Breweries are springing up all over the place these days, and one of the next breweries to open in Louisville is planned for an unlikely location: Hometown Pizza at 4041 Preston Hwy.
It’s a long story. Tom Brown is a partner in the Hometown Pizza chain, which dates back to the early 1980s and currently includes 18 restaurants. He also is a high school friend of and business partner with Mark Allgeier, owner of Cumberland Brewery in the Highlands.
When Allgeier shut down his production brewery on Poplar Level a couple of years ago, Brown purchased the building and 18-barrel brewhouse for an undisclosed amount. It sat unused through 2018 but recently was moved into a space attached the building that is home to Brown’s pizza restaurant.
Work is underway to turn the additional space, which he until recently used to store his vintage car collection, into a taproom, while the brewery is already visible from the street through several large windows and a glass door.
“It appears my cars don’t have a home any longer,” Brown says, while taking a visitor on a tour of what he plans to turn into Hometown Brewing Co. “I think (this space) wants to be a beer hall.”
He is partners with Allgeier in a venture they call Square Pie, for which they just received a patent. It’s a means of turning spent grains from brewing into pizza crust and other bread products, which then explains the brewery connection.
Brown does love the idea of opening a brewery, but access to spent grains is a bonus for his other venture.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Brown says. “It just fit. And it’s fun. It’s created a great energy in the building.”
He says, in honor of his love for automobiles, the brewery will have a car theme, from visual aspects to beer names. The logo for the brewery utilizes the Hometown Pizza logo with flaming exhaust pipes and a tire.
While the taproom will come about “organically,” he says, he is working with Drinkswell to install a new 10-tap system in the restaurant, which also has a bar.
He hopes to be making beer in the brewery by August, and the first Hometown Brewing beers would be served through that system, along with rotating guest beers.
However, a space for a huge cooler has already been carved out, and a mill will be installed in an existing mezzanine overlooking the brewery. There also is an adjacent gravel lot that will be paved and used for parking, along with an easement in front of the building for outside seating.
Licensing is in the works, he says, and the brewery still has to be set up and tested. He even procured a number of kegs along with the equipment, which still have the Cumberland labels on them.
Brown says the restaurant’s general manager, Ellis Simpson, has been chosen to be the head brewer. A home brewer and craft beer enthusiast, Simpson also must learn how to use the equipment.
Brown notes that the entire process has a “learning curve” aspect to it, with the objective making approachable quality beer first.
Brown says the project will ultimately be about a $400,000 investment. However, he says other Hometown Pizza locations will eventually serve at least one of the brewery’s beers, providing some built-in distribution opportunities.
Hometown locations include smaller towns such as Middletown and Fern Creek in the Louisville area, as well as Mount Washington, Taylorsville, Bardstown, Carrollton and others.
“We’re still a family restaurant that serves alcohol, not a bar that serves pizza,” he says. “But I think we’re in a unique position to bring very drinkable craft beers to outlying regions.”