History of the Michigan District
By Rex Halfpenny


District Detroit was one of the founding districts of the MBAA. When the MBAA was founded in 1887 as the Master Brewers Association of the United States, there was already an active brewers association in Michigan, called the Brewmasters Association of Detroit, which was founded in 1886. About 90 brewers attended the first MBAA meeting in Chicago and elected its first board. Elected as Treasurer to the initial board was Konrad Koppitz of Koppitz-Melchers brewery, Detroit, Michigan.

The district enjoyed a long and active history, but gradually lost members as more and more breweries closed. The net result of this attrition was that District Detroit's membership grew to become mostly employees of the Stroh Brewery and its vendors. Unlike most of the brewing giants who survived well into the Twentieth Century, Stroh remained a two-brand beer company until 1964 when it acquired Goebel Brewing Company. It was 1979 before Stroh introduced their first new beer since their founding, Stroh Light. Subsequent acquisitions made Stroh a household word all over America. But with this growth came increased pressures to compete on the national market. A fact that ultimately led to the Stroh brands being swallowed by its competitors.

After Stroh quit producing beer in Michigan, membership in the district began to decline. By the late 1990s, it became evident that something had to be done. A motion was passed to pursue combining District Detroit with District Cincinnati. District Cincinnati was strong with active participants from AB, Miller, Boston Beer, and major suppliers plus some microbrewers. In 1998, joint meetings were held in Cincinnati, where participation by District Detroit was weak. In the October 1998 meeting, District Cincinnati declined to pursue combining the districts as it was not in their best interest.

The next meeting of District Detroit, February 18, 1999, was at Local Color Brewing Company in Novi, a western suburb of Detroit. The meeting was well attended by Michigan's craft brewers, who came out of curiosity but ended up joining. This infusion of membership set the stage for a "passing of the baton." The new entry-level craft brewers accepted the reins from the old master brewers to carry on the century old tradition of sharing knowledge and camaraderie in a technical forum.

Today, district membership is, for the most part, members and vendors to the new and growing microbrewery and brewpub industry. With members now hailing from all over the state instead of being concentrated in Detroit, the district name was changed from District Detroit to District Michigan.

With the new blood comes new needs and District Michigan focuses their meetings and technical presentations toward the small brewer. It is the present goal of the District's board to encourage greater participation by Michigan brewers and regain the active membership it once enjoyed for so many years.

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