GVSU alum creates sustainable brewery

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University alumna Laura Gentry and her husband, Nate, are opening the first brewery in Zeeland since the city ended its 100-year ban on alcohol in 2006.

As well as turning the building, which has been abandoned for the past 10 years, into a successful dining establishment, the Gentrys are also working to make the building and business as sustainable as possible.

“I am very passionate about sustainable business,” Laura said. “Some of the things I’m doing and planning to do once open to be sustainable include restoring existing materials in our building—i.e. brick, hardwood floors, inside rafters; reclaiming barn wood from a local barn that was taken down; working with local companies to build our brewing equipment and complete the remodeling; locally sourcing as many ingredients as possible; growing produce on our roof; and striving for zero waste through recycling and composting.”

For Laura, creating a sustainable business isn’t just something she learned about in class during her time earning a Master of Business Administration degree at GVSU. It’s important to her because of her children, Kaylynn, 8, and Kolton, 5.

“Being a sustainable business is important to me on a personal level because I want to leave the planet a better place for future generations,” she said. “By setting an example of sustainability, I hope to inspire and educate other businesses and individuals in the community.”

The Gentrys are seeking a Class C liquor license for the brewpub, called Tripel Root, which will enable them to have guest taps, wine and liquor in the pub. Though the menu is still being finalized, Tripel Root will have a variety of beers at two strengths, as well as a Belgian-style tripel ale as the staple drink.

As Zeeland requires that 60 percent of sales must come from food, the menu will also include stone-baked pizza-like flatbreads and other dishes that use grain left over from the process of brewing the ale.

“We have enjoyed many events as a family in Zeeland and really believe it is a great community in which to live and work,” Laura said. “There are a lot of stakeholders in the community, including businesses, organizations, churches and individuals, and I think that the path to leaving a better future for the next generations can be accomplished through partnering together to educate and support each other through the path to sustainability.”

The site of the new brewpub is an abandoned building located at 146 E. Main St. in Zeeland. It was built in 1898 as the M.C. Ver Hage hardware store and then purchased in 1970 by Fifth Third Bank. The bank operated the building until around 2004 and has stood empty since that time, but the Gentrys hope to have Tripel Root up and running by March.

“We are in the process of restoring the building back to its original brick, inside and outside, and hardwood floors,” Laura said. “During this process, we have been reclaiming as much material as we can in addition to recycling and donating the items we don’t need.”

So far, three truckloads of items and materials have been donated to the Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.

The Gentrys are passionate about craft beer and have been homebrewing for 10 years. They travel frequently, visiting many local microbreweries and brewpubs, as well as more than 100 different breweries across the U.S., Europe and Japan, between the two of them.

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