Walsh College

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Jul 7 2016
Applauding Alumni: Stephen Johnson MBA '10
By: MiVida Burrus Category: Alumni

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Alumnus Stephen Johnson loves beer and bikes. So much that in 2009 he created a tour business called Motor City Brew Tours.

With the help of the LaunchPad at Walsh College, he was able to start a business that combined his expertise and passion for craft beer, bikes and Detroit history. Year around, Stephen and his team of tour guides takes beer lovers on guided bus and walking tours to breweries in Detroit, its suburbs and beyond. He also offers guided bikes in downtown Detroit. Bike & Brew Tours combines Detroit history, small group bike rides and beer at the end of ride. The success of Bike & Brew Tours lead to a book publishing deal with Arcadia Publishing & The History Press.

“Detroit Beer, A History of Brewing in the Motor City,” was published in May. The book is a history of breweries in downtown Detroit from the 1800’s and forward. The book chronicles the rise and fall of big breweries in Detroit and transitions to the craft beer movement. The book profiles over 40 breweries and brewpubs that have formed since 1992 in Detroit and metro Detroit.

 So I caught up with Stephen and asked a few questions about how he has transitioned from tours to books.

Here is our interview:

You have been so successful with Motor City Brew Tours, what was the incentive to stop and write this book?

My love and passion for the history of Detroit, especially in the brewing industry helped me to develop content that was authentic and appealing. I was approached by Arcadia Publishing & The History Press to create a Detroit beer history book that was part of their national series on the subject. The book project was a natural progression of the beer and prohibition research that I had already completed and used on the Bike & Brew Tours. The book project was a wonderful way to continue to tell the story of Detroit’s former role in the national beer scene and write about how it is being reshaped again today with the craft beer movement.

What were your thoughts as you compiled and wrote this book?

Compiling the research was a fun process. I visited breweries and learned the back story on how they got started. Now that the book is out, I am excited to see people’s reactions to the material, charts and pictures that were published. At book signing events, people come up to you and talk about the book and share their personal stories of former Detroit breweries that they or their family may have worked at or beers they enjoyed earlier in life.

What is next for Motor City Brew Tours?

I am excited about the upcoming Detroit Beer Book beer history bus tours in October and December. These tours are a live narrated version of the Detroit Beer book. We traverse through downtown Detroit and visit former brewery sites retelling and enjoy lunch and beer at the first brewpub in Michigan. Motor City Brew Tours continues to offer many other bus, walk and bike tours throughout 2016 and beyond. Learn more at: http://mibeertours.com

Any last thoughts?

Yes, I am excited that I was able to create a business that incorporates my passions in life. As a Walsh College alumnus, I learned how to create, develop and build business opportunities. I thank everyone at Walsh College LaunchPad for helping me realize my dream and to capitalize on my skills. I am proud to be an alum!


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