New grants promote Michigan beers, ciders, wines and spirits

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Image: Steven Depolo, Flickr.

By Kyle Davidson
Capital News Service

Researchers are receiving a record amount of state funding for projects that would benefit the beer, wine, cider and distilling industry.

The Michigan Craft Beverage Council will provide over $400,000 to 14 projects that include the effects of climate change on crops, pest and disease management, and development of new varieties of hops, barley, fruits and rye for use in brewing.

The council also wants to promote the industry with projects that could increase demand for Michigan’s hard ciders and increase  understanding of market opportunities for Michigan- grown fruit.

The council replaced the Grape and Wine Industry Council in 2018 and focuses more on research than its predecessor, said its director, Jenelle Jagmin. It must spend at least 50% of its annual operating budget on research projects, with a maximum of $50,000 per project.

It advises the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Last summer, the council’s research division put together a list of project priorities. An evaluation committee approved funding.

It’s funded by liquor license fees, not taxpayer dollars.

“Any of the work that our council is doing is paid for by the industry and is there to help make improvements for the industry,” Jagmin said.

“Whenever we’re looking at new industries, the risks of moving into that industry can be fairly substantial. You have many barriers like learning how to grow hops, for example, what material you need, etc.,” said Steve Miller, an assistant professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.

Miller said that by providing grants to entrepreneurs, more can enter a field where the costs and risks would otherwise keep them out.

According to the Brewers Association, craft brewing contributed $79.1 billion to the national economy in 2018 and provided more than 550,000 jobs nationwide. The national association, based in Colorado, represents small and independent U.S. brewers.

During that year, the Brewers Association reported Michigan craft brewing provided over $2.56 billion to the economy.

Jagmin said, “Michigan is so unique, especially with our Great Lakes climate and our ability to grow such high-quality produce including hops, including wine grapes.”

“And then, of course, you can’t discount the tie that our craft beverage companies have to our communities. The microbrews, the wineries, the craft distillers — they’re a part of our fabric,” she said.

“It’s a thriving industry. We see it doing nothing but growing and we just want to make sure that we’re helping to facilitate that growth,” Jagmin said.

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