A FAMILY AFFAIR
Foley Brothers Brewing
, goes from B&B to Winery New Englanders Bob and Rhonda Foley purchased the Neshobe Inn in Brandon in 2006 as a bed and breakfast. A classic Vermont
farmhouse built in 1786, it sits on six lush acres at the foot of the Green Mountains.
A year later, in a quest to establish a niche for themselves, the couple created a small vineyard and opened a winery:
Neshobe River Winery. This was a natural direction for them to go in, since the family had spent a significant amount of time visiting and working in wineries and breweries in the US, Europe, Africa, Canada and New Zealand. Offering wine made on the premises from regional grapes, the tasting room soon became popular with the Inn’s B&B guests as well as with local folks from Brandon.
Meanwhile, Bob and Rhonda’s sons, Dan and Patrick, had other plans. Both were involved in the wine-making business from the start, but after five years they began to experiment with
beer-making, starting with a ginger wheat and brown ale. In 2012, the pair
opened Foley Brothers Brewing.
A BREWERY IS BORN
While Bob, a professor of business planning and marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology, lent his business expertise to the start-up, he remained focused on wine making, and continued
to operate the small-scale winery, which shares its space with Foley Brothers Brewing on the grounds of the inn.
Patrick and Dan learned their wine making skills during their travels and various apprenticeships, and quickly figured out how to turn their knowledge of equipment and the fermentation process
into brewing beer. As Bob Sr. says, “They were always good wine makers, but they are excellent beer makers. They turned their beer production into something much larger than I had ever imagined.”
The business took off. Bob explains, “When the boys started 10 years ago, there weren’t many breweries in Vermont – maybe 20 at most. They got into the industry right at the beginning
and established themselves very quickly.” He attributes their success and solid customer base to excellent brewing techniques and the quality beer they produce, as well as a superb distribution plan.
Currently selling in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, they recently entered the Scandinavian market, and have plans to add Asia as well.
THE BREWERY TODAY
The tasting room is located in a charming, early 1800s barn, creating an authentic Vermont experience. A popular destination for tourists on the Vermont brewery trail as well as for locals, the brewery has regular visitors from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania. They include parents whose sons and daughters attend nearby Middlebury College, families gathering for the holidays, and skiers eager for something to do when they get off
the mountain. The inn no longer functions as a bed and breakfast, but from May to October, the entire farmhouse is available for rent.
The family also runs a spinoff: Foleys Taco and Bean on Park Street in Brandon in a beautiful federal style building with outdoor seating. As Bob explains, “Brandon didn’t have a lot of options for dining, so we decided to fill the void.” While the restaurant opened at the height of the COVID pandemic to a rocky start, today it is thriving. The locals affectionately refer to it as simply “Taco.”
Back at the brewery, the art of making craft beer is in full swing. “We brew small batches in our 15-barrel brewery. We’re always experimenting with new recipes,” Bob tells us. Its annual production is 2000 barrels, with the capacity for 3000. He goes on to explain, “We don’t see the need for a larger facility. Our market right now is exactly where we want to be.” But with many more craft breweries opening up in Vermont and throughout New England, one of their goals is to keep up with market trends to ensure their brand continues to stand out.
Foley Brothers is known for its IPA, but based on demand for beer with a lower alcohol content, it is introducing lager as well. When asked what the brewery’s “secret” ingredient is, Bob doesn’t hesitate. “It’s the water. After all, beer is 95% water. Brandon’s water, which comes from an aquifer and is not chemically treated, is some of the best quality in the world.”
When the family isn’t at the brewery perfecting their craft, they’re on the road, attending beer trade shows, conferences and festivals. It certainly is a family affair.