Michelle Monroe, St. Albans Messenger
SHELDON — At 25, Matthew Grant is making his dream to own a brewery a reality.
Using 730 square feet of space attached to his parents’ business, Grizzly Graphix on Route 105 here, Grant will begin brewing as soon as construction is complete.
“I’m going to be using absolutely every inch of it,” Grant said of the space available to him.
He anticipates making 30-gallon batches of beer, roughly two kegs, at a time and selling growlers retail, all from the same location. He’s been approached by a few restaurants interested in carrying his beer, including The Abbey Restaurant & Pub in Sheldon.
It took six months to get all of the permits, and he had to hire an engineering firm to provide information to achieve some of them. The equipment is set to arrive Monday. The total start up cost is between $30,000 and $40,000.
Grant said he was present when 14th Star Brewing Co., the successful St. Albans brewery, poured its first batch. He remembers thinking, “This is the dream. This is what I want to do.”
When he was younger, Grant wasn’t a big fan of the mass-produced beers his friends were drinking. “I just hated the taste,” he said..
Then he tried Long Trail Ale’s Blackberry Wheat. “That was my eureka,” he said.
Grant studied business at Vermont Technical College, and for his 21st birthday his friends took him to Long Trail’s brewery. That’s when he decided he wanted to do something within the brewing industry.
He then tried every Vermont beer he could find, saving a bottle from each variety. He plans to line the walls of the brewery with them.
Initially, he’d hoped to start a brewery with his cousin, a home brewer. Grant would handle the business side and his cousin would handle the brewing. To better understand the process, he began brewing himself.
“I brewed as much as I could, as often as I could,” said Grant. He also bought every brewing book he could find.
When his cousin decided he didn’t want to be involved, Grant was fully prepared to continue on his own.
He has 90 recipes he’s developed, 20 of which have been tested.
A graphic designer, he has labels and names for the beers.
An avid skier and snowboarder, Grant has named his company Liftline Brewing, and the name of each beer connects back to skiing and snowboarding.
Like other small brewers, Grant plans to change his offerings seasonally, with two flagship beers, one for summer and one for winter. The winter beer is an Irish red ale. “It’s deceptively dark looking,” said Grant. “It’s a deep red.”
He describes his beer as “malt forward rather than really hoppy.”
“Most of my beer is well-balanced, I guess would be the best term,” Grant said.
He also keeps the alcohol content low, at 5 percent or less. The idea is that a customer can have a beer or two and still carry on a coherent conversation. “You never know when you need to discuss world politics or solve issues,” Grant said.
Established brewers have been supportive of his efforts. A potential legal conflict with Otter Creek Brewing of Middlebury was quickly resolved by e-mail. “They invited me down for a beer,” said Grant.
“Everyone’s really cool as long as you’re making really good beer, you’re not making Budweiser,” he said of other brewers.
He’s hoping to start small and gradually build a customer base. He’ll be keeping his job at Grizzly Graphix. “I can’t leave the family business,” he said. His parents, John and Priscilla Grant, started Grizzly Graphix 25 years ago.