Old Nation Brewing Co. Brings Honest, Fresh Approach to Craft Beer, Earning #15 Ranking in Among Regional Breweries


When Travis Fritts and his business partner Rick Ghersi were looking to build a craft brewery, Fritts thought back to his youth, growing up in a farming community where people worked hard, stayed humble and cherished their independence. That was the character he wanted for their new endeavor, Old Nation Brewing Co., and in 2015, the pair set up shop in Williamston, Michigan, about 15 miles east of Lansing.

Today, Old Nation Brewing Co. brews and distributes craft beers savored by aficionados across Michigan and the upper Midwest, and is home to a popular and highly regarded restaurant, The Old Nation Brewpub, managed by Fritts’ wife, Camilla.

Old Nation is one of the largest independently owned regional breweries in Michigan and was recently named one of the Top 50 Regional Breweries in the United States by UNTAPPD, placing 15th on the list – the only Michigan brewery to make the list.

“We’re a small group of really motivated people pulling from nearly lost brewing traditions to create some truly beautiful things,” said Fritts.

Fritts learned those traditions by studying in Germany in his 20s, earning his master brewer certification from Berlin’s VLB/BTU and bringing the classic methods of brewing back home to Michigan.

After working a number of years as a brewer for other firms, he and Ghersi were ready to go out on their own. Fritts had long lamented the how few breweries existed in Michigan, a problem he sought to address by creating Old Nation.


“What I think is special about beer is that it’s traditionally been the drink of the people and the working class,” Fritts says. “There’s great value in that and the role it has played in history. To be a part of that has felt like a living, breathing thing to me.”

An understanding of the history of beer proved to be an asset as Fritts sought to circumvent the stronghold that giant beer brands have on the industry’s distribution models. Knowing that this system dated back to the days of Prohibition helped Fritts create a strategy to go directly to retailers, proving the quality of his beer and showing sales data to demonstrate how well it would sell.

Fritts put his talents for working outside the proverbial box to good use in the crafting of one of Old Nation’s most popular beers, the M-43 New England IPA. During the years when he and his team were putting Old Nation together, he failed to realize the rise of social media and the growing influence of beer enthusiasts who could make or break a new brew. When they released their initial iteration of M-43, sales were tepid for the first few months, until Fritts realized he needed to involve the influencers in his process and earn their endorsements.

“I invited some of these guys out to the brewery and asked if they wanted to brew with us,” he says. “We made a batch together and they liked it but didn’t love it, so we said we’ll work on it. They came back and loved it. That became our M-43.”

Fritts and the entire Old Nation team are deeply involved in the community. That includes working with the nonprofit Weekend Survival Kits to help feed hungry kids on the weekends during the school year throughout mid-Michigan.

Old Nation’s customers get involved as well, sponsoring local families around the holidays. “People are shockingly generous in this community,” says Fritts. “I love making really good beer, but the things we do with our community mean the most.”


This fall, Old Nation released three new beers, including its new Big Boss Tweed, which was ranked at 97 percent by Beer Advocate, making it one of the top-rated beers in America. It is joining the new Grapefruit B-43 and Derecho Hazy Double IPA.

The extraordinary enthusiasm that Fritts and his Old Nation team demonstrate is difficult to resist. “We take great care and pride in every beer we make,” says Fritts. And that commitment will continue to earn it a growing legion of discerning fans who want more of Old Nation’s critically acclaimed brews.