It’s been a long time coming. Almost two years ago, Matthew Cummings detailed his ambitious plans for his Pretentious empire: First, he’d build a studio for his glass production. Ten months later, he accomplished that goal when Matthew Cummings Studio opened in September of 2015. His second step would be to open a craft beer tasting room. That portion of the plan will begin with a soft opening for family and friends tonight, followed by a Grand Opening Saturday night. In a final step, starting around the first of the year, Pretentious will begin production of its own craft beer.
When I entered the tap room for this interview, I found a group of very tired and very happy guys. Joining Matt for our meeting was Johnny Miller, tap-room manager and Will Brady who will be brewing the beer and other drinks using recipes developed by Matt. Brett Honeycutt, whose company was responsible for the wood portions of the interior construction of the tap room. The furniture is a blend of that wood and metal fabricated by the crew at Pretentious: Everett Hirche, Sam Meketon and David Wiss.
Interestingly, the address was a saloon over 100 years ago when Jim Lay operated the Marble City Saloon. The surviving picture shows the address as 135, but Dr. Knox (whose tone and presentation always seemed to resemble Jack Neely) wrote a brief column on the topic in Metro Pulse, pointing out that the saloon included 133 – 135 for most of its tenure on the street.
Jeffrey Nash passed through examining the new digs and signaled his approval. And it is a beautiful space. The bar was built using three varieties of maple and Chechen. The group likes to call it a “crafted beer bar.” The group said the entire space reflects contributions by the entire team. Will said, “The most important material in the bar is love.” I think his tongue was only a quarter of the way in his cheek. Matt described it as “a bunch of guerillas making something with sweat, blood and passion.”
Matt developed the design and Brett and his crew (Ryan McMillan and Ron Solomon) made it happen. Matt pointed out that he designed the bar and the entire space with the eye of a sculptor rather than an interior designer. His focus was on, “tonal contrast, natural materials and texture.” He said he sees the bar as a diary of sorts of the extended business, representing the materials used. The tap handles will be different color and textured glass – with that ubiquitous, pretentious mustache, of course.
At the present, you’ll be able to enjoy the very best local, regional and national craft beers from their eighteen taps. Live music is planned on a stage to be built in the courtyard. Concerts will be ticketed events, with an emphasis on bringing in high-caliber artists and paying them for their performance. The first will be this weekend, featuring Josiah and the Greater Good, and it will be a free show. Music starts at 9:00 PM. William Wild is scheduled for November 4 with performances planned for once or twice a month.
The group is also excited about the food plans. Chef Jeffrey Dealejandro, owner of Oli Bea, just two doors away on Central, will partner with the group to provide the bar food. Pork skins, pickled vegetables, deli beans with tumeric, dips, nut mix, and cheese nibs are likely early candidates. Foods will rotate seasonally and based on chef’s preference.
The beer will also rotate regularly, both before and after the group begins brewing. The plan calls for a wide range of styles of beer. Matt says they want the best beer available whether it be local regional or national and that’s what you’ll find. After the group starts brewing, the emphasis on frequent rotations will continue. At the grand opening, you should find a smoked wheat IPA from Black Abby. Alliance Brewing Company is throwing in a surprise special cask. Gypsy Circus craft beer, as well as local favorites Crafty Bastard and Last Days of Autumn will also be available.
Matt also plans to have a couple of non-alcoholic beverages on hand at all times and they won’t be your grocery store variety sodas. He’ll brew his own and the first will be a muscadine soda, which will be available this weekend, made from fresh, local muscadines. He said he’ll shop the Market Square Farmers’ Market this weekend to see what he might make next. He’ll also be making kombucha, though that won’t be available for about another month.
Seating is available for 29 inside and 49 outside, with additional standing room at the beautiful drink rails. Fans and heaters outside will make that space useful the majority of the year. Watch for special events such as food pairings and more. Regular hours begin this Saturday with the grand opening and are as follows: Wednesday and Thursday, 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday, 4:00 PM – Midnight and Sunday from Noon to 8:00 PM.