Not only is Michigan a top five state for the number of craft breweries, but as a result of ongoing efforts on the agricultural side of the industry, it also ranks as the fourth leading producer of hops in the United States. Two organizations have lead the charge in both areas—Michigan Brewers Guild and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE).
Scott Graham, Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG) was one of five industry leaders recognized with a Key Partner Award by Ray Hammerschmidt, Director of MSU Extension. Rob Sirrine, with the MSU Extension office in Leelanau County, received a Meritorious Service Educator Award. These awards were presented on Tuesday, October 13 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing.
The Key Partner award recognizes individuals, organizations, media, special MSU programs and government officials who have made significant contributions to creating, improving or promoting MSU Extension programs. Graham was nominated by MSU Extension representatives Ashley McFarland, Erin Lizotte and Rob Sirrine, with support from MBG Board Member Steve Berthel of New Holland Brewing Co., and Brian Tennis of New Mission Organics and Michigan Hop Alliance.
“Scott Graham has had a profound impact on MSU Extension and stakeholders across Michigan, as a tremendous partner from the onset of our programming efforts to build Michigan’s hop and barley industries,” says Sirrine. “He has participated in and sponsored every MSU Extension hop tour for seven years running, helping to increase hop sales to Michigan brewers. He has also been instrumental in increasing financial support for MSU barley research. As a result, he has helped facilitate relationships between Michigan’s growers and brewers to ensure a consistent, high-quality supply of raw materials for the craft beer industry.”
A native of northern Michigan, Graham has been involved in the brewing industry for more than 20 years. He holds a degree in Brewing Technology, served as an apprentice at the Frankenmuth Brewery and was the founding brewmaster for Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse in Gaylord.
In 2007, Graham was named the first Executive Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild—a non-profit organization which aims to unify the Michigan brewing community and to increase sales of Michigan-brewed beer through promotions, marketing, public awareness and consumer education. He is also responsible for monitoring and supporting a healthy beer industry in the state. At that time, the Guild had about 60 brewery members; today the organization boasts more than 170 members and Michigan is ranked #5 in the nation for the number of overall breweries.
Soon after Graham took over management of the Guild, he began to fostering relationships with the MSU Extension staff, including Sirrine.
“At that time, we were developing programs to support the hop industry in response to both a market-wide shortage and price increases that were negatively affecting the rapidly growing craft beer industry.”
Sirrine, who holds a Ph.D. in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture from the University of California Santa Cruz, received a Meritorious Service Educator Award from MSUE. Over the past eight years, Sirrine has worked with colleagues and community partners to develop high-impact educational programming in three major areas: Hop production, the New FARM Program and the Grand Traverse Food Innovation Hub.
He has provided statewide leadership for hops outreach, demonstration and research efforts and through his efforts—and those of his colleagues—MSU is now recognized as the go-to hops information source outside of the Pacific Northwest. The Michigan brewing industry has benefited from Sirrine’s efforts to increase the quality, supply and market security of Michigan-grown hops. Michigan is also now the fourth leading producer of hops in the United States.
“The impact of craft beer is far reaching,” says Governor Rick Snyder in the 2015 edition of Michigan. The Great Beer State., the official publication of the Michigan Brewers Guild. “From the farmers growing hops and barley, to the malting and processing facilities, to the distributors and retail outlets that bring the finished product to consumers. Craft beer is an agricultural commodity that provides and unparalleled social experience by bringing people together to interact, converse and celebrate in true Pure Michigan style.”
The Michigan Brewers Guild was formed in 1997 and held its first festival in July 1998. Today, the Guild hosts four festivals dedicated exclusively to Michigan craft beer produced by its nearly 180 member breweries.
Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $277 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #5 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”
The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025. Michigan ranks #5 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State”.