery Vivant. A sweet aroma of honey, cloves and grassy hops previews the complex but light and drinkable flavors of this excellent summer brew. Vivant strikes again.

Most Violent and Longest Name

The Massacre Rye Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Dark Lager, Wolverine State Brewing. Anticipation is building for the October release of this year-aged beer. If the preview is any indication, lovers of the bourbon barrel will be pleased, while those who are a little burnt out on the whole trend will enjoy the novel concept of a bourbon-aged lager over just another stout or porter.

Anniversariest Ale

15th Anniversary Ale, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. To celebrate the Michigan Brewers Guild’s 15th anniversary, a number of breweries created versions of a 15th Anniversary Ale, which had an official recipe (a strong IPA) that was apparently mostly ignored. By my count, there were 26 versions of said beer at the Festival, and they were all over the map. The best of those I tried was Jolly Pumpkin’s, a wheat IPA with a more “delicate” floral hop presence over a slightly sweet flavor.

That’s all I got. Bring on the U.P. and Detroit Fall Beer Festivals!

YPSILANTI — Michigan beer fans flocked to Ypsilanti on Friday and Saturday, for the 15th Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival at Riverside Park.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth part of a five-part series profiling the state of Michigan’s brewing industry. 

As the Michigan brewing industry reaches peaks it’s never seen before, the number of breweries is also growing at an unprecedented rate.

With so much great liquid — as Founders Brewing Company co-founder Dave Engbers calls it — coming out of the state, more people are trying to jump on the trend of opening their own brewery.

While a great community has developed and many breweries are welcomed onto the scene by others, a dark shadow looms over some of the upstarts.

“People look and they think, let’s ride the wave, which can be good and bad,” Engbers said. “It’s great with additional breweries opening up, it means more exposure to the craft beer industry. The negative is that the reality is they’re not all going to survive. Our industry is highly competitive and capital intensive.

“Unfortunately, sometimes they get this idea that opening and running a brewery is very romantic, and it’s like anything, it’s a lot of hard work.”

The romance

At one point in time, Michigan Brewers Guild executive director Scott Graham knew of all the breweries in planning. Now, some will be open for nearly two months before he knows they’re open.

That’s not a bad thing, as he explains people who aren’t Michigan beer drinkers come closer when there’s a brewery around the corner. With those new breweries also come new beers, which continue to feed inspiration into the system.

“We have some great breweries that have and continue to give inspiration,” Graham said. “We have a good beer drinking community. Now we’re seeing it get a little bit of size and there’s more that’s reaching further and further.”

When those new breweries open up, they’re receiving the benefits of the forefathers before them. The benefits go beyond brewers helping each other and giving each other inspiration and encouragement, said Rex Halfpenny, publisher of Michigan Beer Guide.

“There is so much demand for Michigan beer, a place hasn’t even made a drop of beer and the distributors are knocking on the door saying sign with me,” Halfpenny said. “When I started (Michigan Beer Guide) a distributor wouldn’t even touch Michigan beer. Times change, demand is there, you can’t find a restaurant that doesn’t have a Michigan beer on tap.”

It’s growing

Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in brewery numbers, and the numbers — well over 100 — continue to climb.

That trend of breweries popping up isn’t unique to Michigan, Engbers said.

“There’s a lot of breweries that are in the planning stages, last I heard there’s around 1,800 breweries in the United States, and close to 1,000 in planning stages.”

That beer is ending up in more places, as the industry continues to grow.

“Brewpubs are popping up in all corners of the state, and most microbreweries have been going through all different stages of expansion lately,” said Michigan Brewers Guild president Eric Briggeman. “Craft beer has finally caught the attention of chain restaurants and stores so you can find it almost everywhere you go. I expect to see continued growth in the Michigan beer industry for many years, at an accelerated pace.”

With major expansions just finished up at Bell’s Brewery, Inc., and more expansions at Short’s Brewing Co., Founders and Arcadia Brewing Co., Michigan craft beer will continue to share more of the market.

Some of the breweries, such as Arcadia, have had to pull out of out-of-state markets to cover the Michigan market. Some of the major players, such as Short’s, focus purely on Michigan.

Still, all of the brewers see MIchigan as the place to make sure they please all the drinkers in the state.

“You always focus on your backyard,” Engbers said. “It’s one of the hardest things to explain. You can never turn your back on the people who got you to where you are, and we’ve had such fantastic support from Michigan.”

The shadow looms

With breweries in the United States set to just about double, could the capacity limit be reached?

Although that issue waits to be settled, Engbers and Halfpenny said it really isn’t about space, rather the product that is made. Halfpenny added that people can support as many breweries as imaginable, but the restaurants and such can only have so many in supply, and that decides the limit.

Engbers even said that many of the 1,000 or so breweries in planning won’t even open their doors.

“The reality is there isn’t enough room for everyone,” he said.  “A lot of those will never even go to fruition and then there’s a lot that will open and close, unfortunately.

“As long as people are making great beer, then it’s great for the industry, but I caution startups to focus on the product. “

In 1998 and 1999, a period of shutdowns took place because the “pipe was too full,” and Halfpenny expects to see another shakeout because of demand being filled. Those breweries you know the names of will stay, but the corner startup might say goodbye.

“That was because the amount of product on the shelf exceeded the small population that consumed it,” Halfpenny said. “When that happens, Bell’s will still be there, Founders will still be there. The people that have brand equity will still be there.

“It’s a double-edged sword; we’ve got people looking at Michigan beer as a magical elixir. We have people getting into it for the wrong reason.”

Still, there is so much untapped potential in Michigan’s beer industry, and much more growth is set to come, Briggeman said.

“The current state of the industry, coupled with the possibility of some positive changes to the Michigan liquor code, leaves us nowhere to go but up,” he said.  “The craft beer market share continues to grow on a national level, as well as in Michigan. The expansions that a lot of microbreweries are going through, in addition to proposed brewery start-ups, will help to satisfy the ever-growing demand for Michigan-made beer. We want to triple the amount of Michigan beer sold… right here in Michigan.”

Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a five-part series profiling Michigan’s brewing industry.

At 3.8 percent of the Michigan beer market, the state’s craft beer industry is still just a drop in the growler.

But that number has tripled since 1997, and is, as Michigan Brewers Guild executive director Scott Graham puts it, snowballing toward a larger share. The guild’s job is to help promote and support the industry its members make up, and to compete against the beer corporations of the world.

And that’s where the problem stems from, getting consumers to switch over to the better tasting liquids.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t know there’s a brewery down the street or there’s great beer in Michigan,” Graham said. “As more people find beer that’s interesting, it makes them more interested in seeking it out and sharing and bringing more people into the marketplace.

“If they’re a beer lover, they’re part way to being a craft beer lover. Not all of them will decide they like it, but a lot of them haven’t even thought about it or been exposed to it.”

The guild’s job

The guild is an organization made up of Michigan’s craft brewers seeking to get their products into the hands of more beer drinkers, and so far so good.

The guild’s goal is to hit the 10 percent market share, and although the current 3.8 seems a long way off, it really isn’t that far to reach. With states such as Oregon reaching about 20 percent of the state’s market share, it’s a national goal to hit 10 percent of the market, Arcadia Brewing Company owner Tim Suprise said.

“All of us at the guild certainly have our eyes on that goal and I’m convinced it’s possible,” Suprise said. “We’re all doing a great job in growth and awareness, engaging customers locally and culturally. All things combined can help us to that 10 percent mark.”

That sentiment was one Graham agreed with, as the amount of quality beers brewing and the ability of consumers to easily access the product is continually improving. If that’s the status quo, the market share also will steadily increase.

“I really think, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re taking all the right steps,” he said. “It doesn’t happen fast, the quality is important. The more we talk and try to find ways to educate the public and it will come faster and faster.”

In fact, Rex Halfpenny, publisher of Michigan Beer Guide, said the four percent mark will come this year, if it hasn’t already.

The number will only continue to get closer as more merchandisers look to carry the products being made by more than 100 breweries across the state.

“(I look forward to) watching retailers accept it more and realize it’s not only fun for them but good for their business because it draws in different and more consumers,” Graham said. “And to see the guild grow and play a role in building awareness, there’s still a lot of room to grow. There’s still going to be a lot of new ways, just because there aren’t enough of us working on it. It’s great to have those new opportunities.”

LANSING — One of the benefits of membership in the Michigan Brewers Guild “Enthusiast” program is VIP tours and tastings at member breweries around the state.

To participate in one of these special tours, one must be a current Enthusiast member – a group dedicated to celebrating the growing craft beer industry in the Mitten State. Enthusiast memberships are $35 each and are available online at MBG Enthusiast Membership. There is no additional charge for the tours, but reservations are recommended and attendees must show their Enthusiast card.

The Summer 2012 schedule includes seven tours, beginning in early May and running thru mid-August.

Saturday, May 5 (11:30 a.m.)
Harmony Brewing Co.
1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
(616) 233-0063 ‎
www.facebook.com/pages/Harmony-Brewing-Company/116651378360910

Join Barry VanDyke for a guided tour. Free Harmony Pint glass which can filled for $1 off the normal price on the day of the tour only. RSVP: Barry VanDyke: admin@bearmanorproperties.com.

Saturday, May 12 (2 p.m.)
Saugatuck Brewing Co.
2948 Blue Star Hwy., Douglas
(269) 857-7222
www.saugatuckbrewing.com

Enthusiasts receive $1 off their first pint, free samplings, a complimentary SBC Logoed Pint Glass, as well as a tour of brewery. RSVP: Scott Farney, scott@sbrewing.com.

Saturday, June 2 (3:30 p.m.)
New Holland Brewing Co.
690 Commerce Ct., Holland
(616) 510-2259
www.newhollandbrew.com

Join brewmaster John Haggerty for a guided tour and tasting. All participants receive 10% off the pub store and $1 off their first pint at the pub. RSVP: jenney@newhollandbrew.com or (616) 510-2259.

Sunday, June 24 (1 p.m.)
Corner Brewery
720 Norris St., Ypsilanti
www.cornerbrewery.com
(734) 480-2739

A guided tour by the brewing team at Corner Brewery. RSVP: Sarah Adcocksarah@arborbrewing.com.

Saturday July 7 (1 p.m.)
Vander Mill Cider Mill, Brewery & Winery
14921 Cleveland St. Spring Lake
www.vandermill.com
(616) 842-4337

Join the Vander Mill crew for an in-depth guided tour of our modern hard cider production facility in Spring Lake. RSVP: adam@vandermill.com or (616) 842-4337.

Saturday, July 21 (11 a.m.)
Founders Brewing Company
235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids
www.foundersbrewing.com
(616) 776-1195

Take a tour of the newly expanded brewing facility, open exclusively to enthusiasts only. Enjoy a guided tasting as well as a sampling of our delicious appetizers from the Founders Deli. The tour has a limited number of spots, so respond early! RSVP: gabe@foundersbrewing.com.

Sunday, August 19 (1 p.m.)
Arbor Brewing Company
114 East Washington St., Ann Arbor
www.arborbrewing.com
(734) 213-1393

Join the crew at Arbor Brewing for a guided enthusiast tour. RSVP: beth@arborbrewing.com.

A Michigan Brewers Guild “Enthusiast” membership is $35. Benefits include VIP status at MBG festivals with early admission, discounts at participating membership brewpubs, special VIP brewery tours and a free T-shirt proclaiming your Michigan Beer Nuttiness. Enthusiast memberships can be purchased online at  MBG Enthusiast Membership.

LANSING — One of the benefits of membership in the Michigan Brewers Guild “Enthusiast” program is VIP tours and tastings at member breweries around the state.
To participate in one of these special tours, one must be a current Enthusiast member – a group dedicated to celebrating the growing craft beer industry in the Mitten State. Enthusiast memberships are $35 each and are available online at MBG Enthusiast Membership. There is no additional charge for the tours, but reservations are recommended and attendees must show their Enthusiast card.
The Summer 2012 schedule includes seven tours, beginning in early May and running thru mid-August.
Saturday, May 5 (11:30 a.m.)
Harmony Brewing Co.
1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
(616) 233-0063 ‎
www.facebook.com/pages/Harmony-Brewing-Company/116651378360910
Join Barry VanDyke for a guided tour. Free Harmony Pint glass which can filled for $1 off the normal price on the day of the tour only. RSVP: Barry VanDyke: admin@bearmanorproperties.com.
Saturday, May 12 (2 p.m.)
Saugatuck Brewing Co.
2948 Blue Star Hwy., Douglas
(269) 857-7222
www.saugatuckbrewing.com
Enthusiasts receive $1 off their first pint, free samplings, a complimentary SBC Logoed Pint Glass, as well as a tour of brewery. RSVP: Scott Farney, scott@sbrewing.com.
Saturday, June 2 (3:30 p.m.)
New Holland Brewing Co.
690 Commerce Ct., Holland
(616) 510-2259
www.newhollandbrew.com
Join brewmaster John Haggerty for a guided tour and tasting. All participants receive 10% off the pub store and $1 off their first pint at the pub. RSVP: jenney@newhollandbrew.com or (616) 510-2259.
Sunday, June 24 (1 p.m.)
Corner Brewery
720 Norris St., Ypsilanti
www.cornerbrewery.com
(734) 480-2739
A guided tour by the brewing team at Corner Brewery. RSVP: Sarah Adcocksarah@arborbrewing.com.
Saturday July 7 (1 p.m.)
Vander Mill Cider Mill, Brewery & Winery
14921 Cleveland St. Spring Lake
www.vandermill.com
(616) 842-4337
Join the Vander Mill crew for an in-depth guided tour of our modern hard cider production facility in Spring Lake. RSVP: adam@vandermill.com or (616) 842-4337.
Saturday, July 21 (11 a.m.)
Founders Brewing Company
235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids
www.foundersbrewing.com
(616) 776-1195
Take a tour of the newly expanded brewing facility, open exclusively to enthusiasts only. Enjoy a guided tasting as well as a sampling of our delicious appetizers from the Founders Deli. The tour has a limited number of spots, so respond early! RSVP: gabe@foundersbrewing.com.
Sunday, August 19 (1 p.m.)
Arbor Brewing Company
114 East Washington St., Ann Arbor
www.arborbrewing.com
(734) 213-1393
Join the crew at Arbor Brewing for a guided enthusiast tour. RSVP: beth@arborbrewing.com.
A Michigan Brewers Guild “Enthusiast” membership is $35. Benefits include VIP status at MBG festivals with early admission, discounts at participating membership brewpubs, special VIP brewery tours and a free T-shirt proclaiming your Michigan Beer Nuttiness. Enthusiast memberships can be purchased online at  MBG Enthusiast Membership.

COMSTOCK PARK — Saturday was a day of records.

With crowd numbers estimated to be over 6,000, and more than 450 beers brought by Michigan breweries, the 2012 Winter Beer Festival was the largest ever. Beer lovers came from across the state and beyond to sample some of the best, brightest and sometimes even whackiest beers in Michigan.

The 7th annual festival, held at Fifth-Third Ballpark, sold out in record time in December. Several breweries brought not only their staple beers, but also high-ABV and rare beers otherwise unavailable to the public. With everything from a sweet wintertime ale to a hopped-up IPA, there was a beer for everyone.

Shorts Brewing Company featured several bottled and non-distribution beers, including its Turtle Stout (8% ABV). Pouring a deep chocolate hue, with about one finger of a light tan pancake head, you could immediately sense an aroma of roasted pecans. The scent was balanced with notes of caramel and chocolate malt, making for an overall very pleasant smell.

The instant taste of sweet chocolate malts and vanilla soon gave way to a pecan and nutty roasted flavor. The beer finished with sweet caramel and chocolate, with the pecan roast lingering to the very end. This brew isn’t as heavy as you’d expect given its appearance, with a light carbonation and silky chocolate body, yielding a very creamy, coating mouthfeel. The unique flavors are very well balanced and integrated, making for one of the highlights of the day.

In addition to the Turtle Stout, Shorts highlighted its Wintertime Fun Ale (8.5% ABV) — an American Brown Ale brewed with peppermint, milk chocolate, marshmallow and cinnamon.

Dark Horse Brewing Co. had not one — but four — tables at the festival. Known for its mastery with barrel aging, the Bourbon Barrel 666 Sarsaparilla Vanilla Stout was no disappointment. The brew pours a deep midnight black colored brew with a caramel head. There’s a massive vanilla smell, coupled with hints of milk chocolate and cocoa. The bourbon barrel really accentuates the vanilla notes here.

Sweet chocolate malts and cocoa are immediately present when tasting, but most of all the brew features heavy vanilla overtones that are very reminiscent of a creamy root beer. Cocoa and vanilla linger toward the finish, where a little more of the bourbon shows up. There’s a slight alcohol warmth here, but the brew is very smooth, and features a creamy mouthfeel throughout.

In what was the biggest surprise of the day, Right Brain Brewery’s The Demise (10% ABV) hit the spot for us. An American Barleywine, the brew pours a light copper color, with a thin rim of fizzy white head that rapidly dissipates. It features a complex smell, predominated by honey and sweet, sticky malts with citrus hops and alcohol.

As in the nose, honey shows up first, on a sweet, sticky body of red and caramel malt. Sweetness fades a bit, leading to a citrusy hop finish with a lingering, astringent alcohol burn. A full bodied brew, The Demise has some good carbonation and warming alcohol. For as much going on with this brew, Right Brain definitely found a way to balance it nicely.

The next Michigan Brewers Guild festival is July 27 and 28 in Ypsilanti. Tickets go on sale May 1.