When I was young, my family would take vacations to different cities to watch baseball games. While I loved baseball, the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing the skyline of whatever city we were visiting. In my single digit years, it was always St. Louis. Driving past the multitude of Drury Inns in the suburbs and waiting for the city’s iconic outline to materialize in the distance never got old. As I grew up, the cities became larger: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York. And with each new city we visited, the same feeling welled up in me each time—the joy of the anticipation rising up from the horizon.
The progress and development of downtown Jackson has felt like that to me at times: a long journey of sparse scenery and waiting for the destination to come into view. Sure, there was the development of the Jackson Walk along with The Lift and Rock’n Dough. Then there was Woodstock and Third Eye Curiosities. Things began to take shape a little, sort of like those southern Missouri suburbs I’d drive through, knowing we were getting closer to the city.
Last September, Hub City Brewing announced it would be opening in Jackson. The news came on the same week as the infamous school board meeting at City Hall, so what should have been a huge story was overwhelmed by the noise of the school board drama.
The brewery would be housed at the corner of Riverside and Main Street just beyond the heart of downtown. The building that was formerly a car dealership and a grocery store was to become Jackson’s first distribution brewery.
In the back of my mind, I wondered if this place could be that “skyline” moment for Jackson.
I’ve been to breweries in Kentucky and Texas and Nashville and Knoxville. I enjoy them mainly because I love trying good beer and having a place to sit and talk and listen to music. Breweries are normally housed in buildings with a lot of open space and often have outdoor seating options with a supply of board games and the occasional jukebox. I was curious to see how Hub City Brewing would operate and what it would offer.
After visiting the space for myself, I was blown away to say the least.
I met Jerry Corley (the man behind Hub City Brewing) on a cold January afternoon, and as he toured me through the building mid-renovation, I tried my best to imagine what this would entire place would look like on a warm June evening. That vision alone made me realize that this is something like Jackson has never seen.
Mr. Corley led me through a hallway from the back of the building and into what will be the main area of the brewery. The high ceilings and rafters caught my attention, along with windows that stretched the length of the building on its west side.
“You can’t build this building again,” Corley said. “It’s been empty for twenty years. All the steel and brick is original. The steel beams in the rafters have a stamp on them from a company in New York that was in business from 1840 to 1930.”
In its infancy, the building was a car dealership with giant windows facing west in order for people to see the Model T’s that adorned the showroom floor. The open space is perfect Corley’s vision to host concerts.
“We’re partnering with Jonathan Singleton and his company, 50 Egg,” he explained. “He has a lot of songwriters under his umbrella, and they all tour. We want people to know that no matter what band is playing here on a Saturday night, it’s going to be a good night of music.”
But Hub City Brewing isn’t going to be just another music venue. When you enter the space, one of the first things you’ll notice is four Brunswick bowling lanes to the right. I immediately recalled summer nights after a baseball game at Lions Field spent at the Malco Bowling Lanes on Arlington Avenue in midtown. The space will also offer the cornhole boards and giant Jenga for the whole family to enjoy.
A brewery can have all the bells and whistles it can hold, but in the end a brewery is about beer. Not beer that tastes like water or the kind you see advertised in kitschy commercials with Medieval themes. Brewery beer has to be diverse. The tastes should range from a light blonde to a dark stout to a strong IPA, my personal favorite. It should reflect the place in which it abides, and that’s exactly what Hub City Brewing plans to do.
“If you go to Nashville right now, there’s probably fourteen different breweries,” Corley told me. “Breweries are on the verge of becoming neighborhood-centric. In large cities, people want what’s local to neighborhood. There are only so many taps a brewery can have. We want to make sure our beer is reflective of the city and the neighborhood.”
Maybe the most substantial piece of Corley’s vision for Hub City Brewing is the fact that it will be a distribution brewery. All the beer made on-site will not only be sold locally but packaged and shipped across the country. And with each beer’s name reflecting something significant about our town, from music to local history to the very building where Hub City Brewing will reside, every can and bottle will carry a piece of Jackson to people who may have never visited our city.
Two years ago I wrote about a town in Texas that I consider to be my second home. I compared it (unfairly) to Jackson and wondered why we couldn’t be more like McKinney. I listed the things McKinney had: a record store, a vibrant square, multiple eateries, shops, and a brewery.
We have the beginning of that here in Jackson, but I’ve also realized something over the last two years. We don’t have to be anything other than what we are. In fact, I’ve come to realize that Jackson is so much better than whatever idyllic place I believe McKinney is. We have grit and character and diversity. We are far from basic.
When I left the brewery that January afternoon, there was dust on the floor and machinery whirring and people shouting over sounds of something new coming to fruition, and as the grand opening of February 9 approaches, I’ll finally get to see this neighborhood hangout anchoring the downtown atmosphere in a way that a restaurant or record store or bar just can’t. Downtown finally has a destination that everyone can enjoy, one more piece to the ever evolving puzzle of progress.
I can see the skyline rising up.
Gabe Hart is an English and Language Arts teacher at Northeast Middle School. He was born and raised in Jackson, graduating from Jackson Central-Merry in 1997 and Union University in 2001. Gabe enjoys spending time and traveling with his daughter, Jordan, who is eight years old. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing sports . . . even though he’s getting too old for the last one. Gabe lives in Midtown Jackson and has a desire to see all of Jackson grow together.
Photographer Courtney Searcy likes to design things, take pictures, and write words that tell good stories about their community. Jackson became home after she graduated from Union University in 2014, where she studied Graphic Design and Journalism. She currently works as marketing manager at TLM Associates while continuing to make paper goods on the side via her business Fine Company. She thinks the best things in life are porch swings, brunch, art, music, and friends to share it all with.