Badgers are not going to take this well, but when it comes to beer, we are not exactly best in class.
Drinking, perhaps, but not brewing.
1. WI beers do not get respect on a national level.
No Wisconsin beers made it on this ratebeer list. On the 2012 list by style, New Glarus makes a few appearances, usually for their fruit beers, and Sprecher is on there once. Michigan does much better.
As of this writing, MI breweries take #5, 13, 16, 23, 48, an 67 on this Beer Advocate list, before New Glarus shows up with their trusty Belgian red at #85, after being beaten embarrassingly by IL and MN.
Looks like small breweries in MI and WI are surprisingly matched for sales considering that most small breweries in WI cannot afford to export their beers (see Drinking, above).
Many of these lists are based on consumer ratings or a combination of consumer and expert ratings. If you don’t distribute your beer out of state, no one’s gonna know about it!
Just about the only beer exported from WI comes from the Milwaukee giants — there is a patchwork of import-export laws in the U.S., but it’s unusually hard for breweries in Wisconsin. And they’re trying to make it even harder to distribute within the state too.
2. Folks in MI actually order craft beer.
Restaurants have more than just the one popular craft on tap. Lansing does not have a brewpub scene, but Ann Arbor sure does, with four within walking distance in the downtown area alone.
(Yes, I know, The Old Fashioned has more taps than either of these. But some of those taps are Schlitz. If you want a tour of WI beers, for better and for worse, drink at the Old Fashioned.)
In MI any little hole in the wall place has at least some decent beers. We’ve gone to bars in WI where they only serve cans. Makes you die a little inside, no?
3. Beer here comes in two sizes: big and huge.
Unless you’re ordering a beer with ABV over 9 or so, in which case you might get a snifter.
4. Badgers do have one thing on MI: Cost.
Back in WI we would rarely pay over $9 per six pack, and then it would have to be amazing beer. $7 was more like it for some Spotted Cow. Here, we pay more like $8.50 on average I’d say, and plenty of beer tops out over $10. And then you have the bottle deposit on top of that!
This grainy photo of MI beer taken at Woodman’s in Madison says it all:
Most Bell’s beers for $9.30, and Java Stout for $14.50 ($16 here) and Expedition for $15.50 ($18 here!). Needless to say, we’ve never bought a 6 pack of either. How you can get Michigan beer cheaper in Wisconsin I’ll never understand.
Perhaps because of higher costs, you can get singles of most beers at even a regular grocery in MI, and lots of places will give you a discount for a mixed 6 pack for cheaper sampling.
Lansing had a beer fest last week, and Kalamazoo ties it into their “taste of” (Taste and Brew of Kalamazoo!). Grand Rapids claims to be “Beer City USA.” All in all, Michigan is a great place to be if you like interesting beer.
UPDATE 7/30/13: This is a great interactive map by someone who did a much better job of summing all of this up. MI has more breweries, WI has more per capita, and the two produce about the same amount of beer: