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 225 member breweries (a number that increases almost on a monthly basis). Last week, the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG) celebrated its 20th Anniversary with its largest annual conference and trade show to date at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo.
The award goes too…
Well, a ton happened, but the main news nugget was the guild presenting the 2017 Tom Burns Award to Rex Halfpenny, publisher of the Michigan Beer Guide.
The Tom Burns Award is given to a person who embodies the pioneering spirit of the Michigan brewing industry. This is an individual whose hard work, passion and perseverance has been a guiding force in creating the Great Beer State while being supportive of the entire craft beer industry in Michigan. Nominees can be brewery owners or employees, can be affiliated with a beer wholesaler or beer retailer or otherwise involved in the industry. Nominees can be part of the industry now or in the past and do not need to be currently living.
It is named after Detroit and Mackinac Brewing Co. founder and brewer, Tom Burns, who passed away of cancer May 1, 1994. Burns, a “recovering attorney” whose passion was brewing, is credited with many of the advancements in brewing legislation, rules and regulations in the 1990s, which paved the way for a thriving industry.
Rex Halfpenny was born and raised in Hawaii and has a cultural anthropology degree from the University of Hawaii. He met his wife, Mary, at the UH and the two traveled across the USA extensively, even spending 14 months backpacking across the country together as part of Hikanation.
After 14 years of suits and ties in corporate America as a creative resources director, Rex began publishing the Michigan Beer Guide in 1997, with his wife Mary. Their bi-monthly publication has provided them the vehicle to observe and champion the growth of Michigan’s craft beer culture from its infancy to today’s hugely successful industry.
Rex and Mary helped form the Michigan Brewers Guild, and they spearheaded the legalization of homebrewing in Michigan. Rex completed the Siebel Institute Sensory Program and is a BJCP National Judge. He is invited annually to judge at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.
He played founding roles in developing the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association and ran their first nine International Cider and Perry Competitions as well as the first five Cerveza Mexico Pro-Am competitions. He has written articles for many magazines on the subject of beer and contributed to several beer books, including Brewed in Detroit, Beer Steward Handbook and Guia de la Cerveza En Mexico.
Past winners of the Tom Burns Award include Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery Inc., (2012), Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing (2013) and John Linardos of Motor City Brewing Works (2015).
What else happened?
Keynote speakers include Dick Cantwell, author and co-founder of Elysian Brewing Co. and Jim Koch, brewer and founder of Samuel Adams. Other speakers and panelists included Bart Watson, chief economist from the Brewers Association; Ginger Johnson, founder of Women Enjoying Beer; Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association; Alastair Pringle, industrial microbiologist and assistant professor at Maryville University; Terri Quimby, commissioner at Michigan Liquor Control Commission; and Ellen Winterburn, vice president of Human Resources for BarFly Ventures.
As always, local supply chain and quality assurance issues take center stage with group discussions focused on Michigan hops, barley and malt and a group session on wastewater issues.