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Gnarly Cedar Brewery set to open summer 2024 in Wrightstown

The establishment will be built just three miles down the road from LedgeStone Vineyard

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December 27, 2023

WRIGHTSTOWN – Gnarly Cedar Brewery is getting a new home of its own.

After four years of sharing production space with LedgeStone Winery, the brewery is getting a place of its own, complete with its own brewery and tap house.

The brewery is set to open this summer.

The journey to here
Husband and wife team and business partners Katrina and Adam Magnuson purchased LedgeStone Vineyards (6381 Highway 57 in Greenleaf) in 2017.

Adam said discussions regarding an expansion have been in the works for the past few years.

“When we first installed that seven-barrel brewhouse, we looked around the Fox Valley and found that the Wrightstown space was available in late summer/early fall,” he said. “We drove by that building many times and said ‘wow that would be the perfect spot for the brewery,’ but it was occupied by public works (at the time).”

However, when the village agreed to free up the space, Katrina said plans took off. 

The building – in the heart of Wrightstown – is located at 420 Washington St., just three miles down the road from LedgeStone Vineyard.

“It is such a great location and riverfront property,” Katrina said. “This is something everyone can enjoy, not just a spot to store salt and trucks.”

Gnarly Cedar Brewing property, Katrina said, has 184 feet of waterfront on the Fox River to the west of the building.

“The brewery will have a cozy outdoor area with a fire pit and outdoor seating as kayaks roll up,” she said. “It will have that leisure day vibe with the natural beauty of the area.”

The two establishments – Gnarly Cedar Brewing and LedgeStone Vineyards – Katrina said, will be unique and offer visitors similar yet slightly different experiences.

“(Even though) Ledgestone is a larger venue, we still plan to host live music at the brewery and will maintain our love for music,” she said. “Adam will be kicking off a speaker series at the brewery, too, on topics like learning about the resources and maintaining the Fox River. Having a beer or two while someone hosts a conversation (makes it) easier to learn and meet others who align with our passions. It’s today’s version of a meet-up.”

Owners Katrina and Adam Magnuson – who also own LedgeStone Winery in Greenleaf – said expansion plans for the brewery have been in the works for a few years. Submitted Photo

Adam said there are a lot of tasks to accomplish to transform the current structure into a brewery and taphouse.

“Infrastructure updating includes proper electrical systems to accommodate the brewery equipment,” he said. “(We will be adding a) full HVAC replacement, plumbing renovations and increased water capacity revisions that brewing requires. We’ll be building out a new tasting area and also looking at adding additional restrooms along with adding a kitchen.”

They did their research
The duo said they conducted significant research of both foot and car traffic to justify the expansion and made sure they checked all of the boxes.

“The bridge is one of the main arteries to cross the Fox River, which runs parallel to I-41,” Adam said. “10,000-plus vehicles are crossing that bridge every day. It is the southern connector and in the next five to 10 years, it’s going to be positioned in a pretty ideal spot for both suburban, as well as business growth. There will be a lot of business along that corridor, much like how Highway 441 expanded. It is going to be an exciting time for the area.”

Adam said they also studied the population tendencies and habits.

“According to the current population matrix of Wrightstown, 60% of residents travel 20-plus minutes outside of Wrightstown for their jobs each way,” he said. “That lends itself (to our location). Once you get home, you don’t want to go back out to (another) town for food or entertainment options. You want to stay closer to home, so we have seen a gap in this general area for the people who want to explore the food and entertainment options all within their backyards.”

This research, Adam said, included an access study of the Fox River.

“The Little Rapids Locks are the highest utilized locks in the entire Fox River System… and people are using that more and more,” he said. “There are plans to open up the lock system for the entire Fox River, which lends itself to increased boat traffic.”

Gnarly, Katrina said, will also benefit from Wrightstown’s boat launch.

“People will tie up their boats or launch kayaks – it’s such a big part of Wrightstown,” she said. “Gnarly will have its own kayak launch, too. We also want the other businesses around Wrightstown to benefit from the addition, too. Public accessibility is another benefit to being a part of the family of businesses in Wrightstown.”

More brews
Not only is Gnarly’s space growing, but Adam said its list of brews will grow as well.

“We are planning on having 20 taps at the location,” he said. “We will increase our lager production, lighter-style beer and hybrid drink beers, barrel-aged beers and IPAs – we plan to brew something for everyone. We will also expand our line into low alcohol and no alcohol varieties, which is a growing segment, too.”

Growing in the retail space, Adam said, has also been a part of discussions.

“We are looking at adding retail distribution to the long-term plan,” he said. “We like sharing our products to some select retailers. We will probably stay away from the larger chains.”

Finding a balance
Katrina said one of the challenges they will likely have to deal with, is weather.

“Even though both the winery and the brewery have indoor accommodations, people want to go out and see their friends and families,” she said. “If it’s crummy out, somehow your couch and the fireplace seem to win. We can’t control that.”

Adam said as owners of soon-to-be two establishments, finding a work-life balance will be difficult.

Adam Magnuson said the plan is to have 20 brews on tap at Gnarly Cedar Brewery. Submitted Photo

“With ourselves as the business owners, (we have to ask) ‘are we giving ourselves enough personal time?’” he said. “‘We have identified that we can put any number of hours a week into the business, but should we?’”

Balance is key, Katrina said.

“We have to have that balance,” she said. “You can always do more. We can always pack our days. But part of what we do is so that we can enjoy ourselves too.”

Owning your own business, Katrina said, is very rewarding.

“From daily management, winemaking to plumbing – we wear a lot of hats,” she said. “You learn when to admit (you’re not sure) and learn from your network. You get an electrician in and (quickly learn) they are great at their craft. That’s why they do that, and we don’t.”

Taking time to reflect on their success as it propels the expansion of Gnarly Cedar Brewing is rare but important, Katrina said.

“It’s cliché, but true,” she said. “It’s not us that creates the ambiance, it’s the people, the kids, the wine, the music. It all is a part of the larger puzzle for what we’re trying to cultivate.”

Adam said his mom asks the same question of him every year – “did you ever imagine?”

“I think this year was one of the first years that I realized, ‘this is cool,’” he said. “It goes back to all of the pieces of the puzzle working together. It pulls on the heartstrings.”

Third-party reviews, Katrina said, are stories they can’t tell themselves.

“One of our favorite reviews this summer hit a spot for me,” she said. “(The patron) said she was sitting on one of our Adirondack chairs, there was no music, but you could hear people laughing and talking, and it was so peaceful and relaxing. We are known for great music, but you forget that the moments when there is no music, are just as special, and it gives you that clarity. It’s not just the entertainment factor but the peaceful factor too.”

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