Honora Winery & Vineyard winemaker Janice Stuart has a background in plant science, so vineyard management was a natural professional fit for her. But she was always a beer girl at heart. And over the past year, she's been hard at work bringing J'Ville Brewery — named for its Jacksonville, Vt., location — from concept to fruition.
When winery owner Patricia Farrington proposed opening a brewery on the property, Stuart loved the idea. She started trekking to Winooski to brew with Brian Eckert at Four Quarters Brewing, who became a close friend and mentor, and planted 180 hops seedlings to flavor her brews.
This past St. Patrick's Day, the brewery's licensing went through. "We have been brewing like maniacs since then," Stuart says. She began offering weekend tastings on April 18 and will continue to do so until J'Ville Brewery's official debut during the Vermont Chocolate Festival at the Windham County venue on Memorial Day weekend.
Stuart says she's most interested in ales and wheat beers; right now, she's pouring brown ale, vanilla porter and imperial stout. Soon she'll tap two wheat beers: one that's very traditional and another brewed with hibiscus, available in growler fills at a new bar in the Honora Winery tasting room. "You can get wine at one bar and beer at another," Stuart says. "It's fun that you can get both in the same space."
At the opposite end of the state, 26-year-old Sheldon native Matt Grant has been working on his brewery for five years. This weekend, he'll throw open the doors to Liftline Brewing and offer samples and growler fills of First Tracks amber ale, named for the special rush of shredding fresh, untracked powder on a crisp winter morning.
It all began with a sip of Long Trail Brewing's Blackbeary Wheat in Grant's teen years, which he recalls as a revelation. "I was like, 'Wow, this is what beer should taste like,'" the brewer says. After that, he tried as many beers as he could. "I called it my 'Drink Vermont' quest," Grant says. As he sipped his way across the state, his interest in beer and brewing grew. "I just knew that was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing," Grant says.
He still spends his days at Grizzly Graphix, his family business, where he's a graphic designer and administrator. "I'll work all day, then I go over to the brewery," Grant says. "It makes for a long day, but it's exciting." The commute isn't far; the brewery occupies a formerly empty garage at the end of the graphics studio.
The space is barely big enough for Grant's single-barrel brewing system, supplies and a modest tasting area — but it's a good place to start, he says, while he finds his feet as a brewer.
Correction 5/6/15: An earlier headline on this story stated that Four Quarters Brewing had recently opened. In fact, it's Liftline Brewing that is opening.
The original print version of this article was headlined "More Suds"
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