There wasn't so much a Prohibition period in Michigan's beer history as there was a "let's work around Prohibition" era. Led by Bernhard Stroh and his massive Stroh's brewery in Detroit, Michigan's growing immigrant population and thriving beer culture spawned dozens of breweries. Even when those brewers' teetotaling, xenophobic neighbors decided to blame all of society's ills on alcohol, the more creative among them devised their own solutions to the draconian alcohol ban that the state imposed three years before federal Prohibition.
The most cunning and industrious among them was Detroit brewer John Zynda, who took it upon himself to dig a tunnel from his brewery to a garage across the street. He'd roll beer through the tunnel, send out a decoy truck filled with low-alcohol near beer and, when a lookout signaled that the coast was clear, would send a real beer shipment into the streets.
The beer drinkers of Michigan would not only seek this out but would eventually just head to the pubs of Windsor, Ontario, by boat after Canada did away with its partial Prohibition in 1927. Though there was little that either drinkers or brewers could do to stop the spate of post-Prohibition consolidation that swept up breweries after World War II -- and eventually brought down the hollowed remnants of Stroh's in 1999 -- it's that commitment to both the brewing process and a fervent base of cold-weather consumers that drove Michigan's craft beer movement.
When Larry Bell first opened his home brewing supply shop in Kalamazoo in 1983, there were just 93 breweries in the U.S. When his Bell's Brewery brewed its first beer out of a 15-gallon soup kettle in 1985, there were just 110 U.S. breweries. Three decades later, there would be nearly double that number of breweries (205) in Michigan alone, according to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group.
In 2015, Bell's became the 12th-largest brewery by volume and produced nearly 400,000 barrels worth of beer. Grand Rapids-based Founders not only ranks No. 20 in the country at nearly 300,000 barrels, but has grown so rapidly from just 41,000 barrels in 2011 that it inspired Spanish brewer Mahou San Miguel to buy a 30% stake in it back in 2014. It isn't the only Michigan brewer to attract a buyer's interest, as Longmont, Colo.-based brewer Oskar Blues and Boston-based private equity firm Fireman Capital's combined United Craft Brews outright bought Comstock, Mich.-based Perrin Brewing last year.
Granted, Michigan has had a somewhat conflicted relationship with craft beer in recent years. It's been on the sidelines as West Coast brewers expand east into Virginia, North Carolina and even Illinois. It's opted to help out local brewers rather than attracting new ones, but it's watched as Detroit-based Atwater Brewing opened a second facility beyond its borders in Austin. It watched as Western Michigan's Pilot Malt House -- which supplies grain to brewers -- expanded to Virginia rather than build larger facilities in its home state.
Yet this state has produced some tremendous beers that have worked their way into today's online beer black market. We, again, went browsing at MyBeerCellar.com and found ten great Michigan beers that are fetching piles of cash from covetous beer geeks around the world: