It seems these days that the most successful way to revitalize a city’s downtown area is to add a brewery. So when longtime residents and husband and wife duo Bill and Penny Burt approached the city of Monticello last year inquiring why the zoning laws prohibited a brewery in their town, it started the ball rolling to make a change—and open Rustech Brewing.
However, the story behind the brewery, which opens May 26, really begins five years prior.
“I promised my coworker, Nick Stanley [Ph.D.], that he was going to be blamed for all of this,” Bill, says with a laugh, gesturing to the brewery surrounding us. The two met at a local filtration company where they still work. Stanley, an avid homebrewer, invited Bill over to take a look and see if he could come up with a software system to assist in his brewing process. Bill was immediately on board, as he found the existing system to be quite confusing. He told Stanley, “the only thing is, if I’m going to design it for you, I’ll have to do it for myself too.” Thus began Bill’s non-stop homebrewing streak.
With the brewing software up and running, Bill originally thought he would market the system to other breweries to further his involvement in an industry he was greatly enjoying. During that process, it occurred to him that it made more sense to open his own brewery. When reflecting back on the day Bill came home and announced his intentions to open his own brewery, Penny says, “we’ve been married 21 years and I’ve got his back. That’s what you do, even though I thought he was crazy.”
Despite her initial reaction, Penny has become very involved in the process. With the brewery planning to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, she had the idea to use the space to bring in groups that organize events like canvas painting, pallet painting, and succulent planting. Penny has also booked food trucks on the weekends for the next six months. In addition to the food trucks, patrons will be able to have food delivered from Cornerstone Café, situated right across the parking lot.
In January, brewer John Thrailkill joined the Rustech team. Thrailkill connected with the Burts through their son, James, a high school senior. Thrailkill has worked in the auto industry for several years and met James when he started an after school job at the same place. When James mentioned that his parents were opening a brewery, Thrailkill jumped at the chance to start his commercial brewing career after homebrewing for many years. Upon graduation, James will be heading to basic training for the Army followed immediately by his Advanced Individual Training. Thrailkill also has combat experience and it is important to him and the Burts to create a space that, at different points throughout the year, will honor those who have served.
Rustech’s beer will be brewed on a five-barrel system and will cover a wide variety of styles. Penny likes beers she jokingly calls “weird” and always infuses fruit flavors into her beer. Bill really enjoys wheat beers and has a solid IPA recipe he’s been perfecting for years. Thrailkill is partial to Belgian- and German-style beers. But the Rustech team are also very open to discovering what the community likes and adapting its recipes to keep the town’s people happy.
The meaning behind the name of the brewery is twofold, according to Penny. “‘Rust’ means the rustic theme throughout the building and the ‘tech’ represents the technical aspect of it,” she says. True to his passion, Bill focuses on the technical side and will use the same software system he developed for homebrewing for the production brewery. He will also hang monitors in clearly visible locations providing details for where each beer is at in the brewing process. Penny has done much of the design and decorating herself with rusty pulleys, gears, and other steampunk decor, juxtaposed alongside natural wood for the bar. The paint colors create a warm, welcoming feel where patrons will be able to follow the instructions on their growlers: “Gather, enjoy, and relax.”
Brewers: Bill and Penny Burt, John Thrailkill
Address: 105 West Third Street, Monticello
Beers: An IPA, wheat beer, blonde ale, and brown ale
Grand Opening: May 26, 2018 from 4–11pm
Hours: Wed: 3pm–9pm; Thu: 3pm–10pm; Fri: 3pm–11pm; Sat: 11am–11pm; Sun: 11am–6pm