The Michigan Brewers Guild presented the 2017 Tom Burns Award to Rex Halfpenny, publisher of the Michigan Beer Guide, at its annual conference Thursday night at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. This is the 20th Anniversary of the Michigan Beer Guide and the Michigan Brewers Guild.
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 is named after Detroit & Mackinac Brewing Company founder and brewer, Tom Burns, who passed away of cancer May 1, 1994. Burns, a “recovering attorney” whose passion was brewing, is credited with many of the advancements in brewing legislation, rules, and regulations in the 1990s which paved the way for a thriving industry.
Rex Halfpenny was born and raised in Hawaii and has a cultural anthropology degree from the University of Hawaii. He met his wife, Mary, at the UH and the two traveled across the USA extensively, even spending 14 months backpacking across the country together as part of Hikanation.
After 14 years of suits and ties in corporate America as a creative resources director, Rex began publishing Michigan Beer Guide in 1997, with his wife Mary. Their bi-monthly publication has provided them the vehicle to observe and champion the growth of Michigan’s craft beer culture from its infancy to today’s hugely successful industry.
Rex and Mary helped form the Michigan Brewers Guild and they spearheaded the legalization of homebrewing in Michigan. Rex completed the Siebel Institute Sensory Program and is a BJCP National Judge. He is invited annually to judge at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.
He played founding roles in developing the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association and ran their first 9 International Cider & Perry Competitions as well as the first 5 Cerveza Mexico Pro-Am competitions. He has written articles for many magazines on the subject of beer and contributed to several beer books, including Brewed in Detroit, Beer Steward Handbook and Guia de la Cerveza En Mexico.
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 nearly 225 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 conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $277 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #5 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”