Just a few days shy of a year ago I helped announce the brewery project headed by Nico Schulz, along with his parents and his brother. The huge warehouse at 126 Bernard Avenue didn’t look like much at the time, but the dreams were big. As big as a castle. Nico intended to build a castle fit to hold the traditional German beer he intended to brew. Already a veteran with one brewery under his belt (in Kentucky), he hoped to open Schulz Brau Brewing Company by Oktoberfest. It wasn’t to be.
Construction delays and various issues have caused the opening date to be pushed back months at a time. He also did things like get engaged to Brittany Maynard, a pharmacist in Sevierville. This time, it appears the stars are aligned and he’s committed to a May 19 opening. After a May 7 wedding and a week-long honeymoon, the couple will return to open the brewery as they start their marriage. They are going to have more than a few things going on for the next couple of months.
Approaching the building, it quickly becomes obvious something very different is happening here. Merlons project from the top of the wall. A castle gate protrudes from the front with massive, arched wooden doors. Through the doors a yawning expanse opens to reveal a beautiful great hall. Iron chandeliers hang from the high ceilings. The dark tile floors, wooden bar and mezzanine make a space that is both huge and warm.
Light spills in from the back of the building through large new window openings which were added during the construction. A projection screen and large screen televisions are mounted on the wall – and more will be added behind the bar – to show sports or DVDs of Germany. A high-end sound system has been installed.
To the left as you enter, through massive glass panels, sit the tanks for brewing the beer. There are six tanks, four of which are sixty barrel and two of which are 30 barrel, and all well in scale with their surroundings. The brew room also has room for expansion of additional tanks.
Room has also been reserved for a canning machine which will likely be added within the next year. The same area has a new structure for offices and a lab. A section of the original mezzanine remains in this room and is used for grain storage. All the ingredients are from Germany and like beer brewed in that country, it will be chemical-free and only contain water, hops, yeast and malt.
While specific brews will be announced on the brewery’s Facebook Page, you can expect German lagers and ales, though he said there will probably be some fun batches of specialty beers added occasionally. Initially he hopes to have four taps of his own beer flowing behind the bar, but he plans to increase that to twelve as rapidly as possible. An additional eight “guest taps” will serve beer from local or regional breweries, offering IPAs and other styles of beer not brewed by the company.
Outside the main hall a large courtyard or biergarten will offer tables and benches. Trees have been planted and an outside bar will serve patrons enjoying the outdoor area, though the entire courtyard may not be open initially as construction is yet to be completed. Pavers will be added to give it a stone appearance and plans for the outside area include live music.
A commercial kitchen is planned for later and features entrances from inside the great hall and from the courtyard. Initially food will be served by food trucks and the build-out of the kitchen will come later, though it is plumbed and a grease interceptor has been added. It’s possible Nico will look to contract out the culinary portion of the business so he can focus on his specialty: making good beer.
Much of the lumber throughout is recycled. The bar top is under construction by Smoky Mountain Vintage Lumber just down Central Street. The sides of the bar and the flooring for the new mezzanine are made from the wood from the removed portion of the original mezzanine. The trusses under the new mezzanine were also moved over.
The mezzanine will be open for use any time the brewery is open, but it also may be reserved for private parties. It offers a great view of the hall, but is separated in such a way that most of it is out of sight from below. The furniture throughout the entire brewery has been purchased and imported from Germany where, Nico explained, all the furniture from Oktoberfest is replaced each year. The massive space is cleared for occupancy – in all three areas combined – of over 500 people, though a comfortable number would be well less than that and that’s what he expects.
Work remains to be done over the next two months and approvals are still awaited from the Fire Marshall and the Department of Agriculture before brewing may begin. The Health Department will have to inspect before customers arrive. A staff will be hired beginning in the next week or so and Nico plans to open with about ten to twelve bartenders and will add more later. The point of service system has to be put into place, as well.
The family is committed to the May 19 opening and he anticipates opening seven days a week starting that day. Hours are still under discussion, but will probably be 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM Monday through Wednesday, and noon to midnight or 1:00 AM on weekends. Follow the Facebook Page for updates and get ready for a trip to the castle!