2024 Michigan’s Great Beer State Conference & Trade Show

by | Jan 20, 2024 | Beer

With a heritage steeped in brewing excellence, Michigan’s Great Beer State Conference & Trade Show returned to Kalamazoo in 2024, continuing its legacy as a pivotal event for brewers, hop and barley growers, and professionals supporting Michigan’s thriving brewing industry. This year’s conference was a testament to the enduring spirit and innovation of the Michigan brewing community.

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Great Beer State Conference 

Conference attendees were treated to a keynote address from Dr. Charlie Bamforth from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Recognized for his significant contributions to brewing science, Dr. Bamforth’s work has earned him numerous accolades, including the Recognition Award from the Brewers Association and the Horace Brown Medal from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

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We were advised to take notes while introductions were made. I made one tiny notation in my notebook after Dr. Bamforth said, “The young me and the new me.” He was referring to a slide with a picture of him from, I’m going to guess, the 80s. It was paired with a more recent picture. I loved the comparison and words. It could be fodder for an upcoming “Sunday Sip.” (If you subscribe to our weekly newsletter, thank you.) 

Dr. Bamforth then launched into a chat about brewing science and industry trends. I was shocked when I looked at my watch and an hour had passed. Too bad about my lack of notes.  

Trade Show

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The trade show at the Wings Event Center was hopping with 97 exhibitors from brewery equipment to malt and hop growers to media. Dianna Stampfler mentioned at the Detroit Fall Beer Festival that Life In Michigan could exhibit as Allied Members of the Guild, too. After some thought, we emailed her, “Sign us up.” 

A steady stream of beer brewers and beer enthusiasts stopped by our table. Sprinkled between our magnets, stickers, and coasters, we had a few photos to give folks a taste of Chuck’s portfolio. The Billy Strings picture generated many comments and countless “Billy” stories.

We’ve got hundreds of pictures from the trade show in our gallery.

Brewers Guild Annual Meeting

The Guild’s annual meeting is held during the conference, and the new board is elected; it is for voting member breweries only. 

  • Andrea Pernsteiner of Ore Dock Brewing in Marquette was elected to her second term on the board and will serve as President;
  • Max Trierweiler of The Mitten Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Saugatuck and Northport) continues his second term and will serve as Vice President;
  • Jason Spaulding of Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids & Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits in Kentwood was elected to his second term on the board and will serve as Secretary;
  • Travis Fritts of Old Nation Brewing Company in Williamston continues his first term on the board and will serve as Treasurer;
  • Aaron Ross from the Sustainable Brewing Program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College continues his first term on the board;
  • Linus De Paoli of 3 Gatos Brewery in Wyoming was elected to his first term on the board; he is also active with the MBG’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee;
  • Eric Plata, from Batch Brewing Co. in Detroit, was elected his first term on the board.

It is exciting to see Andrea move into the role of President and the newly elected board members Lius and Eric. 


Before dinner, the Guild presented two awards. 

  • The Tom Burns Award, recognizing an individual with a pioneering spirit in the Michigan brewing industry, was given to Mike “BrewGyver” OBrien. 
  • Michigan Beer Champion Award for the promotion and protection of the craft beer industry in the state was presented to Isaac Hartman.

Mike “BrewGyver” O’Brien has been passionately involved in brewing for decades, starting with building his first draught system at 17 and learning from pioneers in the craft brewing industry. He became an adept homebrewer, producing 200 gallons a year using his own hops and specialty grains. He joined brewing communities like the Great Lakes Brewers Michigan Chapter One and the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild. Known for his extensive knowledge and willingness to help, Mike has contributed significantly to the brewing community, offering technical support and volunteering at MBG festivals.

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Isaac Hartman has dedicated over two decades to New Holland Brewing Company, rising from a dishwasher and server during his college days to the Sales Manager of beer and spirit brands. Self-taught in beer sales with additional formal training, Isaac has been a fervent advocate for both New Holland and the Michigan beer industry. He has served a total of 14 years on the MBG board and founded a golf event that combines his interests in politics, golf, and beer, including the upcoming 2024 event on May 16.

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Seventh Annual Michigan Chinook Cup

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“The Michigan Chinook Cup is awarded to the Great Beer State’s best Chinook hop grower as determined by a panel of expert craft brewers through a series of blind sensory tests. This year, six Chinook entries were ranked and scored for aroma, appearance/color, and brewing values. The expert judges included John Mallett, Jeremy Kosmicki, and Jason Vrosh from Founders Brewing Company; Alec Mull and Andy Farrell from Bell’s Brewery; Brian Confer and Chris Schneff from Stormcloud Brewing Co., and Josh Mayich from Island Hop Company.”

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This Year’s Winners: 

First Place: Mark and Sean Trowbridge of Top Hop Farms 

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Second Place: Bonnie Steinman of Bell’s Brewery Estate Hopyard

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Third Place: Rick Kawalski of Hop Head Farms 

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Great Beer State Dinner

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Under the guidance of the Beervangelist Fred Bueltmann, the Radisson Plaza Kalamazoo’s talented teams prepared the dinner. It is special because of the beer and food pairings. When Fred does the pairings, you’ll have a unique culinary experience. He expertly matches the flavors and nuances of each beer with complimentary food ingredients, enhancing the overall dining and tasting experience. 

The trick is saving room for all the food stations. 

There were six food stations. Four with a flavor family found in beer, three dishes paired with two beers. (If you are counting, that is 4x3x2=24 beer tastings.) The dessert table had four tasty treats and two beers (4×2=8 added to the 24 other beer tastings). 

I was too full to consider the grazing station. 


Huge thanks to the conference planning team for their work. There was something for everyone, from breweries of all sizes to beer enthusiasts and vendors supporting the industry. Sessions were grouped into four tracks: Brewing, Business, Hops, and Barley. Narrowing down which ones to attend was tough. 

Because I don’t want you to say TLDR (for you millennials, that is an acronym for “Too Long Didn’t Read”), I’m mentioning a few sessions:  

Josh Mayich from Island Hop Company presented “Marketing to Improve the Sustainability of Your Hop Farm.” He offered some thought-provoking insights, particularly with his “Generational Impact” slide. This slide highlighted the varying purchasing habits across generations, noting that Gen Xers and Boomers tend to be brand loyal, often repurchasing products they like. In contrast, the session shed light on the more eclectic buying behavior of Gen Z and Millennials, suggesting that their preferences are more fluid and less predictable. This information is crucial for marketers, indicating that capturing the loyalty of younger generations might require different strategies, such as continually innovating or creating varied experiences. This session offered a glimpse into consumer behavior and underscored the importance of understanding generational differences in the marketplace.

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Dave Cicotte from Batch Brewing Company’s “Showcasing your Brand Online when you Don’t have a Marketing Manager” was packed with easy-to-implement tips and tools. Thanks, Dave, for the shout-out during the Earned Media agenda topic. And yes, please add LifeInMichigan.com ([email protected]) to your media list. 

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Sensory Evaluation Workshop

If you want to better understand beer, the “Sensory Evaluation Workshop” is for you. Craig Taheny and Kevin Payne from Bell’s Brewery walked us through a hands-on malt evaluation. Participants used their senses to evaluate three different samples and used an online tool to submit their findings. 

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There were 24 sessions, and I couldn’t attend them all. Decisions were made, and I missed Dr. Bamforth’s session on Foam – A Visual, Scientific, and Technical Delight and the Michigan Malt Panel, where attendees met the growers and maltsters driving innovation and quality in local malt. 

Mark Your Calendars

Inspired by the vibrant craft beer scene in Michigan, then don’t miss the opportunity to be part of this embracing community! Mark your calendars for the next Great Beer State Conference in Kalamazoo on January 8-10, 2025. Whether you’re a seasoned brewer, a new enthusiast, or simply a lover of great beer, this event is the perfect place to deepen your appreciation, connect with industry leaders, and taste some of Michigan’s finest beers. We can’t wait to see you there, where you’ll experience the best of Michigan’s brewing culture firsthand.


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We have a ton of photos from Michigan’s Great Beer State & Trade Show. Please Drop by our galleries and check them out!

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