Schulz Brau Brewing Company is another very cool business coming to that section of downtown bounded by Central, Old Gray Cemetery and Broadway. It’s a couple of blocks west of the Art and Salvage Shop and the future home of Maker’s Donuts. It’s a block from Hops and Hollers. It may be the hottest area of the city for development at the moment. When it all comes together it will be a much sought after spot and will be very active.
The name of the business has been circulating in the beer community for months after their appearance at Brewer’s Jam last October. That’s about the time I contacted Nico Schulz who, along with his parents, Wolfgang and Ilona, owns the business. The three of them will manage operations and will be joined by Nico’s brother Stephan when his current work contract allows. We tried, without success, to get together through November when Nico traveled to his native Germany for the remainder of the year. A one month trip evolved into a nearly four month trip when Nico had difficulty securing his Visa. It put the project behind its projected schedule with the opening slipping from spring into summer or later.
Before we got into the plan, I had to know how a young guy from Northern Germany ended up in Knoxville, Tennessee opening a brewery. As you might guess, several flukes were involved. His parents brought him to the States a number of times when he was younger and he grew up loving the country. When it came time for college, he knew he would cross the ocean for four years. But where?
Online research led him to the Food Science program at the University of Kentucky. He applied, was accepted and moved there in 2009. He’d never been to Kentucky until the day he arrived to start school there. Missing the beers in his native country, he began making his own lagers, first in his house, then as he got more ambitious, in his garage. He describes his favorite lagers as “easily drinkable, about 5% alcohol, not as hoppy as other beers and a bit more crisp.” He noted that they take twice as long to produce.
Along the way he interned with a small brewery in Germany and took brewing science classes in Chicago. Oh, and along with a few others, started a small brewery in Lexington. With roots growing deeper in Kentucky, another city seemed an unlikely turn in the story, but two things happened: His father, mechanical engineer Wolfgang Schulz began traveling regularly to Knoxville on business. Eventually his parents moved to Knoxville.
The final straw may have come when his fiancee began pharmacy school at South College in the city. His connections and trips to Knoxville became more frequent. He and his father started scouting locations and had a specific vision in mind for how large a space they needed. A beer garden would be essential, which required more space. Eventually they found exactly what they were looking for at 126 – 130 Bernard. The space not only included enough square footage for the brewery and tap room: It already had an enclosed courtyard just wanting a beer garden to be in its midst.
The former warehouse includes 8200 square feet inside and 5500 square feet in what will soon be a beer garden. Taken all together there is room for hundreds. The Schulz’s are not thinking small. A second bar will be included in the beer garden and the operations will include a 30 barrel system, which I learned means they can produce up to sixty kegs at a time. And it may get larger. They plan to not only produce beer for this large tap room, but to distribute it, as well.
The tasting room will include a curved glass wall separating the bar from the brewing operation, but allowing a full view of the production. A four-sided, 7’2” tall fireplace will be centered in the room and is in keeping with the castle theme being developed. Also included will be pool tables and dart boards. The current mezzanine will be removed, but a new one will be built in the bar area to provide additional seating – and maybe a cool place for live music, which Nico intends to incorporate at some point.
The courtyard will include a fountain and, eventually, a kitchen will be built in part of that space. Initially simple food items will be offered, though some expansion of the menu may follow construction of the kitchen. It will not, however, be a restaurant. Construction on both parts of the project should begin within the next week. Architectural design is by Gary Best and Associates.
So, by late summer or fall – Nico strongly wants to be open by Oktoberfest – a castle should take form in this funky little section of town. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Told you it would be a cool part of town. Go to Facebook and like their page and start showing them some Knoxville love.