Giving Back is the name of this game. Not just in December, but all year. Sarah & Justin Walsh of June Lake Brewing (JLB) understand this.
I grew up skiing June Lake Mountain so it was a great pleasure to interview the Walshes and discover why I love their beer so much! Yes, it’s hop-forward. I prefer the dank, sharp, crispness of Lil’ Walker IPA. It’s also because of the clear, sweet mountain water. And yet perhaps I think the most important ingredient is community.
Avid homebrewers who gained additional experience at San Diego breweries, Sarah and Justin enlisted their friends, who volunteered their time and energy to help build JLB with payment of beer or equity and the promise that any paying jobs would be reserved for residents of June Lake. They all stood behind an unwavering mission statement: 1. Make Super Awesome Beer™ (a term they have actually trademarked), 2. Give back to our community, 3. Get people outside.
“We had hundreds of hours volunteered by our friends and family to make JLB a reality,” Sarah recalls. “We’re the brewery the community built, we just happened to be the ones that organized and motivated everyone to do it.”
JLB’s beer is the conduit to creating strong community and getting people outside. They volunteer and organize the summer Village Championship Downhill (mountain bike) Series and help with the annual June Lake Autumn Festival. JLB donates swag to over 21-year-old amateur athletes, gives beer to local, well-run non-profit organizations and provides topo maps and suggested day hikes pinned to the door. Open 365 days a year, JLB’s tasting room is as down-to-earth and authentic as its owner (Sarah) and head brew master (Justin). Professional and friendly outdoor athletes behind the bar easily share stories and tips on some of the best trails for snowboarding, hiking or rock climbing. Just across the parking lot from JLB, their friend Rena McCullough runs Ohanas395, a food truck serving up Hawaiian-style soul food that pairs perfectly with their brew.
I love that if you want this exceptional beer, you’ll have to travel to 7,654-feet to get it. The Walshes live by the most hard-fought, high-margin, localized business models for breweries: the tasting room model.
“Given our size and dedication to providing Super Awesome Beer™ we’re focused on a micro regional premium distribution strategy,” says Justin. “We are only in the best restaurants and finer tap houses within Mono County. Insisting on this quality ensures that our Super Awesome Beer™ will remain that way from the tank to the glass. We refuse to distribute our beer outside our area because we would lose that control. By limiting distribution to Mono County we’ve created a great reason for beer tourists to come visit!”
The snow is epic right now and there’s nothing better than a cold one after a day on the slopes. So, I’ll meet you in June Lake Village at JLB: the brewery the community built.