Why Can't We be Friends? A look at Winery and Brewery Combinations

Pictures of Nimble Hill's Wine
Pictures of Nimble Hill’s Wine
This coming weekend, May 11th, will see another craft beer festival at the Mt. Hope Estate and Winery. Known more for its annual Renaissance Fair, the grounds also host a smattering of local and regional breweries from around the Atlantic seaboard. I, along with some friends, made the journey there last year and found it relatively agreeable. I also got to sample for the first time some beer from Swashbuckler Brewing Co., the on-site brewery. They are a relatively small operation and do not distribute, instead capitalizing on their destination status and allowing the market to come to them. Despite being on the same grounds as the Mt. Hope Winery, they are separate business ventures operated by different people. This is still an interesting look at what is starting to become an emerging trend in Pennsylvania; the Winery/Brewery Combination.

Mt. Hope Winery also operates a “Gallery” off of Old Philadelphia Pike in Bird-in-Hand. Just to make things interesting, here you will also find the small nano-brewery Rumspringa. So it appears that who ever is running Mt. Hope can at least appreciate the rise of the craft beer industry and its parallels (for better or for worst) with the wine industry and how the two can be mutual benefactors instead of competitors. That makes them ahead of the times, for now.

Other wineries in Pennsylvania are starting to purposefully add breweries to their portfolio. One of the first true combinations with each entity being owned by the same company was Nimble Hill, which operates near Scranton, Pa and has been running for six years. Earlier this year, the Vineyard at Hershey announced plans to open its own brewery on their premises located near Middletown, Pa. And these assuredly won’t be the only ones. As the craft beer game continues to gain market share, people looking to set up shop as a brewer will need to get creative and start looking for other avenues to get their product to the people. If you can hook up with a winery, that can be a winning combination for both parties. Let’s look at the positives.

1 – Foot Traffic. Wineries are a big business for Pennsylvania, with plenty of people willing to make an excuse to go on an excursion to the vineyard. While some start-up breweries are eking it out in a small converted building, usually off the beaten path to keep lease costs down, a new brewer could do well with an already established location with a decent amount of land. Marketing to a subset of people already comfortable with alcoholic beverages would be a relatively simple ordeal. The biggest hurdle would be education; convincing a group of vino aficionados that beer can be as varied or more as the seemingly limitless types of wine and that the tastes can be as heterogeneous.

2 – Resources. Unless a brewer owns a farm somewhere, most of the ingredients going into the beer will have to be bought and/or shipped in from elsewhere. If the the vineyard is down with the prospect, why not grow your own? The Vineyard at Hershey and Nimble Hill are already or will grow a lot of the hops that will be used in their own beers. Hops can be an expensive part of the brewing process, often requiring contracts and lead growing time with hop producers to ensure supply. Hops can be cultivated and bountiful with the right conditions and a little land, two things a vineyard can supply. The Vineyard at Heshey has also expressed interest in growing its own watermelon for use as an adjunct in one of its flagship beers.

3 – Defrayed costs. If you own your own winery, you’ve most likely put in a lot of time assembling equipment and paying fees. Theses physical and economical resources would mitigate the costs associated with adding a brewery. Nimble Hill can use its already established bottling line to fill kegs and 22oz bottles with the beer it produces. Some licensing fees cannot be shared between operating a winery and a brewery, but going through the process could mean a streamlined effort when obtaining a brewing license.

Those are three big reasons to consider doing a dual winery/brewery for sure. It seems that the ball is in the court of anyone operating a winery as they already own the big factor that most breweries do not have, land. If a brewery could obtain a small amount, it would behoove them to consider the option of fermenting and packaging some wine of their own. PA law allows for PA wine to be sold along with beer in a brewpub or restaurant. So someone such as Spring house, if so desired, could start to grow some grapes and offer a Seven Gates Sauvignon Blanc for anyone that isn’t partial to hops and just can’t stand “dark beer”. Either way. with the increasingly hand crafted nature of beer ever expanding, the brewery/winery (and possibly distillery) combination is something to keep on the lookout for as more are bound to pop up in the state.

(Information for this article was gathered from blogs of the Lebanon Daily News, and Patriot Daily News)