Grape and Grain: Nine Winemakers That Are Also Brewing Craft Beer


8 minute Read

Grape and Grain: Nine Winemakers That Are Also Brewing Craft Beer

Photo By Nimble Hill Winery and Brewery

In the days of yore, there were wine drinkers, and there were beer drinkers. With the recent onslaught of inventive beverages sneaking their way into the mainstream (we’re looking at you, sour beers and kombucha), lines are being crossed, and so too are loyalties to any one beverage.

More adventurous drinking is becoming the norm, breeding bi-curious imbibers and producers alike. The latter are now approaching beverage making in a way that’s more, well, fluid.

Promiscuous drinkers, meet the budding popularity of the hybrid brewery-winery. Across the country, winemakers are becoming brewers, and brewers turning into vintners. These dual producers bring the best of both worlds to customers, combining their expertise in wine and beer at the very same doorstep (or in some cases, a barn, a greenhouse, a garden, or under a waterfall).

Swirl, sniff, sip, and soak it all in at these nine winery-brewery hybrids from the West Coast to the East. It’s a whole new world of drinking.

Photo credit: St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery

St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery, Napa, California

Elaine St. Clair and Laina Brown worked together for 30 years before finally pursuing the dream to open their own business: a winery and brewery in Napa, California. In 2013, they opened a wine tasting room. Their much-awaited nano-brewery, St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery, will debut its Wine and Beer Garden to the world on February 11. It will bring beer, wine, and small plates to downtown Napa.

In this “edible landscape,” as Brown calls it, visitors can sip their tipples in the converted greenhouse, or in the garden among patches of nibble-able fennel and fruit trees, the latter of which produces homemade compotes to complement a small plates menu.

“We had always planned to do fresh food, and have an environment where people slow down and enjoy our wine and beer in a more relaxed atmosphere than a hectic tasting room,” she says. “It’s nice just to have everything organic and a little more relaxed.”

St. Clair is one of few female brewer-winemakers and owned her own brewery, Napa Ale Works, in the ’90s. She says she’ll be keeping beer and wine traditional. Wines include Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Syrah, and beers from the two-barrel nano-brewery include classic styles like a pilsner, a porter, and a pale ale. “No over-the-top hops or anything too extreme,” St. Clair says.

Though the St. Clair Brown concept, as of yet, steers clear of sour beers and barrel-aged experiments, “never say never,” St. Clair says. “It’ll be well done if we do it.”

Photo credit: Wagner Vineyards

Wagner Vineyards, Lodi, New York

Located on a century-old family farm, Wagner Vineyards has been growing grapes in the Finger Lakes for more than 100 years. When the family opened a winery on the east side of Seneca Lake in 1979, they were the second do to so — today there are more than 100 — and when they opened a brewery 18 years later, they were Seneca Lake’s first, and the first in the state to run a brewery and winery.

(Another first: When Wagner’s winemaker, Ann Raffetto, was hired more than 35 years ago, she was the first female to have that role at a licensed farm winery in the Finger Lakes.)

“When you get to Wagner, you will first notice the breathtaking view of Seneca Lake set behind the rolling vineyards of our farm,” Katie Roller, director of marketing and public relations for Wagner Vineyards, says. Next, you’ll notice the unusual building shape — an octagon with roof peaks on all eight sides — as you’re greeted by a tasting room associate who will direct you to either the winery or brewery, “depending on which you’d like to experience first,” Roller says.

In the winery, you’ll be led through a tasting of six to eight wines (either a set flight or a flight of your choice). At the brewery, a choice of four flight options awaits. Eight or more beers on tap might include Hop Tropic, a tropical IPA; Mangose, a gose-style, slightly sour and salty ale; or Coffee Porter, made with local espresso that’s brewed in the fermentation tank (and perfect for breakfast, brunch, or especially dessert, Roller tells us).

One recent standout that blends the beer and wine worlds was Skin Deep, a sour beer made with skins from Cabernet Franc grapes originally pressed for Wagner’s Dry Rosé. Another was a collaboration with Binghamton, New York’s Galaxy Brewing Co., Bring on the Funk, which was aged in Wagner wine barrels.

Photo credit: Schnebly Winery

Schnebly Redland’s Winery and Brewery, Homestead, Florida

Schnebly might be the ultimate tropical brewery-winery escape you never knew you always wanted. A space recognized for its lush greenery and waterfalls (and weddings), this South Florida getaway located in what locals refer to as “the Redlands,” an area about 20 miles southwest of Miami, took inspiration from another winery-brewery up north (hint: It’s Wagner). It then turned the idea into a tropical paradise.

After visits from Wagner Winery owner, Bill Wagner, and another friend from the Finger Lakes, Doug Knapp (who gave them the low-down on fermenting tropical fruits), Schnebly wines — made from mango, lychee, guava, passion fruit, and carambola — were born.

Adding to their adventurous appetites, the Schneblys later founded Miami Brewing Company in 2011, Miami’s first production brewery. Florida-esque flagships included Big Rod Coconut Ale, Shark Bait Mango Wheat Ale, and Miami Vice IPA.

In 2014, a locally focused, farm-to-table restaurant was added to the mix. Schnebly’s RedLander Restaurant sources 100 percent Florida ingredients for its seasonal dishes. Bar food is also available in the brewery’s Taproom Grill.

Photo credit: Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery

Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery, Waconia, Minnesota

A “farm boy” named Aaron and an “uptown girl” named Ashley are the lovebirds to thank for Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery, a winery and brewery that claims to be the first and only of its kind in the state of Minnesota. Since their journey began in 2008 (appropriately, the couple met earlier at an Oktoberfest party in Minneapolis), the Schrams’ fertile ground has bred dozens of wines, beers of all kinds, and two children (plus, they have two pooches you might see roaming around!).

Opened to the public in 2013, Schram launched its brewery one year later, and has since earned such local accolades as 2017 Best of the Best from Southwest News Media, and a 2016 Sun Patriot Readers’ Choice Award.

The vineyard grows 10 grape varieties, bred at the University of Minnesota to withstand the Minnesota chill. Each year, 15 wines are made on the grounds, which include the vineyard, wine tasting and tap room, basement barrel room, and bocce ball courts. A growler room also opened last spring to provide a dedicated space to showcase Schram’s beers, which include six flagship styles, rotating seasonals, and a non-alcoholic root beer.

“The purpose of the growler shop is to kind of define the wine and beer that we have,” Ashley Schram told Scene in the West Metro, a Sun Patriot affiliate, in 2017. “It’s going to make it more convenient for people to just come grab a growler and then give them a space that’s a little more beer-oriented experience than the tasting and tap room that we have here.”

This lakeside vineyard is a true family affair. You can even sign up to help them hand pick grapes during the harvest.

Quattro Goomba’s, Aldie, Virginia

What do you get when you visit Quattro Goomba’s Winery and Quattro Goomba’s Brewery? You get four friends, wine, beer, pizza, and “the best of big city sandwiches,” all in one place.

This Italian-hearted, American-born winery-pizzeria-brewpub brings pretty much everything we love into one place. Wine tastings are offered Wednesday through Sunday ($10 a head for 6 wine samples); Sicilian-style pizza is made in-house daily; and the beer menu features drinkable, delightfully named selections such as “Resistance is Fruitile,” a fruited wheat beer brewed with 500 pounds of mango and passionfruit; Dark Vader, a black IPA that holds back on roasty notes while pumping up the hops (including Galaxy, of course); and “tOATally,” an oatmeal stout with roasty, chocolatey goodness.

Along with Mediterranean-style wines, Quattro Goomba’s offers a summertime favorite, frozen sangria (red or white), mixed in a frozen smoothie machine. “It’s like a 7-11 Slurpee for adults,” Jody DeCianno, who co-owns Quattro Goomba’s with her husband, Jay and their two friends, told Washington’s Top News in 2015.

Photo credit: Crown Valley Winery

Crown Valley Winery, Brewery, and Distillery, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

A triple threat of wine, beer, and spirits, Missouri’s Crown Valley also offers lodging options near its Ste. Genevieve locations. You can check in either at the Crown Valley Winery or Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling down the road. Special offers include the Vintner’s Getaway, available April through November (including two winery tours and tastings, two brewery tours and tastings, and a $25 gift card); and the Brewer’s Getaway, available year-round (including two brewery tours and tastings, a growler fill, and $25 gift card). The property also includes the Vintage Grill, a farm-to-table restaurant with small bites, like a Bavarian pretzel with beer cheese. For those with heartier appetites, it’s safe to assume the “whiskey burger” — a bison burger made with Crown Valley’s Coldwater Whiskey — will satisfy.

Photo credit: Nimble Hill Winery and Brewery

Nimble Hill Winery and Brewery, Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania

Nimble Hill Winery and Brewery is the booze child of Gary and Ellie Toczko, who consider the business, along with their four human children, family. Nestled in northeastern Pennsylvania’s hilly pastures, Nimble Hill is the realization of an agricultural dream that began with a few twiddling green thumbs and has grown into a vineyard, winery, brewery, and hop farm (the first quadruple threat in Pennsylvania). That local love can be tasted in Nimble Hill’s selection of wines, which recently took home four medals at the 2018 Pennsylvania Farm Show Wine Competition; its beer production, which keeps ingredients, packaging materials, and artwork as local as possible; and events like Firkin Fridays, in which all proceeds from the firkin (a funny word for cask) are donated to a local cause.

Photo credit: Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery

Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery, Richmond, Virginia

At this unassuming, miniature Garden of Eden (sans actual garden, although there is a family vineyard in the mountains involved), co-owner, brewer, and winemaker Mike Brandt holds the secrets to hybrid beer-and-wine-making. Drawing on past experiences as a brewer, winemaker, and viticulturist throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and having pursued degrees and research in environmental studies and fermentation and plant sciences, Brandt brings unique creations to Garden Grove that are oft anticipated, and never replicated.

Some of such swirl-worthy crossbreeds have included Foxy Flora, a rosé-like sparkling honey wine bursting with fruity and floral flavors and aromas; Akari (2015), a meadsake hybrid made with alfalfa honey and rice and aged 22 months in Chardonnay barrels; and Criminal Mischief, a beer-wine hybrid, fashioned after vermouth.

Garden Grove’s up-to-the-moment creations can be followed on its website. (And while you’re at it, you may as well plan a whole trip to Richmond, VinePair’s pick for top beercation destination of 2018.)

Photo credit: Round Barn Winery

Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery, Baroda, Michigan

Fondly named by locals for its circular shape (the winery was originally called Heart of the Vineyard when it opened in 1992), Round Barn is helmed by husband-and-wife team, Rick and Sherrie Moersch. They began their business as a winery, adding brandy distilling when that became legal, and, eventually, started brewing when they learned that serving beer at on-site weddings would require making it too.

“Basically, we started some home brewing on a pilot system. It was enough to do weddings,” Christian Moersch, Round Barn brewery operations manager (and son of Rick and Sherrie), told All About Beer in 2013. “It was dumb luck that we ended up with all three.”

The beer-wine-booze trifecta continues to earn local love with its wine club, mug club, and events, including weddings. It also debuted a luxury vodka, DiVine, produced from wine grapes hand-picked on the estate.

Round Barn has three locations: The original, Amish-built “round barn” is Baroda Tasting Room & EstateUnion Pier Tasting Room, where tastings are $12 and include a full menu with choices of up to six wines and spirits (maximum two spirits); and Round Barn Public House, the brewery and restaurant, where 20 beers, along with wine, cocktails, and flights, are served.

Additionally, brothers Christian and Matthew Moersch opened their own boutique winery, Free Run Cellars, which they refer to as an “Epicurean Tasting Room,” located in nearby Berrien Springs.

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