Updated at 6:21 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, with more information.
Chattanooga native Nathan Michaels has returned to his hometown to open Five Wits Brewing Company with long-time Denver brewers Elliot Kehoe and Bryan Harris.
Five Wits Brewing Company will open this fall in the former Grocery Bar on Main Street, which closed in 2015.
The new venture will also house a restaurant incubator, R&D Test Kitchen, which will host a rotating line-up of up-and-coming aspiring chefs and restaurateurs from all over the country. These aspiring chefs will apply for a residency program to occupy and operate their restaurant concepts in the R&D Test Kitchen as the sole food offering for the Five Wits Brewing tap room.
After nearly a decade in the Mile-High city, Michaels said he decided to return to Chattanooga last year alongside two friends and tenured brewers, Kehoe and Harris, who met while working together at Great Divide Brewing in Denver.
"After spending so much time living in Denver and watching craft breweries in the city continue to grow, I became super passionate about not only the craft of brewing beer but also the opportunity to be a part of the community and culture that comes along with it," Michael said.
Although the Main Street storefront has been vacant for the past four years, Michaels said it is ideally located "in the heart of the Southside in Chattanooga," which continues to attract new housing and development.
"It's all about finding the right location," he said. "Starting your own business is super challenging and we wanted to find a place that we knew we could contribute to and bring our craft to a community that is growing."
Dillard Construction Co. is remodeling the 14,258-square-foot building at Long and Main Street into the new brewery and restaurant, which will include a new covered patio, along with space for some other tenants. Michaels said the tap room should include about 60 indoors seats and the beer garden outdoors on the patio should have about 40 to 50 seats.
As a licensed microbrewery, Five Wits will sell its beer both on premises and to other bars and off-premise buyers.
The storefront was originally built in 1965 and was acquired in 2015 for $1.3 million by an investment group known as BYD Long, GP, according to the Hamilton County Assessor's Office.
Michaels said in visits back to his hometown he has seen the growth of local breweries, including Big River, Terminal Brewhouse, Hutton & Smith, Chattanooga Brewing Co, Wanderlinger Brewing Co., Heaven & Ale Brewing Co., Naked River Brewing, OddStory, Mad Knight and Big Frog.
"I was starting to see a local craft beer community flourishing," said Michaels, who with Kehoe and Harris collectively bring 15 years of brewing experience to their new venture. "This group will not only bring great brews to this project, but also a big vision to be a great addition to the Chattanooga craft brewing community. "
The growing number of local breweries opening in the past few years in downtown Chattanooga can help lure more business, rather than just compete with one another, Michaels said.
"We are huge advocates for collaboration and have spent our entire brewing careers in Denver in a culture of camaraderie amongst the breweries in that community," he said. "It's not just about the beer, it's about growing an amazing group of breweries that all work together to help put a city on the map as a respected brewing community. And that's exactly what we are hoping to be a part of here in Chattanooga."
Kehoe will be Five Wits Brewing Company's lead brewer and is working to put together a line-up of hand-crafted beers that will complement the offerings that are available East Tennessee.
"It's been an exciting and incredible experience to meet all of the local Chattanooga brewers over the past year," says Kehoe. "Chattanooga has it's own unique identity and we hope that Five Wits Brewing Company will be a big part of helping the city's beer community continue to thrive."
The Five Wits is a reference to William Shakespeare's description of human's five senses "and we're trying to highlight the sensory experience of beer," Michaels said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340