MiVT: 1st Republic Brewing Co.

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 12:47 PM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - For these Essex Junction veterans, beer started out as merely a passion. But over the years, it’s turned into a successful side hustle, called 1st Republic Brewing Company.

“It’s just a passion for it, you know? We’re all veterans, we’re all working together, we all like to work hard play and hard, as well,” said co-owner and manager Michael Drake. “Part of creating a brewery was playing hard.”

Drake was originally brought into this project as a taste-tester but he has since moved up the ranks to run the show along with Shawn Trout.

Things have since expanded, with a taproom opening in 2016, hosting music, eats and games, plus a wealth of ways to support the troops.

“People understand a veteran-owned brewery, they’re here to support us, they come out and support us, as well. And it’s just a great place to get together and meet people,” Drake said.

You can meet pups, too, like Winchester. He’s the star behind Winchester’s Dream Ale and the dog of production brewer Casey Gomo.

“I actually designed it for my friends who don’t like craft beer because it’s too dark or too hoppy or too rich, so we built that one for them,” Gomo said.

When we visited 1st Republic, they were making a batch of Winchester’s Dream Ale.

“We use what would normally be put into a lager, but we brew it like we would do an ale,” explained Gomo.

Casey, a passionate brewer, showed me the ropes and explained the science of it all, which he began learning on a homebrew kit back in the 1990s.

“I really enjoy what I do here, it’s a great time. I have a lot of fun when I’m in here, most of the time. Especially when everything is running right,” he said.

“We have a lot of freedom to make what we want or try what we want. I mean, obviously, the end result is people have to like it and we have to sell it or else, well, then I just drink a lot of it,” Gomo said.

With their success comes the ability to support causes these guys hold near and dear to their hearts. They hope to have a special fundraiser brew to support the men and women of the First Squadron of the 172nd Cavalry Regiment; currently deployed, but scheduled to come home in March.

“We have a beer called the Vet Beer and we try to do things with it. That’s one of the big ones, we do free pours of that on Veterans Day. We do have a pay it forward coin program here for the vets where they can come in and get one free beer with a coin. People buy them ahead of time,” Gomo said.

Now that’s a beer you can feel good about.

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