As they appraoch three years of business, Tripelroot, Zeeland’s first and only brewpub, is maintaining a focus on crafting an experience that is simple, sustainable, and social.
The space was designed using only three materials: brick, wood, and metal. Same goes for the menu, which exclusively offers stonebreads, appetizers, and salads.
The pub was developed and is consciously maintained to be sustainable through constant efforts to reuse, recycle, and repurpose.
The folks at Tripelroot love to pair good beer with great company, and the atmosphere of the pub reflects that mentality by fostering a social experience for the community.
Until recently, the space was previously uninhabited for nearly a decade. Now it’s home to Zeeland’s only brewpub—and in February, they were approved to double in size by moving into the adjacent building.
We decided to pay Laura Gentry a visit to ask some questions about the budding brewpub and their plans for the future.
Tripelroot is Zeeland’s only brewpub. When you opened in 2014, were you looking to fill a hole in the market, or were you inspired by something more personal?
I’d say a little bit of both! Even though we didn’t grow up in Zeeland, we fell in love with its quaint hometown feel as soon as we arrived. It was close to home, close to work, and it offered a great environment to raise a family.
So we knew we loved the people, and we knew those people were in need of a place to gather and share great beer. On top of that, we had always dreamt of opening our own brewpub. The pieces seemed to fit together so we had to go for it.
What was the inspiration for the name, Tripelroot?
The idea for the name was supposed to reflect two aspects. First, we wanted a subtle beer reference with a nod to the Belgian Tripel. The second half, “root”, eludes to stability and a source of life for plants…a fitting reference for how we see ourselves in this community.
Zeeland was “dry” until 2006. With a town that has been relatively slow to develop its dining options, how do you think Tripelroot has affected the community?
It has been amazing watching the town transform in recent years. Although we can’t take credit for all the change, we’re happy to say Tripelroot has become a centerpiece of the community.
When we moved here, downtown was empty after 5 o’clock. Now, people have difficulty finding a parking space on weekdays.
Sounds like a good problem to have! So you were approved for expansion in February. What are your plans for the new space?
Yes! We are very excited about the new space, which opened around Memorial Day this year. With the beer garden, our capacity is approximately 100 people, which often isn’t enough on our busy nights. So when the space next door opened up, we jumped on the opportunity to expand. We’re excited to say we already have 15-20 private events booked for for 2017 as well as overflow space for the busy evenings.
What hurdles have you been dealing with in the first two years of business?
Great question. I definitely think the city of Zeeland recognized that the town needed places like Tripelroot. In the beginning, however, the city required us to meet 60% food sales. With beer being our main product, we had to collaborate with the city to better align their expectations with those of the state.
Another one of our biggest challenges has been keeping up with demand. Hiring and retaining good, dependable employees has been tough with the pace we’ve established.
Simple. Sustainable. Social. I love it. Why did you choose these three words? Can you tell me what they mean to you personally and how they influence the brewpub?
We feel that our lifestyle can be boiled down to these three words. Living simply is key for us. It’s one of the reasons we love Zeeland so much. And we wanted to reflect simple living in the design of the space by using only brick, wood, and metal.
Sustainability is another aspect of Tripelroot that we find important. Most of what we consume in the kitchen and taproom is compostable. We actually only produce 1 – 1.5 pounds of trash every day! Even our food scraps go to good use. Some of our mug club members have a pig named Mini that gets the best of the best from our kitchen.
Creating a social environment has always been top-of-mind for us. We feel that a good brewpub is a place for community, it is a comfortable environment where friends and family can meet and share stories and reconnect.
Where did you draw inspiration for your food menu?
European beer and food culture has always been interesting to us. A lot can be said about people who’ve been brewing for hundreds of years. The stonebreads are actually our interpretation of a traditional German street food that we’ve always loved. We reuse the spent grains for our beer to make the dough in the bread.
Let’s talk beer. What is the plan for Zeeland Brewing? Are the two entities working in tandem or are they be separate?
They are separate entities, but we are contracting Zeeland Brewing to brew and distribute Tripelroot beer since we can’t do this with a brewpub license. As a brewpub, we can sell other breweries’ beer, which is a freedom we enjoy and want to continue.
The beer catalog is tremendous. How have you crafted your selection?
We definitely like to maintain a range of beers to appeal to all drinkers. So we’ll have Wheat, IPA, Double IPA, Belgian, and Stout, enough variation to keep things interesting. We want Tripelroot to be educational in a way. Despite the beer culture in West Michigan, we still have many customers who are new to craft beer. Offering a wide variety of beer, including our Cellar Series and some fun cocktail creations, we plan to give the Zeeland community a taste of the craft the we love and appreciate.
Wonderful. Is there anything else you’d personally like to touch on?
Yes! I’d love to talk about some of the events coming up this summer.
On August 19, we have the Mud Flap, which is our second year hosting the event. It is an “Amazing Race” style event where contestants compete in a scavenger hunt on bicycles around the city. Last year, we had a great turnout that raised over $3,100 for Susan G. Komen, and we hope to keep building and growing the event as time goes by.
Lastly, there is Wednesday’s Training Session Day where we invite community members to go for a bike ride in the trails around town. We also invite runners and swimmers to join in on the physical activity. Then, we all meet at the pub to enjoy our Session Ale and recover after a hard day’s work.
So come out and join for one of the many events this summer!
Thanks so much for your time, Laura. It’s been great talking with you.
Photography: Amee Rutan