By Heather Short
When it comes time to PCS, some people arrive in a new city and only see it as a temporary home. For others, they see so much more when they arrive in the Fort Campbell area. They see the sprawling farmlands and surrounding cities growing at an intense rate. They look out at their new surroundings and wonder what they can do to make it better. Three Army veterans, two of whom are currently active duty, have decided to permanently call this area home and have settled down in both Clarksville and Hopkinsville, respectively, to share their passion for brewing local craft beer.
After spending time living in Alaska, Ohio and Vermont during his adolescence, Nathan Manese joined the Army and promptly found himself being stationed overseas in Germany. While he had always enjoyed beer, it was his time in Germany that really exposed him to the distinct and flavorful taste of craft beer. “Seeing all the old breweries and getting a taste of the amazing beer there helped develop that passion,” Manese said. He knew that coming home to the United States, it would be difficult finding that same level of craft he had fallen in love with. With that in mind, he turned to home brewing with the hope of recreating those tastes. Soon after, Manese created his own recipes and began sharing his home brew with local friends, who just couldn’t get enough. Their reactions to the beer that Manese already loved himself planted a seed for an idea to take this love and make it into something bigger.
Manese moved to Clarksville almost five years ago, and at that point, the thought of opening a brewery of his own had not crossed his mind. He knew Nashville has a wide variety breweries but Clarksville only has one. With Clarksville’s ever-growing population, the want for additional brew pubs is certainly there. Manese thought about what it would take to move forward with opening a brewery of his own and continued to home brew during that time. About three years ago, he made the leap from dreaming about owning a brewery to officially beginning to formulate a plan of action. He began putting together an impressively detailed business plan to present to bankers and investors.
Now that the idea was blossoming into reality, Manese needed a name for his future brewery. Early on, he confidently settled on one with significant meaning: The Fallen Brewery. Military life has exposed him to the reality of life and loss, whether it has been from suicide, deaths downrange or even illness. Years ago, Manese served as a firefighter and faced the heartbreak of losing fellow firefighters in the line of duty. “There is just a brotherhood that is found in the military, in the fire department, police department and EMTs,” Manese said. “I want to pay my respects to them. They have been amazing people and you see that love and passion in all of them.” Another sentiment that is important to Manese is the motto “Leave no soldier behind.” To him, that means both in life and in death. “I don’t want anyone to be forgotten,” Manese said. “That is the greatest dishonor you could do to anyone.” With that, he hopes the meaning behind the name of his brewery pays homage to all.
For two years, Manese has been working on and tweaking his business plan after realizing it was a bit more involved than he originally planned. He spent countless hours working through what will work, what won’t and researching brewing equipment. Manese would ideally like to source as much equipment as he can from American-based businesses in order to help out other small businesses while he builds his own. The financing stage is still in the process of being sorted out at this time. He has options of finding an investor or securing a loan from a banking institution, but both routes offer positives and negatives. The financial side of the business plan includes purchasing or leasing a building, possible renovations, as well as the purchase of all brewing equipment. The Fallen Brewery is also accepting public donations to help get the brewery off the ground. Manese would like to offer different tiers of donations, with supporters receiving items in return like pint glasses, koozies, T-shirts, beer club membership and even a founders membership. Manese is ideally looking for nearly $40,000 to help secure the loan for The Fallen Brewery. The location is still being determined, but it will be in Clarksville.
Manese’s vision for The Fallen Brewery includes a space large enough for patrons to come in to enjoy tastings or a few pints of locally crafted beer while perhaps playing corn hole. While food will not be served directly at the brewery, Manese will invite food trucks and keep menus from local establishments willing to deliver to the location. It is also important to Manese that The Fallen Brewery be a location capable of hosting a Hail and Farewell.
Manese acknowledges the brewery is still months away from opening its doors, but he wants to get the name out there and show patrons that the brewery will have an excellent selection of locally brewed beer. He wants to keep it simple and brew a quality beer that will keep people coming back, he said. Each beer will be dedicated to a local nonprofit that is committed to giving back to firefighters,EMTs, military and police officers, and a set of proceeds will benefit them. “We want to give back to those in the community who are helping our veterans in their time of need,” Manese said. “We want to provide quality beer to our patrons but, at the same time, give back to the community that has served us.”
Although Manese still has almost two years left to serve in the Army, his goal is to have the brewery open for business by the end of 2017.
“It is something I love, it’s a passion,” he said. “I want to take that passion and make that my career.” They say that if you choose a job you love, you will never work a day in your life. That is precisely what Manese is aiming to do by bringing The Fallen Brewery to Clarksville.
Bonding over beer
Coincidentally, Manese met a local couple, who were in the beginning stages of creating their business plan for a brewery through the Clarksville Carboys Homebrew Club a few years ago. The couple, Kate and Steve Irving, are now the proud owners of the Hopkinsville Brewing Company, which opened in September.
Kate Irving came to Fort Campbell in 2004 with the 101st Military Intelligence Battalion and Steve arrived in 2005 after graduating from flight school. Although they have been through a few PCS moves since then, they always made their way back to Hopkinsville. “We just love the area up here,” Kate said. “We always asked to come back here.”
Their journey to becoming the owners of a brewery began two years ago when Kate gave Steve a home brewing kit with the thought of it being nothing more than a fun hobby. At that time, Kate actually did not enjoy beer and did not drink it. That was until Steve created a batch of Vanilla Bourbon Porter and asked her to try it. To her surprise, she really enjoyed it. A few years went by and Kate came up with the idea of opening their very own brewery. She had been out of the military for a few years at that point and started looking to the future when Steve would be retiring from the Army. “It sounded like fun to try and open a business,” she said. “We love projects and this would be our Plan B for after Steve’s retirement.”
As it always seems to do, the military gave the Irvings a minor bump in the road. While they were knee deep in the planning stages of their future brewery, they suddenly found themselves having to make a big decision. Steve had spent a majority of his Army career as a Kiowa pilot with the 2-17 CAV, 101st Airborne, but at his 15-year mark, he was being transitioned to Apaches.
Steve and Kate discussed the possibility of hitting pause on moving forward with their brewery plans while Steve managed his military career, or Kate could keep moving forward with their plans, unfortunately mostly on her own. With her never-ending positive attitude, Kate made the decision to keep pressing on with their plans while Steve was away for six months for training. “It has been an interesting ride,” Kate said.
With their building renovated, beer brewed and doors set to open, Steve was able to make it home the weekend of the Hopkinsville Brewing Company’s grand opening. Getting to that point was no easy task.
Both Steve and Kate used what they had learned during their military careers and applied it to the planning process. Steve used a year that he had spent out at Marine Corps Base Quantico learning about strategies and operations and applied it to building a business plan in the civilian world.
“If he had not had that training, I don’t know if this plan would have been so successful,” Kate said. “He planned everything down to the penny, down to every last detail.”
Kate tapped into her background of creative writing and English to proofread and edit all the business plans. Their business plan started out with a large brewing system and a rather large budget. But the more planning that Steve did, they both realized what they could actually handle. “What you learn in the Army as a planner can actually be applied to the civilian world,” Kate said. “It truly is fascinating.”
It took the Irvings about eight months to write out their business plan while working closely with the Kentucky Innovation Network.
After purchasing a home in 2005, they frequently walked their dogs into downtown Hopkinsville and admired the old architecture. When it came time for the Irvings to look for a place to open their brewery, they wanted to do something to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Hopkinsville.
When they purchased their building, which was built in 1913, they stripped it down to the absolute bare minimum and started from scratch, which allowed them to work with a blank slate.
“The budget was tight but we had so much fun with it,” Kate said. She enjoyed making many of her do-it-yourself and Pinterest inspirations a reality. For instance, the bar and walls are covered in salvaged wood from a local barn that was being demolished and the furniture upstairs in the brewery’s seating area is all second hand.
Since the opening of the Hopkinsville Brewing Company, the brewery has received a warm welcome from the community and has instantly become a local favorite. “It is great when people enjoy the beer,” she said, “but when people appreciate how much time and effort we put into making this building habitable again is wonderful.”
The Hopkinsville Brewing Company is also a family-friendly establishment that encourages families to come in, play some board games, enjoy their outdoor seating, food trucks and good old-fashioned conversation with one another. Being family friendly has been a main focus of the Irvings, who are parents to two children. The Hopkinsville Brewing Company closes at 8 p.m. so they are home in time to tuck their children in bed.
While their small business endeavor has so far proven to be successful, the Irvings also encourage other veterans to not be afraid to follow their dreams of opening a small business.
“Veterans have the skills and the experience to make a plan and put it together,” Steve said. “They also have the skills to lead and organize small groups of people, like a staff.”
The Irvings also know that the military instills ever present perseverance in veterans to fight through when things get tough. “It will become emotional,” Steve said. “You will get very invested in your plans.”
For the Irvings as well as Manese, their visions has always been centered on the communities in which they live and wanting to bring people together. Both the Hopkinsville Brewing Company and The Fallen Brewery will not have TVs because both establishments want to focus on face-to-face conversation and getting to know the person sitting next to you.
“It is great seeing people who didn’t arrive together actually strike up conversation with one another,” Kate said.
Perhaps in today’s day and age, it is time to slow things down, get back to the basics, and remember to keep it simple. Through the visions of both the Hopkinsville Brewing Company and The Fallen Brewery, the cities of Hopkinsville and Clarksville will have that local gathering place where the community can come together to finally sit down and meet one another.
Learn more about The Fallen Brewery or Hopkinsville Brewing Co. by searching each company on Facebook.