The first combined winery and brewery in Albemarle County — Meriwether Springs Vineyard & Brewery — opened for business last month. Named after a primary leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Meriwether Springs is located on a 40-acre farm that was the original estate of Meriwether Lewis.
The establishment originated six years ago as a winery used primarily for private events. In early 2018, the project to add a brewhouse to the winery started after Jesse Pappas and his fellow co-owners decided to combine a brewery and winery to satisfy both wine and beer lovers.
Gastronomical chemist Audrey Reid, who owns a laboratory called Imbibe Solutions that tests the quality of wineries and breweries, said that the winery-brewery combination can attract diverse groups of people with different desires.
“I have a family, [and] my business partners have family,” Pappas said. “In some families, mom likes beer and dad likes wine, or vice-versa. Now that it’s possible to do both — although it's a little more complicated to get set up — why not do both if you have the opportunity and be able to basically satisfy everybody’s preferences?”
Pappas and master brewer John Bryce worked with property owners Ed and Regina Pierce to add a 10-barrel American-made brewhouse to the winery, making this winery-brewery combination the first to appear in Albemarle County.
“Scientifically, the [beer and wine making] processes work very well together,” Reid said.
Specifically, both beer-making and winemaking depend of the process of fermentation.
“Fermentation — when it comes to alcohol — is the conversion of sugar into alcohol by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, [a yeast,]” said Ian Glomski, a former School of Medicine professor and founder of Vitae Spirits Distillery.
Though both beverages require fermentation at the end, Reid said that the production of wine and beer begin with different ingredients.
The source of the derived carbohydrate is the determining factor of whether the alcoholic beverage is a wine or a beer. For example, if the carbohydrate comes from fruit, then the carbohydrate is known as a monosaccharide or simple sugar, resulting in wine. On the other hand, beers are derived from a grain called barley whose carbohydrate is a polysaccharide called starch.
Glomski also said that beer-making is often a two-step process, while winemaking is a one-step process. When making beer, the polysaccharide starch must first be converted into a simpler sugar. This sugar can then be converted to alcohol through fermentation. Winemaking foregoes this step, as the fruit-derived sugar is simple enough for fermentation.
Reid said that after a liquid made from grain extracts — termed the “wort” — has been prepared for the beer or pressed into juice for the wine, the wine and beer precursors undergo fermentation in tanks or barrels that are controlled for both temperature and amount of yeast added. Because the resulting product may appear slightly carbonated, it undergoes clarification before being sent to vendors.
Pappas explained that opening the combined establishment was more complicated than opening just a farm brewery or a farm winery, as the owners were trying to merge limited liability corporations for both the winery and brewery into a single entity that accounts for both.
“At the state level and the county level, both of the officers … have been really great working with us — very supportive,” Pappas said. “Basically, it's just the matter of taking the necessary steps and [making] sure we take our time.”