Tag: Featured

Michigan beer industry outlook strong, but COVID-19 threatens brewers

Glasses of beer on a state of Michigan shaped board

Scott Graham jokes that watching the Michigan beer industry grow for more than 30 years reminds him of parents watching their children grow up.

“When parents are in the midst of raising a family, they don’t always see the growth and may not notice the changes over time, but to others the changes are much more dramatic,” Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, said recently. “But then you step back and that child isn’t so little anymore and they’re out on their own.

“That’s kind of how it is with Michigan having nearly 400 breweries. The state of the industry is amazing, but people take it for granted because that’s where we are now. I can tell you, though, it wasn’t a given. People flew in the face of adversity, they grinded and scraped by to build all these community assets that we have today. That’s really noteworthy.”

It’s also a timely and relevant reminder amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken a whipsaw to both established and fledgling brewers’ business. It should serve as a nudge to visit a local brewery for a drink, a meal or some beers to take home, as well as a move to snag a Michigan brew at retailers, Graham said.

“Surviving the COVID pandemic of 2020 – let’s hope it’s just 2020 – I have concern for our friends who make up our membership. There’s not a big pile of money behind breweries. Everybody works hard and has to give it everything they’ve got.

“It’s not easy street, but I really think and hope that our industry will get through this hiccup and it will ultimately be stronger. The faster that can happen, the better. So, to the extent that anyone can, it’s a great time to support these local businesses.”

The Michigan Brewers Guild represents more than 300 brewers, ranking Michigan as the sixth largest beer state in the U.S. The industry supports 21,000 full-time jobs and nearly $900 million in employee income. The total economic impact of Michigan’s craft breweries is more than $2.5 billion.

The guild, which also has enthusiast and business memberships for backers not directly involved in the industry, promotes Michigan beer and aims to help breweries in the state reach 20 percent of sales by 2025. It has designated each July as Michigan Beer Month, but the drive to help breweries succeed is a year-round endeavor.

That push is generally highlighted by seasonal beer festivals that bring people from around Michigan and the Midwest to sample beers and interact with industry players. The pandemic has forced the cancellation of the summer and U.P. festivals, while the fall festival hangs in the balance. Dropping the events from the calendar pains Graham.

“Those are really good times to get together and see old friends,” he said. “I think we’re all sad in different ways because we can’t do that and then the breweries can’t show what they’ve been working on. And the festivals have always been a chance for people to learn who’s out there, what’s new and how we got to where we are.”

Graham, however, said there are new opportunities to become familiar with Michigan beer through the weekly Michigan’s Great Beer State podcast that he co-hosts with Fred Bueltmann, an industry veteran.

The podcast was developed as an outtake from interviews and conversations Bueltmann had while chronicling Michigan beer for the guild’s book project “A Rising Tide, Stories from the Michigan Brewers Guild.” The show is a mixture of the history and stories shared by brewers while also providing a forum to talk about the current state of the industry.

“We knew we had something with those interviews because there’s so much that people either don’t know or forget over time,” Graham said. “The podcast and the book are great ways to get a look inside at all the people and incredible beer that call Michigan home.”

The continued focus on local craft beer will energize breweries and their employees as they operate under social distancing guidelines and occupancy limits.

“I still see an industry maturing, and I anticipate growth because people recognize the value of having creativity and locally owned businesses in their communities,” Graham said.

Visit the Michigan Brewers Guild website to learn more and here’s a map to discover a brewery near you.

Time for a weekend getaway? Check out Benzie County

family rides a chairlift in Benzie County

With 100 lakes, miles of river and thousands of acres of state forest land, there’s ample space in Benzie County to get outside in the fresh air and experience the ever-present beauty of northern Michigan.

Plus, there are picturesque lighthouses along the Lake Michigan shore, great little towns with unique shops and inventive brewpubs, and farms where you can get in touch with your roots by picking strawberries and cherries – or gawking at emus and alpacas!

“There’s all sorts of cool stuff,” said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, public relations director for Crystal Mountain, a four-season family resort which has 1,500 acres to enjoy south of Traverse City including golf in the summer, skiing in the winter and the world-famous Crystal Spa all year long.

“It’s very recreational here and given the environment today where people are looking for fresh air and open spaces, Benzie County is a really good reflection of that.”

RELATED: 10 fun facts about Benzie County

Five Shores Brewing beer glass and menu

Five Shores Brewing on the shore of Crystal Lake is one of a handful of brewpubs in Benzie County, south of Traverse City.

If you’re looking to get away for a weekend to remember, take a look at what Benzie County has to offer. There’s golf and fishing, hiking and biking, beer and wine, and water sports galore. And that’s just in the summer!

There are also chairlifts that take you up to spectacular vantage points for fall colors, and snowy slopes to ski down in winter. There are vast public lands for hunting and hundreds of miles of trails for snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.

Whatever season you visit Benzie County, there are fun things to do for all ages.

“The beauty of Benzie County is that it really is year-round,” Lukaskiewicz said. “There’s summertime options and there’s also wintertime options.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

With only one traffic light in all of Benzie County, you can move at your own speed – whether that means a relaxing visit to Point Betsie Lighthouse (above) or a speedy trip down Michigan’s only Alpine Slide (below).

“You can do recreation anywhere, but to be able to have a year-round opportunity for recreation in a community that understands tourism and hospitality like ours is special. This entire county is about hospitality. We really know how to treat people when they come here.”

Benzie County is also home to several unique attractions you just won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few places to put on your Michigan travel bucket list:

Michigan's only Alpine Slide

  • Weaving along the shore of Lake Michigan, M-22 routinely makes lists of the most scenic roads in America. The 116-mile stretch runs right through Benzie County, skirting past several inland lakes as it courses along the edge of the most beautiful of the Great Lakes. “You’re essentially driving on a paved beach, when you think about it,” Lukaskiewicz said. Along the way you can stroll the pier at Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, admire wind surfers playing on the big lake or cozy up to a bonfire on the beach and watch a gorgeous sunset.
  • When you think about “Up North” golf, Benzie County has some of the best. Teetering on the cliffs above Lake Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs ranks among the top 100 golf courses in the entire country. The private Crystal Downs often  kid jumping on a beach duneranks in the top 20! Benzie County is home to several other classic northern Michigan golf courses, too, including two championship tracks at Crystal Mountain.


  • Speaking of national accolades, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” The southern half of the 71,000-acre park is in Benzie County with trails through the dunes to stunning waterfront vistas and lots of space to get out and enjoy the natural goodness of summer in Michigan.
  • With nearly 50 works of art and sculpture by Michigan artists permanently installed along walking trails in a 30-acre forest preserve, the Michigan Legacy Art Park offers a memorable way to experience the beauty of northern Michigan. “You almost see the history of Michigan as you hike,” Lukaskiewicz said. “It really is a nice place to reflect.” kids at a water park
  • The only one of its kind in Michigan, the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide at Crystal Mountain is the ultimate in summer sledding. Sitting in a special sled, you surrender yourself to the wonder of gravity and zip down one of two parallel slides that wind 1,700 feet down the mountain.
  • For a more puzzling experience of gravity, pull off the highway for a cruise down – er, up – Gravity Hill. Thanks to an optical illusion, you’ll feel like you’re coasting uphill when you’re actually going down.

Whatever you choose to do in Benzie County, and whenever you come to visit, you’ll find a wide variety of places to stay, from world-class resorts to cozy cabins on the lake. Explore what else there is to see and do in Benzie County and start planning your next weekend getaway.

How you can build new, whether you have lots of time or just a few months

Candie and Dustin Sentz in front of their Eastbrook Homes built home

Having searched a while for a larger home to meet the needs of their newly blended family, Dustin and Candie Sentz know it isn’t easy in this market to find just the right house in just the right place. That’s why the Jenison couple ended up building a new home in Lowing Woods.

The neighborhood of gorgeous new homes west of Grand Rapids not only is the ideal location for the Sentz family, it’s also a great place for any family as it features a community swimming pool, playground, walking trails and winding streets lined with trees and sidewalks.

Plus, because Lowing Woods is an Eastbrook Homes community, Dustin and Candie could build their new home exactly how they wanted.

“We toured some of the houses in here and liked the workmanship and quality of it,” said Dustin, a former builder. “We liked the ability to go on Eastbrook’s web site and look through their plans.

“We went with a lot of the upgrades they offered and we’re thankful we built it the way we wanted because we’re going to be here a long time.”

Dustin and Candie Sentz

Candie and Dustin Sentz chose a Ready-to-Build option that offered complete personalization of the interior and exterior of their new home in Lowing Woods, an Eastbrook Homes community west of Grand Rapids. Eastbrook also partners with clients on building Move-in-Ready and YourCanvas homes.

Dustin and Candie knew they wanted a main-floor master bedroom, so they filtered through the plans on the Eastbrook site and narrowed the options down to a handful. They also wanted a large basement so they could have a sizeable living space on that level of the house, too.

After browsing photographs of existing Eastbrook homes in dozens of communities around the state, Dustin and Candie ended up choosing a plan with an exterior look that’s unique to their new neighborhood. And they were able to partner with Eastbrook to accommodate personal touches such as custom handrails and a lower-level bar.

The couple chose paint colors, fixtures, trim and other features with the help of Eastbrook’s Home Creations Studio. They also selected certain upgrades including a larger garage.

“We were on that web site daily,” Candie said. “For me, it was fun. I had every plan printed out with all the different elevations and brought them to our families and said ‘What do you think about this?’ It was very organized.”

Dustin and Candie chose a Ready-to-Build Home, which is one of three great ways to partner with Eastbrook on building the home of your dreams:


  • offers complete personalization of the exterior and interior of your home
  • takes 7 to 9 months with assistance from Eastbrook’s Home Creation Studio
  • benefits from the streamlined building process Eastbrook has honed over the past 50 years

Check out plans for Ready-to-Build homes and read what it’s like to build with Eastbrook.


  • brand new homes already built and ready for you to move in as soon as 30 days after closing
  • perfect if you need a home right now, or if you’re sick of bidding wars on existing homes
  • beautiful, energy-efficient homes that come with new home warranties

Take a look at Eastbrook’s Move-in-Ready homes and read about how easy it is to get into a new home fast.


  • homes are partially built with the foundation, structural and exterior selections already finalized
  • you get to choose and personalize interior features and finishes including paint colors, countertops, trim, lighting, fixtures, wall details and more
  • takes about 90 days from start of construction and is ideal for getting into your new home quickly with a flexible budget

RELATED: Want to build a new home in around 90 days from start of construction? Here’s how

Dustin and Candie visited their new home in Lowing Woods almost daily while it was being built. Just as it was fun to look through Eastbrook’s home plans, it was fun to pop in and see the progress on their own custom home.

Then, after closing on the home in summer 2019, the couple popped the cork on some champagne to celebrate. They moved in last July, hosted family for the holidays and this Fourth of July enjoyed a golf cart parade through their new neighborhood.

“We were attracted to the community feel they have here and thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” Dustin said. “We’d do it all over again. We’re just so happy with the house.”

Find our more about partnering with Eastbrook Homes in the video below:


Summer in Ludington is a day at the beach

Northern lights seen in Ludington, MI

As home of the longest freshwater coastline in the world, we’re blessed with lots of water here in Michigan. We are the Great Lakes State, after all!

But with record-high lake levels, we now have so much water it can be hard to enjoy all that coastline. Many beaches are cramped and have even disappeared in some places.

Not in Ludington. There’s plenty of shore where you can spread out a blanket and soak in the wonderful beauty of our Michigan.

With so many of you staying closer to home this summer and trading long-distance vacations for drivable destinations right here in our state, we’d like to invite you to experience Pure Ludington.

Not only can you relax and recharge at the beaches in Ludington, but there’s opportunity for outdoor recreation all over Mason County. Here are just a few ways you can get out in the fresh air of Ludington and immerse yourself in the unique splendor of your own state’s backyard:


There’s still a ton of beachfront in the Ludington area along Lake Michigan, from the half-mile of sandy shore at Stearns Park Beach downtown to the seven miles of pristine shoreline leading to the iconic Big Sable Point lighthouse in Ludington State Park. The state park also has an inland lake beach along the warm, shallow waters of Hamlin Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in the Lower Peninsula.


For water recreation, there’s no shortage of options in Ludington. There’s Lake Michigan, of course, which is great for everything on water from skipping stones to wind surfing. There’s also all-sports Hamlin and Bass lakes for boating as well as Pere Marquette and Lincoln lakes for fishing.


Paddle the Lincoln River, enjoy a family-friendly float by tube down the Big Sable River in Ludington State Park or explore the wilderness of the Manistee National Forest by way of the many canoe liveries along the Pere Marquette River.


For an overland adventure, you can hike, bike or ride off road vehicles through the massive Manistee National Forest. Hiking and biking trails weave through Ludington State Park, too, and there’s an Urban Single Track system that’s perfect for novice mountain bikers with 10 miles of trails in town.


Precautions surrounding COVID-19 have resulted in many summer events being cancelled around Michigan, but there’s still a lot going on in Ludington. From a summerlong farmers market and monthly bonfires on the beach to weekly live music events downtown, there’s something happening whenever you visit this summer.

We haven’t even mentioned golf, ice cream at House of Flavors, shoreline tours on the SS Badger…the list goes on! To plan your visit, go to pureludington.com!


Download the MI Best Ludington Summer Road Trip

Lansing’s public art display shines light on accessibility, local talent

ARTpath 2019 is here!

Isiah Lattimore’s murals speak for themselves, and the large-scale, colorful pieces get people talking to each other.

And the site of those conversations this summer is the Lansing River Trail, which is playing host to the third annual ARTpath along a 3.5-mile stretch of the path from Old Town to REO Town. The public art exhibition features 19 unique art installations from Michigan-based makers, with the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center providing the push to bring visual arts to accessible spaces.

Lattimore, of Flint, has two pieces in the exhibition, and he says they address the moments in time that we’re living. Outdoor art is exciting to Lattimore for a number of reasons.

“They exist in a space that the viewing is more prolonged,” he says. “Outside doesn’t close. It doesn’t have to be interaction between artist and viewer (because they can do it at their moment).”

The gallery partnered with donors, the City of Lansing and its Parks and Recreation Department to create ARTpath River Trail Exhibition. The path, accessible on foot, bike or hopping in and out of a kayak from the Grand River, features sculptures, paintings, large scale murals and mixed media.

The pieces, which can be found on this map, are designed to be interactive and engaging with park visitors. Last summer over 62,000 visitors enjoyed the River Trail during the duration of the project.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Visit Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center’s website to discover more about ARTpath.


6 places with ‘Room to Roam’ this summer in northern Michigan

Woman zip lining in Petoskey, MI

To golfers, the former Little Traverse Bay Golf Club in Harbor Springs was known for dramatic downhill tee shots and unparalleled views of the water from high above. Although the course now has closed, the 290-acre property high on a bluff above Little Traverse Bay retains all the same rolling hills and scenic vistas.

Only now, instead of being a destination for golf, the land that has reopened as the Offield Family Viewlands offers a glorious escape for hiking, biking and birdwatching that everyone can enjoy free of charge.

Man and woman walk dogs along a trail in Petoskey, MI “There are hiking trails all over the Petoskey Area communities, and this is another wonderful addition,” said Diane Dakins, assistant director of the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.

With the Little Traverse Conservancy turning the former golf course into a natural space, there’s more room to roam than ever in the Petoskey Area near the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. That’s especially important in the midst of an ongoing pandemic when many outdoor activities present low-risk opportunities for recreation. In the Petoskey Area communities of Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Alanson, Petoskey and Boyne Falls/Boyne City, it’s easy to social distance, get fresh air and enjoy the striking beauty of northern Michigan all at the same time.

In addition to plenty of room to roam, the Petoskey Area also features room to glide through the pristine waters of northern Michigan on a kayak, boat or paddleboard. There’s room to ride through the beautiful scenery of biking trails, and room to safely enjoy time with family. Of course, there’s still lots of room to take out the golf clubs and launch drives on award-winning courses, too.

Here are five more places with “room to roam” for you to keep in mind while planning a northern Michigan getaway this summer:

  • Boyne Valley Trailway – Newly completed this summer, this scenic 6-mile paved path between Boyne City and the Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls is perfect for biking, running and roller blading. family with kids ride bikes along a trail in Petoskey, MI It’s one of many paved trails in the Petoskey Area including the Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile path between Harbor Springs and Charlevoix that passes through beautiful parks, along eye-popping stretches of waterfront and into unique places such as historic Bay View and the elegant Bay Harbor. (Please note that a couple sections of the Little Traverse Wheelway are currently closed due to erosion.) Whatever trail you choose to ride, you can find bikes to rent at shops throughout the Petoskey Area.
  • Bay Harbor Golf – With 10 golf courses at Boyne resorts alone, there’s more than enough tee times to go around in the Petoskey Area. The Boyne collection includes one of Golf Magazine’s top 10 courses in the country in Bay Harbor, as well as the National Golf Course Owners Association’s 2019 National Golf Course of the Year in The Heather. Beyond Boyne, there are several other renowned golf courses within a 30-minute drive including Belvedere Golf Club, Dunmaglas and Hidden River Golf & Casting Club.
  • Little Traverse Bay Ferry – The new non-profit ferry service between Petoskey, Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor made its debut this summer. Golf course in Petoskey, MI It’s the first time in 80 years that the communities have been connected via ferry service. The ferry offers a unique perspective on Little Traverse Bay and is one of many ways to get out on the water this summer in the Petoskey area, from sailing or charter fishing in the big lake to renting a kayak and paddling down the river to boating the Inland Waterway that is Michigan’s longest chain of rivers and lakes. To experience an old-fashioned car ferry, check out the Ironton Ferry over the south arm of Lake Charlevoix.
  • Petoskey Breakwall – This harbor breakwall in Petoskey is one of the best places to find an elusive Petoskey stone. Searching for Michigan’s state stone is a relaxing and fun activity for all ages, and it’s a thrill to find one of our state’s special treasures! Other popular Petoskey stone Boy hunts for Petoskey stones on a beach in Petoskey, MI hunting grounds include Magnus City Park Beach, just west of downtown, and Petoskey State Park northeast of the city. If you like relaxing without being on the hunt, the Petoskey Area has plenty of beaches to spread out a blanket, soak up the sun and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of northern Michigan.
  • Zipline Adventure Tour – Imagine yourself soaring down a mountain instead of skiing down one. On the Zipline Adventure Tours at Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands you’ll ride a chairlift up to an elevation of over 3,000 feet, then fly back down on the longest zip line in Michigan at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour! For a slower-paced experience of the panoramic views atop the ski hills, you can enjoy a scenic chairlift ride and see as far as the Mackinac Bridge on a clear day.

In addition to all the great places with room to roam, the Petoskey Area also features hundreds of rooms where you can rest your head after a day of adventure. Whether you’re looking for a world-class resort, a hotel in the middle of town, a secluded getaway tucked in the woods or an historic bed-and-breakfast, you can find it in the Petoskey Area.

Find a place to stay and start planning your northern Michigan getaway today

Temp workers going from unemployment to frontline ‘hero’ in battle against COVID-19

Thank you sign in front of MediLodge

COVID-19 cost Rachel Schwartz her job. Now, she’s working to keep the coronavirus from costing other people their lives.

Several weeks ago, the 25-year-old Sterling Heights native was working for the U.S. Peace Corps in Africa. Then she and thousands of other volunteers were evacuated as the pandemic spread.

Back home in Michigan and ineligible for unemployment compensation, Schwartz decided to look for a job. What she found has given her a first-hand experience of Michigan’s essential medical heroes responding to COVID-19.

“I instantly sensed the additional burden that COVID-19 was placing amongst the workers and was eager to provide any relief that I could,” said Schwartz, who started working last month as a waiver care aide at MediLodge of Shoreline, a skilled nursing facility in Sterling Heights. “Every individual has been affected by this crisis, but all of these frontline workers are experiencing an intensifying effect.”

The waiver care aide positions are temporary, non-clinical roles that were created by MediLodge’s network of 50 skilled nursing facilities statewide to have extra hands in care centers at a time of need. The jobs, which do not require prior health care experience, are also a response to community residents in the wake of pandemic-related layoffs, furloughs or hour reductions in other industries.

With a background in social work and a desire to help others any way she can, Schwartz was immediately drawn to MediLodge when she came across it during an online career search. She applied for the job and became one of many newly hired team members who are providing facility support in a variety of ways.

The daily to-do list for Schwartz includes making sure all employees are wearing a mask and documenting the results of COVID-19 screenings that employees undergo each day. She also helps residents at mealtime and with their daily hygiene, while also providing emotional support.

Handmade masks donated to MediLodge

From sewing homemade face masks to joining the MediLodge team as an employee, there are many ways to support skilled nursing care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a few weeks on the job, Schwartz has alligator-skin hands from constant handwashing and also a new appreciation for nurses who have readily adapted to an environment of COVID precautions including visitor restrictions and personal protective equipment.

“I am both amazed and appreciative of the strength and commitment that I witness within my new co-workers,” she said. “They continue to maintain positive attitudes, to support one another and to provide optimal service.


“We are strong, we are dedicated, and we are constantly adapting. We are the service workers and we are all in this together.”

Of course, support isn’t only coming from within MediLodge skilled nursing facilities these days. Across the state there are stories of heroic acts by family members of residents and the community at large who have rallied around MediLodge facilities to affirm and support the quality nursing care happening inside.

The list of examples is endless:


How can you support your local skilled nursing facility during the COVID-19 pandemic? By donating lunch? Delivering snacks or treats? Sewing masks? Sending cards of encouragement or putting signs in the lawn?

Or maybe by joining the team at a MediLodge facility as Schwartz did. MediLodge logoTemporary job opportunities are available across the state under 30-, 60- and 90-day contracts for positions in activities, dietary and facility support, as well as for certified and licensed staff such as CNAs, LPNs, and RNs. People who’ve lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, retirees and college students home from school are all among the workers hired in recent weeks.

Some new hires are even turning their temporary jobs into launching pads for a new career, even if they’ve never thought about working in long term care before. For example, Amanda Macias was working in childcare when the spreading coronavirus shuttered her workplace and forced her to be laid off. She applied at MediLodge of East Lansing for a job as a temporary waiver care aide, doing things such as taking employee temperatures at the door, sanitizing surfaces and wiping down wheelchairs.

About an hour into her first shift, Macias was asked by a resident for some assistance. But because she’s not a certified nursing assistant, she had to find another staff member to help.

Macias realized right then that she wanted to pursue her CNA certification. She’s looking forward to taking the certification class, at MediLodge’s expense, and becoming a permanent part of the team. She’s even planning to pursue a nursing license and will start taking classes in the fall.

“I love it so much!” Macias said. “It is physically demanding, but so rewarding to know when I leave work that I made a difference in someone’s life.”