McMinnville next in UC’s craft beer boom

McMinnville next in UC’s craft beer boom

By LIZ ENGEL – UCBJ Editor

 

WARREN COUNTY – A McMinnville homebrewer is ready to throw his hat in the growing craft beer ring.

Chris Weitzel plans to open Depot Bottom Brewery later this year. But step one? He’ll first debut a home brew shop and sell supplies – filling a much-needed niche for others interested in the trade.

Once the taproom’s ready, it’ll be at least the fifth brewery to open in the Upper Cumberland – and the fourth in less than a year’s span. The UC has been slow to catch onto the craft brewery boom but is quickly gaining ground.

“I think a lot of people in our area are getting use to the idea of craft beer,” Weitzel said. “The Upper Cumberland area is definitely a good candidate for a lot of small, nano and macro breweries.

Depot Bottom will be McMinnville’s first brewery, and Weitzel – who is partnering with his wife Becky and friend Jacob Bozarth in the venture – hopes it will both pay homage to McMinnville’s past as well as bolster an already vibrant downtown.

The brewery will locate at 303 E. Main St., a stones throw from businesses like Collins River BBQ, Juicy’s Wellness Cafe and newcomer Cumberland Biscuit Company, which opened in May. The name Depot Bottom pays homage to an area located right behind Main Street, once home to a train depot and former industrial hub after the Civil War.

“We really wanted to be in downtown McMinnville,” he said. “We have a beautiful downtown, everything is within walking distance, and we want to draw people to that.”

Weitzel, who has five years of homebrew experience, will start with a one-barrel system. So far, favorites have included a lemon blueberry IPA, a cranberry blonde and apple brandy red ale – another nod to the past. Apple brandy was a major cash crop in Warren County in the reconstruction years. But, he says, expect a wide variety on tap.

“To me, it’s no fun to stick with one type of beer,” he said. “We’re probably going to stay small batch with a steady rotation. So far, we’ve had a really good response.

“We’re hoping in the future we can get picked up by restaurants, things like that, but besides that, we’re mostly focusing on our taproom. If you want to come have a beer, come check us out and hopefully take a growler home with you.”

The 2,000-square-foot space will be partitioned – taproom on one side, home brew shop on the other. As of press time, Weitzel planned to open the homebrew shop in May. The taproom will follow later this year: likely this fall or winter.

Not only will Depot Bottom sell supplies, but Weitzel said they plan to hold craft beer classes as well.

“Given everything going on with the craft beer culture, we really want to promote that in McMinnville. That’s why we’re going to have the home brew shop, because there’s really one in our area or anywhere close,” he said. “Anything you’d need, we’ll be able to provide for you.”

Depot Bottom, once open, will join for other breweries already open in the UC – Calfkiller in Sparta, which debuted in 2010, and three in Cookeville, Red Silo, Jig Head and Hix Farm Brewery.

It’s likely more will follow. Weitzel said he’s already been approached by others in town with similar craft beer aspirations. But for now, there’s a lot of “wait and see.”

“In three or four years, yeah, I could definitely see another brewery opening (in McMinnville),” he said. “A lot of people are watching us. If all goes well, I can definitely see other people jumping in.”