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Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

For more than a year-and-a-half, Tammy Coxen with Tammy's Tastings and Lester Graham have been bringing you the Cheers! segment on Stateside.

Every other week Cheers! tells you about a craft cocktail or about Michigan-made spirits and products. Sometimes we visit a craft cocktail bar or a distillery. The team was recently in Grand Rapids, also known as "Beer City."

And so of course Cheers! had to visit the series’ first brewery for a report. Take a listen!

Flickr user katarzynab / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In the early 1980s, Larry Bell worked at Sarkozy Bakery in Kalamazoo. There he became interested in grains and yeast, and began experimenting with beers in his basement.

“My home brewing was getting a little out of control,” Bell said.

Bell, founder and president of Bell’s Brewery, pioneered Michigan’s reputation for making some of the nation’s boldest brews.

Decades after falling from popularity, Spartan barley returns with the help of MSU researchers.
Courtesy of Ashley McFarland

Michigan’s local food movement has brought heirloom plants back into the spotlight, making for the perfect time to bring back a century-old barley strain.

Developed in 1916 by an MSU professor, “Spartan” barley is now making a comeback with the help of a team of the school's researchers.

Mason County competition stimulates local business

Jul 18, 2016
The Momentum Business Plan Competition galvanized entreprenuer Andy Thomas's brewery, Starving Artist Brewing.
Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

For the last two years, Mason County has the Momentum Business Plan Competition, which awards $50,000 to entrepreneurs during the startup phase of their businesses. The project aims to boost entrepreneurship and small businesses within the county. Prize money is provided by local sponsors and organizations.

Fermenta is a nonprofit group that helps women learn about and break into the brewing industry
Pauline Knighton

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the brewing and distilling industries have seen some growth in Michigan. You really don’t have to go far to find a microbrewer or distiller that’s producing some really fine ales or spirits.

Brewing has for some time been a craft mostly dominated by males, but a new group in Michigan is starting to change that.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After spending years of taking orders in the military, a growing number of Michigan veterans are now giving orders in the civilian world. 

"A couple years ago, I had a few home-brew beers with a buddy of mine," Erik May says. "And I started asking him where the beer geographically came from.  Where the ingredients came from.  Pretty quickly I realized there was a big need for local malt."

From that realization, Air Force veteran Erik May launched his West Michigan malt-making business.