Cookeville’s first microbrewery opening soon

Red Silo logo

Red Silo will be welcome addition to city’s historic West Side

COOKEVILLE – Craft beer drinkers, rejoice. A microbrewery is finally opening in Cookeville, marking a first for the city – and the Upper Cumberland alike.

Red Silo Brewing Company, a startup nearly two years in the making, is aiming for an April or May debut. It will be Cookeville’s first brewery – opening nearly six years after the founding of Calfkiller Brewing Company in nearby Sparta. But Red Silo also plans to operate the UC’s first taproom operation, where customers can sit and sample their craft concoctions, listen to music and hang.

It will also update a city corner long considered an eyesore on Cookeville’s West Side. Red Silo proprietors are currently renovating a 4,700-square-foot space at Cedar Avenue and First Street, next door to Father Tom’s Pub, a former auto body shop in a historic commercial center.

“It’s just going to be a fun hangout place, where we can sell our wares, get to know the community and help support the community,” said Elijah Thomen, one of four owners involved and Red Silo’s chief marketing officer. “A lot of people are excited to see us come in because they know we’re going to dress up that area and bring in a lot of people. Craft breweries always bring in tourists.”

In addition to Thomen, owners include Jim Helton, chief operating officer, who will serve as head brewer; Mark Van der Bleek, a chemical engineer, Red Silo’s chief executive officer; and Rich Winkle. Thomen said they all connected via home brewing, a common thread in most craft beer operations. All played a big role in pushing a local law change that helped pave the way for their business.

Red Silo will use a five-barrel system; Thomen said they purchased used equipment from a now defunct California brewery that will be delivered next week. If all the rest goes according to plan, Red Silo should open for business in late April or early May, he said. In the meantime, they are sponsoring and serving at events like the Cummins Falls Marathon Feb. 27 and the Kiwanis Cookeville Children’s Museum‘s March 12 Gangster Gala.

“Right now we have about 30 recipes that we’re pretty solid with, so we’ll keep those rotated out,” he said. “Compared to Calfkiller, ours is going to be slightly bigger, but we’ll still have a small batch (mentality). We’re a microbrewery, so we can produce a lot of beers and keep the taps moving. People always want to try something new.”

Thomen said Red Silo will distribute locally to area restaurants soon after its opening. There are plans, too, to venture statewide, eventually canning their product for sale.

Red Silo received financing from Progressive Savings Bank. While he declined to share their estimates for sales, Putnam County is a prime market. Thomen said a friend, Manny Edwards, is looking to open a similar operation, Jig Head Brewing Company, in Baxter. It’s almost guaranteed more will follow.

“We have definitely paved the way for other breweries to come in,” Thomen said. “Craft breweries are a destination. And when there’s several breweries open, there will be business opportunities for other people, like food trucks and brew tours. We’re going to have a great time.”

For more information about Red Silo Brewing Company, visit (Thomen said they were the first to operate under a new “.beer” domain name) or follow their progress on

Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at