Nostalgic Nod

A framed photograph of female pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program of World War II adorns a wall at the B52 Winery.
World War II, female pilots are themes of taproom, winery

Celebrating female pilots who served in World War II may seem like an unusual concept for a winery, but for Jeff Wescott it’s been lucky.

A beer-making effort that began as a “little bit of a hobby” for Wescott became Lucky Girl Brewing Crossroads, a taproom and restaurant located at the crossroads of M-40 and M-43, between Paw Paw and Gobles, and then saw the addition of the B52 Winery next door.

In 2014, Wescott started Lucky Girl Brewing Co. by making beers to sell at local retail establishments. A bit of a military buff, he was enamored with the World War II generation and designed a label for his bottles celebrating the pin-up art of that era.

“World War II was the greatest generation. It’s when the country took off,” he says.

In 2017 Wescott decided to go bigger with his brewing efforts, teaming up with Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, Pennsylvania, to brew and package beers and opening the Lucky Girl taproom and restaurant. While its decor reflected Wescott’s nostalgic fascination with the World War II era, he also kept an eye on the future.

“When I was opening the brewery, it made sense also to get my winery license,” Wescott says. “There’s a fair amount of women who do not like beer or cider, and I needed to figure out how to offer wine.”

Wine and women

In 2019, Wescott opened the B52 Winery. When it came to the winery’s decor, Wescott wanted to keep a World War II theme but honor female pilots who served in the war as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. More than 1,000 women were WASP pilots, flying planes, including bombers, from factories to military bases as part of the war effort. The program was terminated shortly after the war.

WASP pilots adorn the labels on the B52 Winery’s bottles, including Kalamazoo native and Air Zoo co-founder Suzanne “Suzie” Upjohn DeLano Parish and pilots from marginalized groups such as Native Americans and Asian Americans.

“They were all pin-up perfect,” but it was their stories and actions made these women pilots exceptional, Wescott says. One of the jobs that the WASPs performed was to tow targets for training missions.

“It makes a great label,” he says, showing the artwork.

On the menu

In addition to the locally made libations, which include beers, ciders, meads and wines, Lucky Girl and B52 Winery also serve food.

Wescott describes the menu as “eclectic,” noting that it has grown and been adapted over time. “I started off my with own barbecue and rubs,” he says. “I soon realized that not everybody wants to eat barbecue every night.”

Wescott called on Chef Pedro Angel, a former Chicago-area partner, to come to Michigan to collaborate on the Lucky Girl menu. The result is a menu with a little of everything, from crabcakes to tacos and pizza.

With the success of Lucky Girl, Angel has plans to open his own taco and tequila bar down M-43 in Bangor. When that opens, both Angel’s establishment and Lucky Girl will feature a private-label Mexican-style beer that Wescott is currently working on.

Wescott is also collaborating with Kim Mandigo, a local home brewer for 25 years, to produce meads and ciders for Wescott’s establishments.

The brewery and winery also offer opportunities for local musicians to perform.

Eight years after deciding to brew beer for a living, Wescott sees only the sky as the limit for his enterprises. He has ideas of showing outdoor movies during the summer and hosting a charging station for electric vehicles as he stands poised for takeoff.

Julie Smith

Julie is a Plainwell-based freelance writer.

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