The Michigan Brewers Guild presented three key awards to industry leaders at its annual conference Thursday night, January 12, 2023, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. The Tom Burns Award was presented to Jack Archiable, the MI Beer Champion Award was presented to Barry Johnson, and the Defender of Michigan Beer Award was presented to Representative Pauline Wendzel.
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.
Jack Archiable’s storied brewing career began in the late 1970s, homebrewing at friends’ houses in his native Ohio. By the early 1990s, his love of craft beer had grown to the point that he decided to open his own “micro” brewery in Williamsburg (near Traverse City), seeking loans from banks who found the concept absurd at the time. After purchasing a brick clad Peter Austin brew system, Jack headed to Cambridge, MA to learn how to brew commercially under the tutelage of the one-and-only Alan Pugsley. Mashing in every morning at 5:00 AM, as Alan did, after drinking with him each night until 2:00 AM, the apprenticeship eventually revealed the critical conversion skills for taking small novice homebrew recipes and turning them into larger scale professional craft brews.
Upon his return to northern Michigan, Jack opened Traverse Brewing Company (TBC), was cosmically assigned Brewery License #007, and began formulating his trademark English-inspired brands: Old Mission Lighthouse Pale Ale, Sleeping Bear Brown Ale and the famous Manitou Amber Ale. By naming his hit craft beers after popular northern Michigan landmarks, Jack acknowledged early on the emotional connection and memories that people share with their beer as well as the role and sense of community a small local brewery provides to an area. Jack’s legacy can easily be seen through the alum who received their first commercial brewing experience at TBC and have since been operating their own successful breweries for the past two decades, like Joe Short (Short’s Brewing Company, est. 2004), Russell Springsteen (Right Brain Brewery, est. 2007) and John Niedermaier (Brewery Terra Firma, est. 2013).
Perhaps the only thing greater than Jack’s love of craft beer (and his dog Balto), is his love of people, as he has an incredible ability to see the good in everyone!
Past winners of the Tom Burns Award include:
- 2012 – Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery Inc.
- 2013 – Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing
- 2015 – John Linardos of Motor City Brewing Works
- 2017 – Rex Halfpenny of Michigan Beer Guide
- 2019 – Eric Briggeman of Rochester Mills Beer Company
- 2020 – Ron Jeffries of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
The Michigan Beer Champion Award is given to a person who or organization/business that is a partner of the industry and who continually strives to promote or protect the craft beer industry in Michigan. Nominees can be individuals, wholesalers, retailers, affiliated businesses or can be groups or organizations.
Barry Johnson began his craft beer journey in 1988. As Vice President of International Sales for a manufacturing company, he traveled to over 50 countries on six continents, keeping notes on the local beers he encountered. The last leg home usually included a stop at Grand Rapids Brewing Company, where he met their brewer, John Svoboda. When relating his travel and beer stories John would sometimes say “you know a lot about beer. You should start a brewery.”
In 2000 Barry took a sales job in Michigan. With the latest copy of Michigan Beer Guide in hand, he visited all the breweries in Michigan at the time. Along the way he met Jamesport Brewing head brewer Tom Buchannan. Tom also suggested Barry start a brewery. In 2003 his wife, Kathy, courageously agreed to take the leap to open their own brewery. They cashed in their chips and Barry was off to the World Brewing Academy in Chicago and Munich, Germany. Saugatuck Brewing Company opened in June of 2005 in a 4,000-square-feet storage unit with a 3-barrel Brew-On-Premise system. In 2008 they moved across the street to a 25,000-square-feet. vacant factory and bought a 10-barrel Pico System.
When Barry left Saugatuck Brewing in 2011, he began to brew and consult for other breweries. Over the next 10 years he shared his insights and experience with over 100 breweries. With few exceptions he never asked for anything in return. Barry is also active with the Protect Michigan Craft Beer PAC and is a diehard Detroit Tigers fan.
Past winners of the Michigan Beer Champion Award include:
- 2014 – Rick Lack, Executive Vice President of RAVE Associates
- 2019 – Steve Siciliano of Siciliano’s Market in Grand Rapids
- 2020 – Shawn Gary, president of Alliance Beverage Distributing in Grand Rapids.
The Defender of Michigan Beer Award was introduced in 2023 and recognizes a legislator who is important to the industry for their own distinct service and commitment. State Rep. Pauline Wendzel has consistently been a supporter of the Michigan beer industry. Recognizing the contribution that breweries have made to the state, she has sponsored legislation and been a proponent for our causes. She has engaged with breweries both inside and outside of her district and has taken the time to understand our member businesses and their individual and collective needs.
“We are pleased to present the very first Defender of Michigan Beer Award to Rep. Wendzel,” says Scott Graham, MBG Executive Director. “We recognize her continued engagement and applaud her personal commitment to discovering the nuances and flavors of our industry.”
Rep. Pauline Wendzel was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2018. She currently represents Michigan’s newly drawn 39th House District, which includes Coloma, Watervliet and Bainbridge in Berrien County. All Van Buren County except Covert and South Haven are part of the district as well as Lee, Cheshire, Trowbridge, and part of Otsego Township in Allegan County.
For the past two terms, Rep. Wendzel has served as a member of the House Regulatory Reform Committee where she’s worked to cut red tape and create an environment where Michigan’s craft brewers can grow and thrive.
Before serving as a state representative, Rep. Wendzel worked as the program director at the North Berrien Historical Museum and spent time working on her family farm. Just prior to her first election, she was the product brand development manager at Coloma Frozen Foods and served as the assistant deputy clerk for Bainbridge Township.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award,” Rep. Wendzel said. “Protecting this industry is about so much more than brewing beer. These small businesses host events that bring our communities together, they support our local economies by buying products from our farmers, and they hire our friends and neighbors. Our state sits near the top of every list as it relates to brewing and I’m proud to support commonsense policies that create an environment for these small businesses to grow and thrive. I look forward to working with the Michigan Brewers Guild to help our local brewers even more this upcoming term.”
The Michigan Brewers Guild was formed in 1997 and held its first festival in July 1998. Today, the Guild hosts five festivals dedicated exclusively to Michigan craft beer produced by its more than 290 member breweries. The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025. Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes more than 17,000 full-time jobs and $700 million in labor income / wages, with a total economic impact of over $2.4 billion. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #4 in the nation—supporting its title as “The Great Beer State.”