• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Versailles Brewing Company to open in mid-November

A RENOVATED SPACE in the Lexington Road Plaza, formerly occupied by Advance Auto Parts, will house Versailles Brewing Company. The renovation exposed a 21-foot-high ceiling for its dining area. The microbrewery and farm-to-table restaurant should open in mid-November, according to Gary Jones. He and Woodford County farmer Curtis Congleton are partners in this new business venture. (Photo submitted)

Microbreweries are opening in communities across Kentucky, and Versailles will soon become a part of that growing trend. A local farmer and a Realtor hope to open Versailles Brewing Company in two renovated storefronts in the Lexington Road Plaza before year's end. Gary Jones had been brewing beer for himself and friends for several years when he and Curtis Congleton began some very casual conversations about opening a microbrewery in Versailles. "All of the small communities around here have a microbrewery in their town, and I think it will be well-received (in Versailles)," said Jones. He said their restaurant, which they hope to open in mid-November, will specialize in craft beers and farm-to-table foods. A transparent wall will separate the restaurant from the microbrewery so diners can watch the beer-making process, said Jones. He said a master brewer will soon be hired to oversee this process of creating recipes and making craft beers. "We won't have (our own beers) probably until February," explained Jones, "because ... it just takes longer to get that aspect of (the business) going." Craft beers from other microbreweries in the Central Kentucky area and elsewhere will be available immediately, he added. "If you have a Country Boy you like or West Sixth you like, then you can come to us and we'll have it," said Jones. "You won't have to drive to Lexington." Besides creating craft beers and inviting customers to taste its selection of beers, Versailles Brewing Company will offer a menu made with locally grown ingredients. Jones has been helping Congleton with the retail end of his farm-to-table business - Congleton Freezer Beef - for about three years, so he understands the ongoing challenges that local farmers face in trying to sell products to consumers. The business partners (and friends) view opening "a true farm-to-table" restaurant as an opportunity to create a market for Congleton Freezer Beef and other farmers in Woodford County, according to Jones. He said the restaurant will feature locally produced chicken and pork, lettuce grown at Bluegrass Hydroponics on Old Frankfort Pike, and other vegetables grown by local farmers. "So we feel like we can help these folks generate some income, sell some things that aren't being sold now and we can have a true farm-to-table. We're not going to have the middleman - we're going to buy straight from the farmers," said Jones. "So we feel like we can be very price-competitive because of that" business model. "He's very community-minded," said Jones of Congleton, "and he really wants to help the local farmers. He's struggled selling his farm products" so he understands the challenges faced by farmers trying to earn a profit. Congleton already grows barley and rye - ingredients used in beer-making - on his 330-acre Carpenter Pike farm, Jones said. So, he said, "There's more that we want to see happen here for the local farmers." Jones, who has been in the real estate business for the past four years and ran a car dealership software company for 30 years, said he and Congleton had searched for a location in Versailles to open their business for about two years. With very limited parking in downtown Versailles, Jones Congleton secured a location at the Lexington Road Plaza, where they have plenty of parking. A building formerly occupied by Advance Auto Parts - 6,500 square feet - will provide sufficient space for a restaurant seating area, small stage and microbrewery, with access to a kitchen and meeting rooms for social or business gatherings in an adjacent renovated space formerly occupied by the China Buffet. The stage will provide a venue for live music on weekends in a renovated venue with a 21-foot-high ceiling, Jones said. "All different genres," he added. "Curtis is country and I am not." Jones said he and Congleton have a five-year lease on both properties, with options.

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