(KALAMZOO, Mich) – The Michigan Brewers Guild presented two key awards to industry leaders at its annual conference Thursday night, January 10, 2019, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. Eric Briggeman of Rochester Mills Production Brewery (who served 14 years on the Guild board, including 10 years as President) was awarded with the esteemed Tom Burns Award. Steve Siciliano of Siciliano’s Market in Grand Rapids was presented with the Michigan Beer Champion Award.
The Tom Burns Award is given to a person who embodies the pioneering spirit of the Michigan brewing industry. This is an individual whose hard work, passion, and perseverance has been a guiding force in creating the Great Beer State while being supportive of the entire craft beer industry in Michigan. Nominees can be brewery owners or employees, can be affiliated with a beer wholesaler or beer retailer or otherwise involved in the industry. Nominees can be part of the industry now or in the past and do not need to be currently living.
“It was really a special moment for me to present the Tom Burns award to Eric, my friend and colleague,” says Scott Graham, the Guild’s Executive Director, who presented the award. “While all of the nominees were very worthy of the award, I think Eric is particularly deserving of the honor due his selfless dedication to the industry and Guild for many years.”
These two first met in 1997 when Graham (as Corporate Brewmaster) hired Briggeman to oversee production at Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse in Auburn Hills. During his years there, he worked with other fellow brewers like Alec Mull, Bill Wamby, Marty Rapnicki, Forrest Knapp, Rockne VanMeter and Kim Schneider. In 2005, Briggeman took a Head Brewer position at Rochester Mills Beer Co., a brewpub in downtown Rochester. By 2011, the brand was growing and Rochester Mills began to distribute their beers and Briggeman moved to a new production facility in Auburn Hills to head up brewery operations. Today, he serves as Vice President of Operations for the company.
In addition to his full-time job. Briggeman dedicated tireless hours over the course of 14 years to serving on the board of the Guild. He was first elected in 2005, under association president Fred Bueltmann and alongside fellow brewers Scott King, John Svoboda and Brett VanderKamp. Under this board, a paid executive director position was created and Scott Graham was hired to fill the role. In 2008, Briggeman was named president of the Guild and he maintained that position until April 2018 when he stepped down due to growing time commitments at Rochester Mills.
“I am truly honored to have been even considered for the Tom Burns Award,” Briggeman said. “Those who have earned this award before me hold an incredible place in the history of craft beer in Michigan, and I am proud to be part of that group and part of that history. I dedicated my time and effort to the Michigan Brewers Guild because I am passionate about beer, and I whole-heartedly believe in the Guild’s mission and role in this industry. I look forward to seeing who will be part of the Board of Directors that leads this organization, and Michigan beer, through the next 20 years.”
Past winners of the Tom Burns Award include Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery Inc., (2012); Fred Bueltmann of New Holland Brewing (2013); John Linardos of Motor City Brewing Works (2015) and Rex Halfpenny of Michigan Beer Guide (2017).
The Michigan Beer Champion Award is given to a person or organization who is a partner of our industry and who continually strives to promote or protect the craft beer industry in Michigan. Nominees can be individuals, wholesalers, retailers, affiliated businesses or can be groups or organizations.
Guild board member Isaac Hartman, “Ambassador of Great Beer” from New Holland Brewing Company, presented this award to Siciliano’s General Manager Sarah Derylo, niece of owners Steve and Barb Siciliano.
“When I was asked to present the Michigan Beer Champion Award, I gladly accepted,” Hartman said. “I am so honored and humbled to present this award, because I like many, have been positively affected for the better by having known this person [Steve Siciliano].”
“Sarah was the first person I interviewed with for a job (a dishwasher position) at New Holland Brewing back in 2001,” Isaac continued. “It’s extra special to me personally, because without her I may not be where I am today.”
Sarah read a prepared statement from Steve:
“Needless to say, I am humbled and extremely appreciative to be the second recipient of this award. At the same time, I am well aware that there are many other folks in the craft beer industry who are just as deserving of this high honor.” His remarks continued with “I would like to recognize our current and past employees. Siciliano’s wouldn’t be the store it is today without their efforts.”
You can read more of Steve Siciliano’s comments on his Blog.
To learn more about Siciliano’s, check out this article – “500 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” – from the Winter 2017-2018 issue of MiBrew, the official magazine of Michigan Brewers Guild Enthusiast Members.
Rick Lack, Executive Vice President of RAVE Associates, was presented the inaugural Award in 2014.
The Michigan Brewers Guild was formed in 1997 and held its first festival in July 1998. Today, the Guild hosts four festivals dedicated exclusively to Michigan craft beer produced by its more than 255 member breweries (a number that increases almost on a monthly basis).
The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.
Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes more than 14,000 full-time jobs, $662 million in labor income / wages with a total economic impact of over $2 billion. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #4 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”
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