MSU Startup Provides ‘Treeborn’ Ingredients for Breweries

EAST LANSING — A new Michigan State University startup company has found a way to apply Michigan’s role as first in chestnut production to the booming microbrew industry.

Treeborn Products craft-roasts chestnuts to be used in the brewing process for both gluten-free and regular ales, stouts and porters. Their roasting process helps maximize chestnuts’ naturally sweet, nutty flavor.

While chestnuts have been used extensively as a brewing ingredient in Europe, Treeborn’s product brings chestnuts to the American brewing market in the form of flavorful, easy-to-use chips that can be applied at all stages of brewing.

“Brewers from the United States and Canada have been very positive partners — everybody’s looking for affordable ways to create new flavors from local sources,” saId Brian Polowniak, Treeborn Products CEO. “This spring we’ve had six big new orders, and more than 60 breweries are in different phases of brewing test batches with our chips as of June. We can’t wait to see their results in the fall.”

Treeborn partners with a number of local and national breweries. For example, Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in Dexter uses chestnut chips to produce Fuego del Otono: The Fire of Autumn. Michigan brewmasters from Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, Grand River Brewery in Jackson and Perrin Brewing Company in Comstock Park also use Treeborn chips.

Michigan is the nation’s leading chestnut producer, according to the 2012 United States Census of Agriculture. Treeborn Products is housed inside the Rogers Reserve in Jackson, which was donated to MSU to grow and study chestnut trees. The reserve includes labs, offices and the only commercial chestnut peeling line in the western hemisphere.

The MSU Innovation Center works with innovative students and faculty alike to help move their ideas into the marketplace, launching more than 130 discoveries into patented products, commercial agreements, and startup businesses each year.

“Treeborn’s products connect two growing industries in Michigan — chestnuts and microbreweries — while providing new options for gluten-free consumers,” said David Washburn, executive director of Spartan Innovations, part of the MSU Innovation Center. “The partnerships Treeborn builds with local brewers not only stimulates Michigan’s economy, but builds a stronger network of small business support.”

Treeborn is operated by Brian Polowniak, CEO; Roger Blackwell, vice president of business development; Dennis Fulbright, vice president of product development; Kyle Lemoine, director of operations; and Daphna Gadoth, marketing director. More at

The MSU Innovation Center combines innovation, technology transfer, start-up support, and a portfolio of dedicated business and community partnerships to bring cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace. It is comprised of Business-Connect, MSU Technologies and Spartan Innovations launching more than 130 discoveries into patented products and start-up businesses annually. More at

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