Cisco Brewers was founded when homebrewers Randy & Wendy Hudson crossed paths with Dean & Melissa Long, the founders and owners of Nantucket Vineyard. Wendy had gained experience homebrewing with friends in California, and in 1992 she met Randy after moving back to the island. Intuitively she knew Randy would be a great brewer (as well as her eventual husband) so she bought him a brew kit. As he started brewing, he found that his experience working at a local bakery gave him a certain instinct for working with yeast and grain, so after one batch using malt extract, Randy left the guidebook behind and converted a rarely used pasta roller into a grain mill. He developed new recipes that not only he enjoyed, but impressed Wendy too. It was a match made in beer heaven.
Around this time Randy and Wendy met the Longs, who had established Nantucket Vineyard on the western half of the island back in 1981. It was a fortuitous encounter; because the Longs needed help at the winery, and the Hudsons needed a home, Randy and Wendy moved in to a loft above the winery. Eventually, the Hudsons made the decision to start selling beer, and Cisco Brewers was born. Initially, their entire “nano-brewery” as Wendy refers to it, with the exception of the air-conditioned cold storage room, existed almost entirely outside in the Longs’ backyard. In 1996 they met Jay Harman, another aspiring brewer who had wanted to establish a brewery on the island until he discovered the Hudsons had beaten him to it. So Jay joined Cisco to help run the operation, and as evidence of his dedication, he personally capped sixty thousand bottles by hand in his first year alone (the “nano-brewery” was a very labor intensive operation at that time!).
Knowing that the brewery needed more room to expand, Dean had a new building constructed to house both the growing brewery and winery operation in 1996. It was also around this time that Dean began sensing the synergy between their current products and high-proof spirits. A few other craft breweries have established successful distilleries in recent years (Dogfish Head and Rogue come to mind), but Dean’s foresight at that time was impressive. After jumping through Massachusetts’ legal hoops for three years, Triple Eight Distillery began producing spirits in 2000. They now produce an excellent line of Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, and Gin.