“If you can whip up a batch of kool aid, you can make wine,” says Steve Girard with a chuckle. He explains that most people do not realize that they can make wine or beer at home with relative ease.
“I find that some people think it is illegal, and others think it will cost a fortune to get started. But, the reality is that it is completely legal to make wine or brew beer, and it can be done with things everybody has around the house. You know, you can brew amazing beer using just a plastic bucket, a boiling pot, and a refrigerator.”
With a grin, his wife Kristin Girard adds, “There is something in the beer brewing world for everyone. We just find that brewing in this area is a fairly untapped market.”
When the couple moved to Brunswick from Minnesota, they were surprised to find that there was not a single wine making and brewing supply shop in the immediate area. Since they brought with them a love of wine making and beer brewing, the Girards set out to change that and to spread education about their craft.
In 2015, they opened the Vine N Hop Shop. The store became Brunswick’s first supply shop and winery. They soon turned the shop into a haven for homebrewers through the establishment of the Brewing Ring in Medina (BRIM) homebrewing club. In September, BRIM celebrated their one year anniversary in conjunction with the grand opening of the Vine N Hop Shop’s taps. Though the Girards are now the proud owners of a winery and brewery, they have no qualms about sharing their recipes and helping up-and-coming brewers.
“Our mission here at the Vine N Hop Shop as well as in BRIM is to educate and encourage,” explains Steve. “There is no such thing as a dumb question, and nobody here is going to put you down for not knowing the different types of malt. Our goal is to help you improve your knowledge and your skill, and we will be here to answer questions along the way.”
Though the pair are experts and amazing instructors, they only learned about the world of opportunities in brewing and wine making in the last 12 years.
“I had a garden in Minnesota about 12 years ago, in which I had a bunch of excess fruit,” says Kristin.
“My friend had been making wine at home and said to me, ‘You know, you can make wine out of that.’ I took a class, bought my first wine making kit, went home, and made really good wine. About three months later Steve started brewing.”
At the time, the pair did not realize that they could make quality wines and beers at home. They knew immediately that their new hobby would become a lifestyle, but they never imagined that it would grow into a business.
Their shop is filled to the brim with miscellaneous objects that look like they came out of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. They feature high-end brewing equipment as well as small-scale kits for beginners. The air of the shop is fragranced by malts, 55 different types of grain and 40 different types of hops that range from pine to watermelon flavored.
“Beer brewing and wine making are arts, and any artist must practice their craft,” says Kristin. “We try very hard to start you off with the right recipe and help you get the process right. We have things to appeal to beginners or master brewers. We even have root beer and cider making kits.”
The best way to discover if brewing is right for you is to stop in and get to know the Girards. Kristin will offer a free hard cider making course October 13 at 6:30 pm at the Brunswick Library, and the Vine N Hop Shop will host their monthly wine making class October 22 at 11 am.
“The best advice I can offer an interested brewer is to start today,” says Steve. “It is fairly easy an inexpensive, and you know you always have a family of homebrewers to turn to for help.”
For information on BRIM meetings and upcoming classes, visit VineNHop.NROStores.com or Facebook.com/VineNHop.