Old Nation Brewing Co. expected to be on tap in May

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By Meagan Beck
The Williamston Post

 Old Nation Brewing Co. barrels which will eventually hold beer  brewed in house. The brewery will sell five to six of their own beers  in stores.
Old Nation Brewing Co. barrels which will eventually hold beer
brewed in house. The brewery will sell five to six of their own beers in stores.

Watch a video including a tour of Old Nation Brewing Co. pre-opening!

Webberville resident Travis Fritts didn’t set out to become a brewer, but that is how he has ended up.

In mid-May, Fritts expects to open Old Nation Brewing Co. on 1500 W. Grand River Ave. in Williamston. The brewery and restaurant will be the first of its kind in the community.

Fritts said he was in college studying education in 2001 and still figuring out what he wanted to do.

“It was suggested to me to look oversees and go overseas to finish school,” Fritts said.

He decided to go to a technical university in Berlin and studied food science with a specialization in brewing. While in Berlin he also complete an apprenticeship with a brewmaster.

When back in Michigan, Fritts worked for Webberville’s Michigan Brewing Company. He eventually relocated to Detroit where he worked with a business partner at the Detroit Brewing Company.

Fritts said he and his business partner wanted to expand production and decided to seek out a good location.

And they chose Williamston.

Small-town vibe

As someone originally from the small community of Dimondale, Fritts said he thought Williamston would be a good fit.

“There aren’t any production breweries here,” Fritts said. “The community is great … the proximity to highway is great. It’s the last enclave of Lansing.”

Williamston isn’t the only town to have a brewery opening soon. Microbreweries, breweries and brewpubs have been sprouting up in smaller communities across Michigan.

Scott Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, said “They are going on main streets and in old buildings that have been rehabilitated,” Graham said. “They tend to be family places that are engaged in the community.”

City Manager Alan Dolley said Williamston has an established restaurant community and is known as a “food and drink” town. Old Nation Brewing Co. will add to the reputation.

Fritts said oftentimes, breweries and microbreweries become places people are willing to travel for in order to experience the unique product the location offers.

“They are more than a normal bar or restaurant,” Fritts said. “They can become their own destination.”

Location, location, location

When Old Nation Brewing Co. opens, the location might be familiar for some.

It is taking over the old police station building. Fritts said the police weren’t meant to be at that location for long.

“Now the police have their own facility and they used the money we used to buy the location,” Fritts said.

Opening Old Nation Brewing Co. hasn’t been a quick and easy process. The opening date has been pushed back multiple times and Fritts joked he would have liked to see it open in 2011.

“It’s an incredibly long process to open one of these,” Fritts said.

He said it’s also dicey for banks to fund a brewery because of the amount of money someone might need to open one.

“You’re faced with issue of ‘do I get a bunch of money or do it small and cross my fingers to expand later?’”

Fritts said he and his partner are privately funded and are trying to be responsible members of the community.

He has already finished hiring and is working toward finishing the necessary building and furnishing.

The Michigan Brewing scene

Since Fritts has been involved in the Michigan brewing scene, he said it has grown from almost nonexistent to breweries popping up across the state.

“The culture in the state has developed quickly … when it was established, there weren’t many breweries,” Fritts said.

However, Graham said there is still room for growth. He said currently, 6 percent of beer sold in Michigan is brewed in Michigan.

“I would like to see that 20 percent of beer sold in Michigan, is brewed in Michigan,” Graham said.

“I would like to see that 20 percent of beer sold in Michigan, is brewed in Michigan,” Graham said.

Fritts said Old Nation Brewing Co. plans to have 10-15 of its own brews on tap and then sell some in stores like Meijer or Kroger.

Fritts said there will be some wine available and of course – food.

As of right now, Fritts said the opening date is set for May 18.

 

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