Veteran-owned distillery to open in Urbana

The John Wesley Distillery, located at 622 1/2 College Way in Urbana, is expected to open before January or shortly after with moonshine.

Matthew Brown, an Urbana native and disabled U.S. Army veteran, decided to open a distillery after he returned home from serving in the military for eight years.

Brown said a week before leaving to serve in Iraq, his cousin passed away. He added that his cousin was his best friend.

“When I got back and left the military, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and I really wanted to make his name live on some how because he meant everything to me," Brown said.

“I started thinking about it and all we did was go fishing, have some drinks and have a good time. That’s what we did all the time. We were always together," he added.

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About five years ago, Brown said he decided that he would open a distillery in his cousin’s honor. Brown bought a still and started experimenting with different moonshine recipes.

“I became obsessed with it," Brown said.

“A lot of these guys that do it right now they have had stuff passed down to them from generation to generation, so I was kind of behind in that aspect of it," he said. "I didn’t have the knowledge, so I had to become obsessed if I wanted to catch up with them.”

The John Wesley Distillery will have traditional corn-liquor moonshine with flavors including lemon drop, strawberry lemonade, blueberry lemonade, dreamsickle and snickerdoodle.

Brown said about six months after opening they will have whiskey. He is also planning to have bourbon in three years.

The whiskey at the distillery will be aged in oak barrels for about six months and the bourbon will be aged for three years before it is ready to be sold, Brown explained.

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Once the distillery opens, Brown said he hopes to “bring people together” to sample the new products and enjoy food from different food trucks.

The license he has applied for allows him to give samples and sell bottles of his products at the manufacturing site and to sell his products to distributors and retailers.

In the future, Brown said he hopes his distillery will be compared to the “bigger guys” like Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s.

“I don’t want to be just a little distillery that just gets by," Brown said. "I want to really get big, create jobs, help out my family.”

Brown added that he hopes the distillery will help drive other business to the Urbana area.

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