Whether it’s through serving quality food and entertainment or brewing beer with a local flare, Justin Taylor, owner of JT Walker’s Restaurant and Brewery and JT Walker’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, wants to be a part of Mahomet.
After jumping over licensing hurdles for three years, Taylor announced the JT Walker’s Restaurant and Brewery will open on Nov. 20.
“We want to keep everything locally based,” Taylor said. “We could have put (the brewery) out in the middle of nowhere for cheaper, but we want to be a part of the community. We wanted people to feel like we were trying to support the community as well.”
The idea to develop a brewery outside or within JT Walker’s came four years ago when bartending manager Aaron Young approached Walker about bringing his home brewed recipes to the restaurant. Taylor gave him another year to home brew before Young committed to wanting to create beers full-time.
Taylor went to the Village Board of Trustees in the summer of 2011 to attempt to get the law against brewing in the Village limits reversed. During the seventh month reversal process, which would put approval in Feb. 2012, Taylor decided to research options for his brewery.
After visiting Michigan with Young, Taylor was advised against a small, in-restaurant brew system. If people liked the product, he may not have enough. And if customers didn’t like the product, the time spent making it would be wasted.
Knowing they would need at least an 8 to 10 barrel system, Taylor looked into purchasing the building next to the restaurant so the brewery would be attached. When the owners did not want to sell, Dan Moisson, owner of Simplified Computers sold Taylor the building across the street with contention on Village approval of the brewery law.
“Since JT’s is a historical building, over 100 years old, you could see this building had potential,” he said. “They mirror each other.”
While the space was not ideal because it’s not attached, Taylor thought about how to make the brewery work alongside his restaurant.
Without a kitchen in the building, and knowing the Village would not allow a tavern, Taylor initially looked into making the space into a small brewery which would act as a private vender to JT’s and other businesses which would carry their product.
Just when he thought the manufacturer license would go through for this plan, Taylor was informed that he could not receive the craft brewers license because of the restaurant.
Having to start the process all over again, Taylor reapplied as a brew pub through the federal and state process before going back to the Village to get the local license as a retailer. Because the intention was to become a manufacturer, Taylor had to revisit the tavern hurdle with the Village.
When the Village decided they would allow wineries to sell wines downtown, Taylor received his micro-brewery license.
The equipment, which was handmade, was installed in the fall or 2012. With health department inspections and trial brews, Taylor has waited to make sure his plan was on track.
When JT Walker’s Restaurant and Brewery opens on Nov. 20, they will serve five signature brews, food from food trucks and the Homer Soda Company will provide vintage sodas. Eventually, Taylor would like to make root beer in the brewery, too.
Young has prepared the Bulldog Brown Ale, Orange and Blue, Nine Gals, 47& 74 and Hail to the Chief. Seasonal brews will also be available in limited quantities. The product will be available to take home in bottles or kegs.
“We’re hoping the brewery will be more of a destination spot,” Taylor said. “We just wanted something Mahomet can call their own without having to open a lot of restaurants. We wanted to focus on making this space the best we could make it for Mahomet.”
Taylor hopes the brewery will bring outsiders into downtown Mahomet, and encourage business growth on Main Street. Eventually, he would like to host brewery tours.
JT Walker’s Restaurant and Pub will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. The restaurant will also be open on Sat. from noon to 10 p.m.