Lebanon is experiencing an emergence of a craft beer scene that could put it on the map as a destination brew hub.
The city recently announced that East Nashville Beer Works would be opening a Lebanon location in 2023 on Highway 109.
By next year, Lebanon will be home to at least three breweries — East Nashville Brew Works, Cedar City Brewing Company and Tenn Lakes Brewing Company. It’s part of a larger trend of social gathering places establishing presences in Wilson County.
East Nashville Brew Works is an expansion location. The company president Anthony Davis indicated that it will not only bring their services to Wilson County but it will also increase the company’s brewing capacity. East Nashville Brew Works currently brews about 2000 barrels annually.
“We are going to Texas-size everything,” Davis said. “We are making a bigger version of our East Nashville location. We’ll have more than 30 beer taps and a full bar with liquor and wine offerings. We have wine and cider in East Nashville, but I feel like with there not being much on 109, a full bar would be a hit.”
Davis mentioned that he had been exploring opening a venue in the proposed location for several years. With the development taking place out there now, he felt that the iron was hot to strike, saying they saw the “writing on the wall.”
“Publix had already done all the market research for us,” Davis said. “The rooftops are there. As long as people embrace us and our concept, then, we will be fine.”
That concept features their full menu, including signature pizzas, and will involve playground along an outdoor section.
Cedar City Brewing Company
Cedar City Brewing Company, a brain child of three Wilson County locals, is eyeing a summer opening on the square in Lebanon.
The race to be the first commercial brewery open in operation is underway. Cedar City and Tenn Lakes are both eager to claim that moniker.
The long-time friends, Cody McCray, Kyle Shaffer and Cody Lannom, are looking at a late summer opening for the renovated space on the northeast corner of the square.
“It’s an aggressive date, but we are all hands on deck,” Lannom said. “At the end of the day, we want to be considered Wilson County’s first commercial brewery.”
All three men are certified brewers and are eager to offer their expertise to Lebanon customers. Lannom indicated that the feeling is mutual.
“There is a community here that is super thirsty for something like this,” Lannom said. “We’re not even open yet, but we have been active on social media. Whenever we post something, we get thousands of engagements and hundreds of people commenting and liking and sharing. We want people to be able to come in and have a community atmosphere, and we want them to be able to come in and choose a variety of beers.”
Tenn Lakes Brewing Company
For one of the up-and-coming brewers, Nic Morris of Tenn Lakes Brewing, the dream to go commercial started out as a hobby.
“I started home brewing several years ago,” Morris said. ““Several years ago, my wife bought me a Target home-brew kit. It was a joke, like, ‘Oh he likes beer. Well, make your own.’
“I got that and realized pretty quickly, I like doing it. Once I got my friend Rob (Eisenlohr) involved, we started making more and more beer. Then, we decided, ‘Hey man, we should turn this into business.’ ”
Morris and Eisenlohr have been friends since they were 12 years old, having grown up together in Lebanon.
Starting a commercial brewing business would require both Morris and Eisenlohr’s blood, sweat and tears, but there was one legislative hurdle they would have to clear as well.
“When we started down this trail, we learned that we had to get some laws changed in the city,” Morris said. “Manufacturing beverages or having a brewery inside city limits was illegal. We just got the city’s approval.”
Morris is eyeing an early-fall opening, with big plans as soon as the doors open.
“We are planning a 10-barrel system,” Morris said. “We are going to offer food like pizza, sandwiches and wings. Obviously, we are going to be a family-friendly environment. We will also have a pretty good-sized outdoor patio.
“We are going into an arena that no one has ventured down. It was surprising to us that a town this size did not have a microbrewery.”
Morris spouted off a line-up that included everything from blonde beers to India Pale Ales.
“We will probably mix it up and see what people like,” Morris said. “It might take us a few months to see what people enjoy around here.”
The Cedar Tap
The Cedar Tap opened just off the square in October of 2021. It’s become a hangout spot for Thursday trivia and live music on the weekends.
While it doesn’t offer beer made in house, one of the owners, Matt Poole, indicated that a constant rotation of taps ensures that guests can try something new with every visit.
“We have a draft list of 24 beers, four wines, and we have some whiskey shelves going in soon,” Poole said. “All of our lineup rotates weekly. We don’t really have anything that repeats.”
Poole was raised in Mt. Juliet and works during the day as an audio engineer. He met his business partner, Ryan Jensen, eight years ago while playing music. Jensen is a co-owner of Marrowbone Creek Brewing Company in Ashland City.
Although it is just his first foray into the beer business, Poole said that feedback has been almost exclusively positive.
“I think the community as a whole is really happy to have stuff like this coming into Wilson County and Lebanon and more specifically the downtown-square area,” Poole said.