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A quick beginner’s guide to the world of Michigan craft beers

It's hard to beat a refreshing beer on a warm summer day -- and in Michigan these days, beer drinkers are seeing ever more options to quench their thirst thanks to the surge of craft brewing. In fact, for over half a decade, July has been recognized by our Legislature as Michigan Craft Beer Month. It’s not surprising that we have put aside a month to celebrate an industry that has doubled in size five times over since 1991.

We rank no. 5 in the nation, with more than 100 breweries of all sizes and sorts. This month-long celebration sees craft-beer related events at breweries, beer bars and at the quintessential Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Festival held in Ypsilanti the last weekend in July of each year.

To add to Michigan’s craft beer prestige, Grand Rapids was recently named Beer City USA, after tying with Asheville, N.C., last year. Also included in the top five of the nationwide popular vote were Kalamazoo (no. 2) and Ann Arbor (no. 4).

For those who may not be familiar with the craft-brewing world, it’s easy to get started with craft beer available at most party stores and local watering holes. By no means consider this an exhaustive list, but merely a dip into the water, or rather ale, of what's happening in Michigan.

Focusing on breweries with wide-enough distribution that you’ll likely find them without too much effort, the biggies in the field include Bell's, Founders, New Holland, Short's, Dark Horse and Arcadia. Southeast Michigan brings us Jolly Pumpkin that has received international acclaim for its unique barrel aged beers, along with great beers from Dragonmead, Kuhnhenn, Atwater and Rochester Mills.

From Southwest Michigan, you’ll find beers by Greenbush, Saugatuck and the Livery.

West Michigan is home to a few of the "biggies," but newcomer Perrin is making a huge splash on the beer scene. The U.P. offers us several brewpubs, but you can find Keweenaw Brewing Company beers throughout Michigan.

Looking for a beer-destination?

Jolly Pumpkin’s Mission Peninsula location offers a front lawn with spectacular views of Bowers Harbor.

What a tribute to our love affair with craft beer that the only privately owned business in a Michigan state park is Tahquamenon Brewery at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The perfect end to a hike on the gorgeous trails is a cool brew.

Traffic Jam & Snug in Detroit is one of those eccentric one-off places. They were the first brewpub in Michigan. In addition to their own beer, they make their own cheese and bake all their own breads and desserts, etc. They also happen to be right across the street from Motor City Brewing Works.

Red Jacket in Calumet has an itty bitty brew system inside The Michigan House Café. They have one offering – oatmeal coffee stout.

HopCat in downtown Grand Rapids holds the title of third best beer bar in America, according to BeerAdvocate. They brew their own, too -- but they are most well-known for their high-quality massive tap list. Those of us in mid-Michigan are excited to be getting a sister HopCat in East Lansing (with 100 taps) later this year.

You can even enjoy great Michigan craft beer at a Tigers game. There’s a beer stand behind right field with 10 craft beers on tap and 16 available in bottle.

This summer, while you explore all Michigan’s beautiful beaches, forests and waterways, consider searching out a local brew, too.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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