The Homer News is debuting this week “Meet your neighbor,” a new feature highlighting local businesses and community members.
Good beer. Good people. That is the motto of Grace Ridge Brewing, owned by Don and Sherry Stead who are celebrating one year in their new location .
As the newest of the two breweries in Homer, they have established themselves as craft beer brewers, with eight beers on tap: four regulars — Coal Point Milk Stout, (made with chocolate, coffee, oats and milk, referred to by Don as a breakfast beer), Kayak Beach Blonde, Otter Bay Amber, and Sadie Peak IPA — and four specials that rotate through including Black Pepper IPA, Double White IPA, Hazy IPA, and a Smoked Porter.
The most consistently popular beers are ones that were their son Scott’s first two recipes — the Sadie Peak IPA and Kayak Beach Blonde. As the seasons change, so does the popularity of the beer types.
“Right now, the darker beers — the port, amber and stout — are our best selling,” Don shared. “In the summer, it will be the IPAs, and any others I think about brewing.”
Grace Ridge Brewing is on tap in Homer at AJ’s Steakhouse, Alice’s Champagne Palace, Down East Saloon, Land’s End Resort, The Alibi, and Twisted Goat, and seasonally at The Broken Oar and Captain Pattie’s on the Spit, and in Anchorage at Tent City. Their cans are available at Fritz Creek General Store and The Grog Shop.
The Steads stayed open throughout the pandemic, offering packs of 32-ounce To Go cans, selling beer in kegs and filling growlers, all of which they continue to do. They offer pints, half-pints and 4-ounce pours, and for the nondrinkers, a variety of sparkling water and soda.
What began as a longtime passion for home brewing has become a craft beer staple in the Homer community. Originally opening their doors in 2016 on Ocean Shore Drive in a leased location, today they can be found off Lake Street in a 2,400-square-foot building they had built that is twice the size of their prior space. Easily spotted from the road is their bright white, wedge-shaped building with BREWERY in bold black letters on the side, painted by Homer High School teachers. While the tasting and serving area is around the same size as previously, the workspace is larger; there is now a 400-square-foot cold storage room, and they have more brewing tanks. Outside, a protected beer garden includes seating and a propane-fuel fire table and fire pit. Inside is the bar, chairs and tables scattered around the tasting room, and local art on the walls. With high ceilings and lots of windows, the effect is warm, open, and inviting.
Adjacent to the front door is a Beer It Forward bulletin board where individuals can buy pints and designate them to a particular friend, family member, neighbor, or even a stranger. One beer for a parent of a KBFPC Peer Educator is just an example of the dozens of notes written on bills and placed on the board. This pay-it-forward mentality is at the heart of the Steads’ business, as they not only serve beer but host talks, art exhibits, workshops, pop-up menus and markets, and food trucks, and provide space for fundraisers. Recently awarded Homer Council on the Arts Kathy and Mike Pate Business of the Year, Grace Ridge Brewing is as much about serving beer as it is about serving their community.
For the first five years in business, the Steads donated one hundred percent of the tips from their tip jar to local nonprofits, in the amount of $125,000.
“It’s been a lot of work, creating this successful business, more work than we thought it would be, but we enjoy it, are grateful for the support of Homer, and are happy to do what we can to help out and be a part of this community,” Sherry said.
Since opening seven years ago, the couple has hosted dozens of talks by presenters sharing on topics ranging from adventure travel to environmental concerns to refugee camps, and more. They provide a place for artists to exhibit, with many of them showing their work for the first time ever, and/or the first time in Homer, like Jen DePesa who is now well recognized. From featuring one artist’s work, to being able to showcase multiple artists at the same time, to being the only venue hosting an opening in January, the brewery has become an official stop on the town’s monthly First Friday art opening art walk. Grace Ridge also hosts workshops, like the most recent one by Willow Q Jones, a current exhibitor, teaching traditional broom making.
Once a month, on the second or third Saturday, the brewery hosts pop up markets, including one on Saturday, Feb. 11 where, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., more than a dozen vendors will sell their items. Committed to helping their fellow community members make a living, the couple offers their space to vendors and artists free of charge, inviting them to bring what they want and sell what they want, not charging for use of the space or keeping a commission.
The Steads are now looking to the future, returning to their earlier vision of a taproom and kitchen.
“We’d love for someone to come in to build and operate a kitchen, so we could serve beer and they could serve food,” Sherry said. “That was our goal from the very beginning, but building both was just too expensive.”
In the meantime, they host food trucks and pop-up menus by local chefs. They also offer snacks in the way of bags of potato chips and a delicious combination of salmon from Coal Point Seafood, spicy jam from Sweet Berries and crackers and cream cheese.
Homer residents since 1995, the couple are excited to have successfully turned a hobby into a business.
“This is absolutely a labor of love for of us,” Sherry said. “We love how Homer has accepted us and we love our visitors. We have good beer and good people come through our doors.”
On March 25, Grace Ridge Brewing will host Ready. Set. Art, a collaboration between the brewery and artist Gary Lyon, where for one hour, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., local artists will bring with them work that is 30 percent completed, finishing it on site. The art will then be auctioned, with funds raised supporting Ptarmigan Arts’ Scholarships. To date, confirmed participants include a weaver, wood carver, jeweler, and painters, among others.
Adventurers at heart, stop by Grace Ridge Brewing and chat with Sherry about her love for walking across countries and with Don, his passion for sailing.
New beers and ales are announced on Grace Ridge Brewery’s Facebook page. Their current winter hours are Monday to Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Find them at 870 Smoky Bay Way. For more information, visit graceridgebrewing.com and 907-435-0601.