Michigan’s Thumb is starting to “hop”

Hops production gaining traction in the Thumb counties for Michigan craft beers, tourism, and potentially food too!

It was just in May that the British Broadcasting Corporation released an article on the potential shortage of hops due to the increasing demand for craft beers. That article points out two important facts: the price for hops has doubled in ten years and craft beer now accounts for 8 percent of the U.S. beer market (see article here). Couple these facts and figures with the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in Michigan, and communities have another opportunity to leverage specialty crops for economic prosperity and community vitality.

We have seen an incredible number of craft breweries, also known as microbreweries, sprout up around Michigan over the last ten years and more are in the works. A recent article in the Lansing State Journal confirmed those numbers to be approximately 160 via Rob Sirrine, a Community Food Systems educator with Michigan State University Extension based in Leelanau County. Sirrine suggested that “Michigan’s climate and soil are conducive to hops farming…”  The growing trend in craft beer has spread to the thumb region of Michigan where city and villages, such as Port Huron, St. Clair, and Lexington have establishments catering to the thirst for craft beer. Sandusky (Sanilac County) and Caseville (Huron County) will soon help push the number of craft breweries in Michigan closer to 170.

Earlier this month, Huron County’s Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State University Extension staff for the thumb region coordinated the first meeting between veteran and new hops farmers, thumb breweries & brewers, and tourism/economic development professionals.

The goal was to get the conversation started between the many aspects of hops production. The conversation was on leveraging regional assets to spur hops production on this side of Michigan while developing events and attractions to help showcase them and the surrounding beauty of the area. 

The exciting part to all of this is the diversity of the final product, beer. However, it doesn’t stop there. One hops producer caught my attention early on in the meeting when he mentioned chefs in the area are now starting to smoke meat with hops!

Now ideas are really brewing in Michigan’s thumb!