Serving Sunshine Jenefer Davies and Erik Jones ’91 opened a microbrewery in Lexington.
After two decades as an arts administrator and globe trekker, Erik Jones ’91 spent several years training as a professional brewer and developing plans for Heliotrope Brewery, a new enterprise in downtown Lexington.
The Greek etymology of heliotrope is “turn to the sun,” which reflects Jones’ philosophy that making beer with local, seasonal items creates a synergy between the community and local growers. “We want to stay small and nimble enough to work with local malt, fruit and vegetables.
We’ve also been foraging and growing wild yeast. Bill Hamilton, professor of biology, has been helping with that,” Jones said. “We want to emulate the same sense of terroir that you find in the wine world, where the flavor of the finished product reflects its local environment.”
Jones and his wife and business partner, W&L dance professor Jenefer Davies, also have become “accidental restaurateurs” with their decision to serve brick oven pizza to complement the beer. “Food gives us another opportunity to apply the same ethos to a wider sensory experience, working with local farms and using wild yeast in the pizza dough,” he explained.
They also are dedicated to fostering a community and family-oriented atmosphere. “We don’t have TVs, and we are being very judicious about live music,” Jones said. “We want it to be the kind of place where people can talk and bring their families.”
In the spirit of keeping the business in the W&L family, Jones hired Patrick Riley ’06L as the restaurant’s chef.
As they developed their business plan, the couple sought advice from experts, including Jeff Shay, director of W&L’s Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship. Their strategy paid off when they won $20,000 from Main Street Lexington in a Shark Tank-style competition last year.
“We have been very methodical,” Jones commented. “We wanted to get this correct, right out of the gate.”