If anybody thought to do it before she did it, they didn't do it because it's been confirmed that she did it first.

What are we talking about?

Traveling the entire state of Michigan to visit and sample every single craft beer brewery. A West Michigan woman has done it and, according to the Michigan Brewer's Guild, she's the only known person to have accomplished the feat inside a calendar year.

"To my knowledge, no one has successfully completed such a task, and certainly not to her level," said Dianna Stampfler, publicist for the Michigan Brewer's Guild.

"Thinking about this trip was the beginning of my love for what was happening here in this state," said Emily Bennett, 42, who resides in Hastings, Mich. "You need to understand the art behind it."

It was late in 2016 when Bennett was seriously considering traveling to every single craft beer brewery in the state. What convinced her to do it was the response she got after she put a post on her Facebook page.

"I wrote, 'Hmmmm. I wonder how long it would take to go to every brewery in Michigan,'" said Bennett, who works fulltime as a nurse practitioner. "I then wondered if anybody else had done it, and if anyone else has done it in a year."

January 1, 2017, Emily began her statewide beer binge at Founders Brewing Co. in downtown Grand Rapids.

"Founders was the first brewery on my list," said Bennett. "I still hadn't complied a complete list at that point because I was still looking at the logistics of what this entire adventure would take."

When Emily wasn't working, she'd plan out her off days and used them to tour the state and visit as many breweries as she could.

"If you time it right, you can successfully go to a number of places in one day," added Bennett. "A friend of mine figured out a way to go to 12 different locations in Grand Rapids with a $3 bus pass."

Bennett says she made several spreadsheets of names and addresses of all the different locations.

"Over this amount of time, I can safely be expected to drive this distance and go to this many places in a day," Bennett explained, as she described her plan of attack.

Bennett ended up purchasing a teardrop camper to haul around with her as she made her brewery trips. This way she could save money on hotel costs, which helped keep her expenses down overall.

"My trip was not sponsored and I don't work in the beer industry," said Bennett. "This entire endeavor was self-funded."

Bennett called her year-long beer adventure, "Mitten Beer Quest 2017." She also came up with some guidelines to follow so if she were fortunate enough to make it to the end, she could declare success.

"Establishments needed to be open as of January 1, 2017; Locations need to brew and serve their own beer; and for it to count, I must have at least a 4-5 ounce pour at the actual location," said Bennett.

When her many beer trips started, her mission was to arrive at each location, get a beer, check the box and move on to the next one. But that didn't happen as much as she thought it would.

"I cannot tell you the number of times I ended up having brewers come out of back rooms, owners come up to the bar and bartenders and servers pulling up a chair and saying, 'let me tell you about where I work, what we've built here and what we're doing,'" said Bennett. "I'm getting these incredible stories about grit and the perseverance and absolute soul it took for them to open the doors.

"It became more about the people than about the beer, and I wouldn't exchange those stories and experiences for anything."

Emily worked her way all over the state, including the Upper Peninsula where she encountered a major conflict.

"When I was in the U.P., Red Jacket Brewing Company in Calumet was closed the entire time I was there," said Bennett. "Red Jacket is part of the Brewers Guild, so I needed to visit them.

"My biggest fear was getting several months into this and then suddenly realizing there was that one brewery I missed."

Emily had additional setbacks, like when she was touring and taste-testing the breweries in Bay City, Mich. She became ill and found herself in an urgent care center being diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

"I was more devastated that I was going to miss five days and an additional 25 breweries than I was about being sick," joked Bennett.

Near the middle of her statewide beer quest, her car broke down, and she lost 40 days of travel waiting for the vehicle to get fixed.

"Without patience, without some tenacity and without having an open mind, accomplishing something like this would be impossible," said Bennett. "Your rigidity will cause failure."

But the most interesting and likely the most painful setback during her year of beer, involved a hatchet and her index finger.

"My husband and I use a wood burning stove to heat our house," said Bennett. "Apparently not having glasses on, skipping the cup of morning coffee, and not being completely awake is the wrong time to utilize a hatchet.

"In one of my more ungraceful moments, I happened to cut the end of my finger off while splitting wood.

"Instantaneously, I knew what I had done, so I grabbed my hand, and wondered where the end of my finger was."

She'd eventually did find the severed tip of her finger, and it was off to the hospital again.

"I had to reschedule five breweries in the Ann Arbor area because of this," said Bennett. "I had three days to hit three completely separate locations, and [the day I chopped the end of my finger off with a hatchet] was supposed to be the first of those three days."

Emily had her fingertip successfully re-attached. She was bound and determined to lot allow the hatchet incident stop her from completing Mitten Beer Quest 2017.

"I was able to hit three more breweries [in Newaygo county] the next day," Bennett said, proudly. "I wrapped up my finger, put a splint on it, and just kept going."

Mid December of 2017 arrived and Emily still had several breweries on the east side of the state she needed to cross off her list. Suddenly, she realized she had another one that she was forced to miss earlier in the year.

Red Jacket Brewing Company in Calumet.

"I realized I needed to drive 9-and-a-half hours to drink a beer," Joked Bennett. "Second week of December, we got in the car [and headed north]."

She made it all the way to Calumet and was able to cross Red Jacket Brewing Co. off her list.

Mitten Beer Quest 2017 wrapped up New Year's Eve at Founders in downtown Detroit. She did the math - she attended 323 different breweries, sampled 633 different craft beers and drove more than 12,000 miles to get it done.

"I completed what I set out to do." said Bennett. "[Since we started at Founders in Grand Rapids, ending it at Founders in Detroit] became a beautiful bookend to this journey."

Emily Bennett, who has now become affectionately known as, 'The Mitten Beer Girl', does not plan to stop traveling to and sampling new craft beer breweries in Michigan.

"There are 40 or 50 new breweries scheduled to open in Michigan in 2018, so why should I stop at this point," said Bennett. "I truly don't see an end to this project.

"Knowing how many more stories are out there and people to meet, and beer to drink for Heaven's sake; you can't turn that down!"

Now that the dust has settled from her year-of-beer travels, Emily Bennett has begun blogging about it. She's created a website: www.mittenbeergirl.com. Go there to read much more about her year-long adventure.

Also, if you're considering to follow in Emily's footsteps and try to hit every brewery in Michigan, there's a Twitter hashtag that's serving as a clearinghouse for people to share their experiences.


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