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Rockford Brewing Co. taps hometown pride

November 21, 2012
| By Pat Evans |
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Rockford Brewing Co. taps hometown pride
Rockford Brewing Company makes beers with influences from Michigan, the U.S., Belgium, Germany and the U.K. –– and works closely with West Michigan farmers and local ingredients. Photo via fb.com

Although Rockford Brewing Company won’t open until Dec. 20, its beers will be available on tap across Rockford for the Rockford Brewing Pub Crawl on Wednesday.

“We’re really excited about our beers and we want people from the surrounding area to not only try our beers, but come and see Rockford as well,” owner Seth Rivard said. “We want people to get excited about the town and to introduce the places that will be hosting our beers.”

Rivard and his partners, Brian Dews and Jeff Sheehan, said Rockford is a tight-knit community, and the brewery is going to feed into that sense of togetherness.

The focus of hosting community events and feeling like a getaway in the middle of town will help the company build a foundation that will allow for a prosperous future.

“We’re looking local at first, to lock down the relationships,” Sheehan said. “We’re going to have face-to-face relationships. At some point, the industry will plateau and the (breweries) that have expanded too far out will have to retract.”

Since the brewery was announced, the owners have seen cultivating support from Rockford, including daily questions and stop-ins.

For the sneak peak pub crawl, six Rockford Brewing Co. beers will be spread through six Rockford establishments from 5 p.m. to close, depending on the business, on the biggest bar night of the year.

“What a better way to embrace the community than to involve them right from the get-go,” said Dews, who is also Rockford’s mayor.

The trio related the community feel of Rockford and its immediate acceptance of the brewery to the beer industry in England, where there are a few national and regional breweries and village pubs.

“I’ve used the word village in reference to Rockford before,” Sheehan said. “When people come to this village, they should be drinking the local beer. We want to be the local flavor of this little town.”

When contemplating the idea of the pub crawl, local establishments jumped at the opportunity to house the “local flavor.”

“Nobody even questioned when we asked them about carrying our beer,” Rivard said. “Nobody even tried it, and they were like, ‘Of course we’ll put it on tap.’ It was easy. It was an organic, natural thing.”

The brewery has been in the works for several years, since Sheehan saw an interview with Dews. Then-newly elected to the Rockford City Council, Dews was asked what he thought was missing from Rockford. A craft beer fan and home brewer, his natural answer was a brewery.

Sheehan, a brewer at New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland at the time, was looking to start his own brewery in Rockford and the pair hooked up.

In 2010, Rivard was shopping around Rockford for real estate for a brewery when he called the city manager. The city official told him the plan of Sheehan and Dews, and the trio was formed.

Aside from the hometown costumers, the brewery also will count on the business of outdoor enthusiasts. According to Dews, Rockford has the second-most public park space per capita in the nation, behind craft beer giant Portland.

“I’ve found you inevitably attract those types to a brewery,” Sheehan said. “They find you and we’re right in the middle of it, and I think Rockford will really embrace it.”

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