Architecture & Design, Construction, and Food Service & Agriculture

Brewery goes back to nature

Third Nature’s rustic 7 1/2-acre setting makes use of many natural amenities.

December 7, 2018
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Third Nature Brewing rendering
The brewery will feature 20-foot-tall windows for natural lighting and glass garage doors. Rendering Courtesy Third Nature Brewing

When Troy and Chad Zitzelsberger, along with their brother-in-law Bryce Roebke, got the green light back in April to build a brewery outside of Rockford, they weren’t entirely sure what it would look like. Now, the trio now has a clear vision of what their new outdoor haven will be with a projected opening this spring.

The 7 1/2-acre site, about 5 of which have been cleared for the brewery, will give future patrons plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy nature.

“This is exactly what we wanted,” Chad Zitzelsberger said. “We knew that we wanted to be in Rockford because all three of the partners live in Rockford … At the same time, we wanted to be a little off the beaten path but not too far off the beaten path.”

Keeping true to the brewery’s name, Third Nature Brewing, the location is comfortably situated in the woods between two natural amenities, the Rogue River to the south, which empties into the Grand River, and the White Pine Trail, which runs from northern Grand Rapids to Cadillac.

“We’re all pretty big runners, outdoor enthusiasts, big bikers, so that’s what we want this place to be, a haven for people like that,” Zitzelsberger said.

Based on design renderings, Third Nature will feature about 20-foot-high windows for natural lighting and glass garage doors leading to a covered patio and beer garden.

“If you can picture this in the summertime, when all the leaves are up, it’s really beautiful out here,” Zitzelsberger said, “and we wanted to be able to encompass that.”

Zitzelsberger also has a vision of opening what he calls a “rustic-type” beer garden later in the fall. The design would emulate the rustic design of Hop Lot Brewing Company in Suttons Bay, from which Zitzelsberger said he and the other owners take a lot of inspiration.

“Every time we go up to Traverse City, we always take the extra 45-minute round trip to go up to Suttons Bay and go to Hop Lot just for that experience,” Zitzelsberger said.

The rustic beer garden would include fire pits, space for games like corn hole and space for bands to play.

“We want to be very family oriented,” Zitzelsberger said. “It’s a place where people can come to go spend an afternoon with their family, not just come, have a couple beers and leave, but they can really just hang out and take in the beauty that is West Michigan.”

The brewery itself will have a restaurant/taproom on the ground floor that will seat up to 97 guests. Recently, the owners planned to add a second-floor dining area that would seat an additional 60 or can be available for private parties to rent.

The food menu will offer the standard “comfort foods” like pizzas and hot sandwiches in the beginning, but Zitzelsberger said they plan to refine the menu in the future.

Hayley Zitzelsberger, Chad’s wife, added the menu also would have healthier options like power bowls and salads.

“It’s just for the outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t want to pack on the calories right after that run,” she said.

The taproom also will have large glass doors looking into the brewing space, where patrons may catch a glimpse of head brewer Troy Zitzelsberger — Chad’s brother — at work.

The Business Journal previously reported Troy Zitzelsberger is a certified cicerone. He also is the former owner of the now-closed Hop Mori Brewing Company in Seoul, South Korea.

Third Nature Brewing bought its brewing system from Griffin Claw Brewing in Birmingham. Because Griffin Claw was upgrading to a 50-barrel system and Troy Zitzelsberger had a connection to Griffin Claw head brewer Dan Rogers, he was able to purchase Griffin Claw’s old 17-barrel system.

Chad Zitzelsberger said the system is unique because it has a mash filter, allowing Third Nature to brew at a much higher efficiency, with about 40 to 50 percent less water and less waste. The brewery also will utilize a reverse-osmosis system to ensure water purity.

Because Chad and Troy Zitzelsberger are serious runners, they plan for Third Nature to host weekly beer runs, as well also other outdoor events that may include other breweries along the White Pine Trail.

Third Nature Brewing is shooting to open in April or May. The owners have signed on with Pel Construction in Caledonia, which also built Railtown Brewing Company’s new brewpub in Dutton. Architecture is through Progressive AE.

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