Giant Jones Brewing Company is a unique and inspiring craft brewery located in Madison, Wisconsin, founded by Jessica and Erika Jones, a trans-lesbian couple. The brewery was established in 2018, and has become a popular destination for beer enthusiasts who are seeking high-quality, locally brewed beers.
Jessica grew up in Appleton, WI, attended college at UW-Madison, and then went to graduate school in theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
While at UW-Madison, right after just turning 21, she tried her first beer, and bought her first 6-pack falling in love with 3 Floyds Alpha King. Immediately she began home brewing with her father, an experienced home brewer, brewing their first beer, a 9% ABV stout.
Jessica, formerly known as Eric Jones, met Erika, both of whom grew up in the Fox Valley area in Wisconsin, met while working at a summer camp. Shortly the couple moved to Berkeley, California.
While in Berkley they got married, Erika working at HandsOn Bay Area, a Non-profit Organization that creates opportunities for people to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities, while Jessica attended graduate school. Early in their relationship, they bonded over a shared interest in food and beer, immersing themselves in the craft beer culture, thanks to some close friends and fellow home-brewers.
The couple began traveling to breweries, attending beer festivals, and it was after attending another of the annual Toronado Barley Wine Festival in San Francisco the idea of opening a barleywine brewery began. Jessica began to learn about brewing and craft beer becoming a Grand Master Beer Judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and an Advanced Cicerone—an expert on food and beer pairings.
Jessica gained her professional brewing experiences in the San Francisco area volunteering with her mentors Melissa Myers and Rodger Davis, both formerly of Drake’s Brewing Company. She then worked full-time often working 12 hour days for Rodger at his new brewery, Faction Brewing Co., —the first brewery to be opened in Alameda, California.
After the couple returned to Wisconsin, Jessica working as a Lutheran pastor for seven years, while Erika graduated with a Master’s in Public Affairs (M.P.A.) from University of Wisconsin-Madison , La Follette School of Public Affairs in 2009. Erika became an executive director of the Madison-based FairShare CSA Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Madison, WI, aiding Community Supported Agriculture farms.
After several attempts to open a place with partners, they became serious about opening a Barleywine Brewery in about 2014. From the beginning, the couple aimed to create a brewery that was inclusive and welcoming to all, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. They wanted to create a space where people could come together and enjoy high-quality craft beer in a supportive environment. Their passion for inclusivity and community is reflected in every aspect of the brewery, from the design of the taproom to the selection of beer flavors.
After a lot of thought and time they came up with their name. They had put together a spreadsheet of names and at the top was Jones Brewing Co. but with the brewed beers being Doubles, imperials, etc. After throwing around ideas such as huge, large, awesome, they eventually decided on Giant Jones. The name would also provide them a great branding opportunity to feature a different giant on each label.
Working together they founded Giant Jones Brewery which opened in June 2018. The brewery became first certified organic brewery in Madison, now the only certified brewery in Wisconsin, and 1 of only 15 certified in the US. All of their beers as well as the spent grains from the brewing process are certified organic. The spent grains are donated to local farmers, including Enos Farms in Spring Green, to use as feed for their pigs. Giant Jones Brewery self-distributes in the greater Madison area and specializes in higher-alcohol style beers including Weizenbock, Scotch Ale and Double IPA.
One notable aspect of Giant Jones Brewing Co. is its commitment to sourcing ingredients from Wisconsin farmers. This not only supports the local economy, but also ensures that the brewery’s ingredients are fresh and of high quality. Erika and Jessica have developed relationships with several farmers throughout the state, and are always looking for new ingredients to incorporate into their beers.
Another unique feature of Giant Jones Brewing Co. is its taproom, which has a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere. The space is decorated with artwork by local artists, and features a variety of seating options, including a bar, tables, and a lounge area. Visitors can enjoy a flight of beers or a pint, and are welcome to bring their own food or order in from nearby restaurants.
In addition to its regular beers, Giant Jones Brewing Co. also offers seasonal and limited edition brews. These include a pumpkin ale in the fall, a chocolate stout for Valentine’s Day, and a cherry saison in the summer. The brewery also collaborates with other local businesses, such as coffee shops and bakeries, to create unique and flavorful beers.
In addition to their taproom and retail sales, Giant Jones Brewing Company also distributes their beers to bars and restaurants throughout Wisconsin. They have developed a loyal following among beer enthusiasts and are known for their commitment to quality and consistency.
The success of Giant Jones Brewing Company has also made Jessica and Erika Jones prominent figures in the Wisconsin craft beer community. They have spoken at industry conferences and events, sharing their expertise and inspiring others to pursue their dreams in the brewing industry.
In recent years, there has been increased attention on the role of diversity and inclusion in the craft beer industry, which has traditionally been dominated by white men. Jessica and Erika Jones have been vocal advocates for greater diversity and representation in the industry, and they have used their platform to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. They regularly donate a portion of their profits to local charities and organizations, such as the Wisconsin Transgender Health Coalition and the OutReach LGBT Community Center.
Their advocacy has helped to spark important conversations within the industry, and has inspired other breweries to take steps to create more inclusive and welcoming spaces.
Overall, the story of Giant Jones Brewing Company is a testament to the power of passion, creativity, and community. Jessica and Erika Jones have built a successful and beloved brewery through hard work and dedication, and their commitment to inclusivity and sustainability has set them apart in the competitive craft beer market. As they continue to grow and innovate, they remain committed to their values and to making the world a better place, one beer at a time.
Brewed as a collaboration with Starkweather Brewing. Built to shine a spotlight on the 21% rye malt – that’s a lot of rye, btw! – in the grist. The rest is American pale malt, English pale ale malt plus a touch of melanoidin malt. There’s also Pacific Gem hops – big surprise!
Barleywine – English
This year’s batch of British Barleywine is so smooth – people seem to be catching on:) This recipe has 55 lbs of Chateau biscuit malt blended into the ⅓ Dingemans munich malt to enrich the ⅔ Warminster Pale Ale malt – still loads of First Gold hops. Tastes biscuity malt with a distinct but gentle bitterness; notes of fig, plum, and red currants; orange zest with a hint of cinnamon.
Barleywine – American
The very first batch through our brewhouse, because when you are ultimately a barleywine brewery you might as well just go for it! Featuring German munich malt plus a blend of centennial & pacific gem like a typical batch of GJ American Barleywine, all put through an unrepeatable process. A 10 hour lauter, with less yield than desired, that was first-wort-hopped for the expected yield – we learned a lot that day (that became overnight).
Porter – Baltic
Giant Jones and Working Draft opened a couple months apart, just blocks away from each other, but the lineup of beers flowing from each could hardly be more different. Yet, this collaboration Baltic Porter fits both equally well: a big dark, malty beer that’s a crisp, dry lager.