EXCLUSIVE: UC lands another brewery

Hix Farm Brewery is planning a late summer opening in Cookeville.
Hix Farm Brewery is planning a late summer opening in Cookeville.
Hix Farm Brewery is planning a late summer opening in Cookeville.

COOKEVILLE – Cookeville appears poised to add a second brewery to its roster later this year – one that’s set to specialize in high gravity and ultra small-batch beers.

JB and Malcolm Young, Colorado residents, plan to open Hix Farm Brewery at 54 S. Cedar Ave. on Cookeville’s West Side – roughly 1,000 feet from the city’s first planned microbrewery, Red Silo, which is expected to debut soon.

The husband and wife team have Upper Cumberland ties. JB’s mother is a native Tennessean who grew up outside Cookeville, and her grandfather and great-uncle founded Hix Bros. Tractor, a local staple. The planned nanobrewery – think microbrewery, just smaller – will specialize in unique, small-batch beers. Their taproom will start with 10 selections – with room to grow.

Long-term, the pair – both engineers by trade – hope to repurpose, in sorts, a 1790-era Jackson County family farm by growing most of their own ingredients locally, namely barley and hops – which seemingly grow well in the south.

The brewery will combine their love for beer and put the acreage to good use.

“We sort of did this backward,” Malcolm Young admits. “Most people want to start a brewery because they’re home brewers, and they want to go pro. But we’re all about trying to find a use for the farm, to make the family farm profitable. We both live in Colorado right now, and the state has a fantastic microbrewery economy, so we know the demand is growing drastically every year.”

The Youngs are currently bootstrapping the new venture, funding the operation themselves. They have hired a head brewer, Joshua Rapaport, and are using regionally and state-sourced resources whenever possible.

The Hix family farm is located in Flynns Lick in Jackson County. Photo provided
The Hix family farm is located in Flynns Lick in Jackson County. Photo provided

While they weren’t necessarily active in recent legislative changes that paved the way for craft breweries in Cookeville, they hope to further those efforts. Malcolm Young said they plan to obtain a high gravity beer license – for brews with over 5 percent alcohol by weight, or 6.2 ABV – which will allow Hix Farm Brewery to craft specialty, one-off creations.

“There’s a long way to go still, there’s still some funky things as far as their definitions of a brewery, but (the new legislation) certainly gives us a foothold to get started,” he said. “We want people to understand that beer is really a culinary art and not just an alcoholic beverage. Large-scale breweries – Bud Light, Miller Lite – their branding all focuses on, ‘it’s an alcohol beverage, and it helps you party,’ and that’s not really what microbrewers are about. We’re excited to bring new, really interesting beer into the area.”

The pair expects Cookeville’s craft beer scene to blossom –that already seems to be happening. Hix Farm is the second craft brewer to announce plans to open this year; even Red Silo’s founders knew others would ride their coattails. The Youngs compare the city to a similarly sized community in Colorado, Greeley, which now has 12 microbreweries to its name; Cookeville, they think, could handle that kind of capacity.

“We’re far from saturation point,” JB Young said. “The more breweries you have, the better it is for all the businesses. I think three or four is where you really start seeing benefits. If Greeley can have 12, I’d imagine Cookeville could easily have that many. It’d be really nice to turn Cookeville into this beer capital of the (Upper Cumberland).

“Red Silo’s done a lot to pave the way,” she added, “and we look forward to working with them and creating more favorable laws. We’re really trying to grow the whole brewery industry in Tennessee.”

There’s no specific opening date for Hix Farm Brewery, although early estimates are for late summer. The Youngs are still working through the permit phase – but build out should progress rapidly once approved, they said. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/hixfarmbrewery/

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

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