Here’s a feel-good story for you.
Especially if you like beer.
On Thursday morning, the Mono County Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional-use permit which will allow the June Lake Brewing Company to operate in a 3,500-square foot facility one block off Main Street behind the June Lake General Store.
June Lake Brewing plans to brew in one part of the facility and also operate a 600-square foot tasting room on the premises. Target launch: June 2014.
June Lake Brewing Company is the brainchild of a young married couple; Justin Walsh, 33 and wife Sarah, 29.
Both hail from the San Diego area (Justin is from Cardiff and Sarah is from Solano Beach). The two met in college. About three years ago, yet another trip to the Eastern Sierra convinced them they had to move here. Then came the much harder part: If we move there, what the heck will we do for a living?
Justin first applied for a position in Mammoth Mountain’s marketing department. He said he was one of 297 applicants and sat for six interviews. He also said if he’d accepted the position, it would have represented a 70% pay cut.
There had to be a better way.
A product of San Diego State University (Justin has both an undergraduate degree and a Masters in Business Administration), Justin said buddies of his from high school founded Cismontane Brewing Company, based in Rancho Santa Margarita, in 2009. Their success, he says, has inspired him. In turn, many of his pals from Cismontane now sit on June Lake Brewing’s Board of Directors.
This speaks to the collegiality of the craft brewing industry. As Walsh said, Joyce and Sean Turner of Mammoth Brewing Company have also been very supportive, and even invited him as their guest to the Craft Brewers conference in Washington, D.C. this year.
Walsh ultimately envisions the creation of an Eastern Sierra Brewers Guild to facilitate “brew tourism” to the region, especially with Joe Lane set to launch Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, reportedly this fall.
When asked whether his location, one block off Main Street on South Crawford, will affect brewery traffic, Walsh said no. “People will find breweries – like moths to light.”
While the start-up cost is steep (Walsh estimates buildout at $500,000) and any new business venture is risky, the Walshs have a few advantages. Most notably, they have a brewing heritage, on Sarah’s side. Her father has been a home-brewer for the better part of three decades and has won several awards at the San Diego County Fair, according to Justin.
While father-in-law understandably thought daughter and husband were nuts, given their desire to open a brewery in a town of 600 people, a visit to June (he was won over by the community and the stunning surroundings) quelled his reservations.
Initially, the Walshs hope to produce 1,500 barrels in their first year, serving a distribution area of June Lake, Mammoth and Lee Vining.
You can find them online at www.junelakebrewing.com
Former KMMT radio personality Stacey Powells reports that the Occupy Yosemite she organized last Friday went off well. About 20 people participated. There were no arrests, though Powells said, “I took my husband’s car just in case [it got impounded].” Powells says this is not one and done, and that she will seek an amendment to the U.S. Constitution so that in the event of another government shutdown, National Parks would be exempted. She reported that the many European visitors who stopped and spoke with the group last Friday were devastated – the closures having marred once-in-a-lifetime experiences.