Rockford Brewing Company opened its doors in December of 2012 and hasn’t looked back. RBC is the brainchild of managing partners Jeff Sheehan (Operations and Production) and Seth Rivard (Sales and Marketing), with the concept of incorporating the natural world around the brewery into its establishment and product.
Sheehan, also the head brewer, has a wealth of experience in the brewing world. He began his craft beer career in Pocatello, Idaho, at Portneuf Valley Brewing, learning the intricacies of small batch brewing on a three-barrel system. After five years he decided to return home to western Michigan and joined the production team at New Holland Brewing with a seven month run at the production facility, before moving to the R&D Pub Brewer position for another three and a half years.
It was at this point, in 2011, that Rivard and Sheehan decided to take the plunge and open RBC. After two years of planning and labor, the dream became a reality and the doors opened for business.
The operation currently employs 13 people (in addition to Sheehan and Rivard). The 1,000 sq. ft. brew house crew is comprised of two assistant brewers, while a staff of 11 operates the multi-floor pub, serving beer from the 15 tap handles. Growth is in the works with expansion plans in progress and more on the horizon.
The growth of RBC has been steady with five “regulars” in the beer rotation: Rogue River Brown, Sheehan’s Irish Stout, Hoplust IPA, Paradigm MPA, and Carriage House Ale. The “drifters,” which are the specialty and seasonal beers, including The Permaculture Series, add another 30 brands to the total – with another 15 expected by the end of 2014.
RBC is expecting 1,000 barrels of beer to be produced in 2014 – a sizable increase over last years’ 700 barrels – which keeps the brew house staff busy on their seven barrel brew system.
The pub is experiencing growth as well, with plans in the works for a kitchen and the conversion of the upper floor to an outdoor biergarten. Long-term growth plans include the addition of a production facility as demand for their beer grows.
“We’re currently kegging everything we produce,” Sheehan says, “Whatever we can’t sell in the pub goes on a truck for distribution. We’re going to start bottling soon as well, but only for direct sale in the pub.”
At One With Nature
“We want to promote the healthy, outdoor lifestyle,” says Sheehan, “we’re right in between the Rogue River and the White Pine Trail, which brings a lot of people through our community. Our beer is one component of the outdoor lifestyle.”
RBC plays host to many outdoor activities, including paddle and bicycle events, and partners up with Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids for the Coq to the Fly/Fly to the Coq group bike rides on the White Pine Trail.
“We’re also very fortunate with our source water,” says Sheehan. “The city of Rockford doesn’t use the Grand Rapids water supply. We get our water from an aquifer below the city, which gives us consistent water throughout the year. We don’t have to spend time conditioning our water before brewing; we just adjust the ingredients in the recipes to match the particular style we are brewing – and we try to match the styles as closely as possible. Our water very closely resembles the water in Ireland in mineral makeup.”
The Permaculture Series
Adding to the methodology of brewing and living healthy, RBC produces The Permaculture Series line of beer.
“It’s directly related to the agricultural community. We’re working with the natural world around us,” says Sheehan. “We use no concentrates or artificial flavors, only using ingredients when they’re fresh and ready to use.”
We’re not worried about being the first to shelf because we want fresh ingredients and quality beer – the pumpkin beer already hitting the shelves is from last years’ crop because pumpkins aren’t harvested until late September or October,” Sheehan continues. “We’re creating awareness and symbiotic relationships with the local farmers.”
RBC brings live entertainment to the pub with an open mic on Monday nights, live bands on Thursdays and Fridays, with Saturdays being worked into the schedule down the road. The entertainment reflects the attitude of the brewery; a wide variety of styles are represented and the acts must be original.
“We don’t bring in cover bands,” says Sheehan. “We want to support the artistic and creative community. We also like to keep the volume reasonable so people can still have a conversation while enjoying their beer. We will bring in indie, country, Americana, rock bands, and pretty much anything else; we just don’t want to drive people away with really loud music.”
Finding the Beer
Distribution for RBC is growing across the state; drinkers can find or order RBC beer in Metro Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, the Lakeshore area: Holland, Saugatuck, and Grand Haven, and now in certain areas of the upper peninsula.
When you visit the pub, be sure to inquire about a brewery tour, which is available for $10, and includes a guided tour with a brewer, unlimited questions, and a flight of 5 4oz. samples of the mainstay beers.
Brewery Favorites and Availability
Over the last 18 months as the brewery has gained its footing and solidified its direction, customers are establishing the powerhouse brands through reviews and sales. The three brands that have risen to the top are Hoplust IPA, Paradigm MPA (an all-Michigan ingredient pale ale), and Cernunnos Scotch Ale. Sheehan has also weighed in with his personal favorite selections: Hoplust IPA, Sheehan’s Stout, and Rockford Country Ale.
Bottles: Coming soon, directly from the brewery
Kegs (from the brewery): Yes, must order in advance
Kegs (from distributors): Yes, depending on distribution
Contact and Connect
Rockford Brewing Co.
12 E Bridge St.
Rockford, MI 49341
Instagram – instagram.com/rockfordbrewing
YouTube – www.youtube.com/user/RockfordBrewing
Untappd – untappd.com/RockfordBrewingCompany