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Count the ways to celebrate Michigan Craft Beer Month

Michigan Brewers Guild deems July as a time to celebrate the state's industry, culminating with the Summer Beer Festival, which is canceled

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Each July the bounty of hop-laden beers produced in our state are celebrated not only because it's Michigan Craft Beer Month, but because it's typically the time of year enthusiasts gather for the Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti. 

The 23rd annual event won't be happening this summer, of course, leaving thousands of brew fans without a flagship gathering when suds from many of the more than 400 breweries in Michigan are sampled and discussed.

Still, there are other ways to celebrate the state's independent beverage makers which make Michigan the sixth largest state in the nation in terms of numbers of breweries. 

"I really think it’s just a time to be thoughtful and if it makes sense for you, to patronize these businesses, they’ve really been hurt by revenue going to zero or way down," said the Michigan Brewers Guild executive director Scott Graham. "And not everybody’s going to be comfortable going out – we all get that. It’s a personal choice. Where it makes sense, I encourage people to be thoughtful about spending dollars locally with businesses that are important to them, especially breweries."

Graham, who says the Summer Beer Festival, typically held in late July at Riverside Park, usually sells more than 10,000 tickets over two days and has plenty of other ideas for ways to celebrate and support the local beer industry, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, like most businesses. 

The Guild highlights craft beer's benefit to the state's tourism and agricultural industries. The national Brewers Association releases numbers estimating that Michigan's brewing businesses contributes more than $872 million in labor income and a total economic impact of $2.5 billion. It accounts for 21,000 jobs. 

Of their member businesses, he says the effects of the pandemic are “a mixed bag.” 

“Some are doing reasonably well and have been able to adapt to the situation they find themselves in … for some it’s going to be disastrous for and there are a whole bunch in between,” he said. “People that open a brewery tend to be very energetic and creative and I think that’s an asset in trying to rethink how you’re going to redo your business.”

Manager Jason Van Gorder, of Harrison Twp, pours a Traffic Accident IPA.

One local business that is trying to adapt is St. Clair Shores' Copper Hop Brewing Company. Open just a few months, co-owner Ryan Balicki says they'd like to celebrate Michigan Craft Beer Month more, but capacity rules due to COVID-19 prevent too much hype. 

"Trying to drive more people in doesn't make sense right now," he said. The neighborhood brewery has a five-barrel system and with the patio can seat around 60 people with the 50% capacity rule. 

Copper Hop is one of a small handfuls of breweries to open in St. Clair Shores in the past few years. Located on Mack south of Nine Mile, Copper Hop joints Baffin Brewing Company and Dragon's Landing on Jefferson and Jamex Brewing Co. on Harper. 

"We just felt with the other breweries that were here we could help make it a brewing destination on the east side," said Balicki. "We're a community brewery, we have 12 different beers on tap. We've got something for everybody. Our build- out, we really put a lot into the atmosphere of the place with garage doors on the front that lead out to our patio. It's a nice indoor-outdoor feel." 

Copper Hop Brewing Company owner Ryan Balicki, center, of Macomb, talks with patrons Luke Woolum, left, and his girlfriend, Gintare Tamulyte, both of St. Clair Shores.

Besides visiting a neighborhood brewery to sip a pint or take some growlers to-go, Graham, suggests taking a road trip to one of the many pockets in Michigan that have a few breweries clustered together. Maps and other guides are at mibeer.com, or inside the Great Beer State Magazine's annual issue, available at many breweries and travel stops. 

A 30-year veteran of the beer industry, Graham has a few other ways to celebrate Michigan Craft Beer Month safely and with social distancing in mind. 

The Michigan Brewers Guild has started a Michigan Great Beer State Podcast with history of the organization and the mitten's craft beer industry. 

"We wanted to record and share the history of the Michigan Brewers Guild with some of the newer members in the industry to help give them a sense of perspective. We worked with Fred Bueltmann who is a longtime part of our industry, he’s been involved with the guild and breweries for a long time," said Graham, adding that a lot of the fodder for the audio series comes from interviews Bueltmann conducted for his book, "A Rising Tide – Series from the Michigan Brewers Guild." 

Another activity that doesn't involve being in a bar is the Independent Craft Brewers Association's National Independent Beer Run Day. Taking place Friday, the virtual event aims to encourage a to-go purchase of craft beer from the store, online or from a brewery to help "fuel small businesses at a time when they need it most." 

The ICBA encourages folks to get creative with their "run" and use the hashtag #BeerRunDay to promote your trip on social media. 

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mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens