Stoney Acres ramps up pizza nights for 2018 with its own microbrewery
Tony Schultz pulling a pizza out of the oven on a night in September. Next year Stoney Acres will have its own beer to go with it, with Wausau native Josh Wright as brewmaster.
In 2012, the idea of dining out for pizza on a farm was a radical idea. Stoney Acres Farm in Athens ran with the concept and their Friday pizza nights since then have grown from a few dozen people in the know to hundreds each night. They added two more wood-fired ovens, a parking lot, and in 2017 a second pizza night on some Saturdays to accommodate the crowds. Last year the farm became licensed to serve beer to patrons.
That all went over so well, says owner Tony Schultz, that Stoney Acres now is taking the farm to the next level with its own micro-brewery.
Stoney Acres Brewery will serve its own beer at pizza nights in 2018, which will run every Friday and Saturday. Schultz is partnering with homebrew aficionado Josh Wright, a Wausau resident well-known in the brewing community, to create a brewery on the farm. Brewing is slated to kick off in February, in time to provide beers for the first pizza night in April, Schultz says.
Wright has been home-brewing for about 10 years in his basement—a common training ground for eventual beer masters. It started as a means to create some of the beers he sampled at the Great Taste of the Midwest held in Madison every year. Many of those varieties weren’t yet available at stores.
His first batch came out of a kit and was “OK,” Wright says. “It was drinkable.” Wright now has multiple taps in his basement for dispensing his home brews to friends and neighbors. Wright says he started becoming a competent brewer about one-and-a-half year in, and was kegging beer about four years in. Brewing has become his obsession. He typically brews 10-gallon batches, with his most notable varieties being IPA No. 19 (he has 23 IPAs), Joshtoberfest, and a Belgian dubbel.
“He is a scientist and an artist, and I couldn’t say which one first,” Schultz says of Wright. “He is as talented and creative as any brewer I know. I wanted to bring him out of his basement.”
Stoney Acres Brewery aims to turn out about 90 half-barrels in the first year, Schultz says, and increase that to 200 in the following three years.
The brewery will continue the farm-to-table concept that Stoney Acres helped pioneer in Marathon County. Hops, wheat and barley will be grown on the farm (though limited in 2018, because stuff takes time to grow), making Stoney Acres one of the few micro-breweries in the U.S. to grow its own ingredients.
The goal is to make Stoney Acres a destination brewery, much like the farm is a destination for pizza. “Having a farm brewery is incredibly unique,” Wright says. “The ethics and values of Stoney Acres really resonate with people.”