What happens when you combine a passionate home brewer, a family of light beer drinkers, and a weekend in the Smokies? For Chris Going, the result was a successful microbrewery in Nolensville, Tennessee that is building a strong following with their unique take on craft beer and their commitment to their community.
The music program at Belmont University brought Chris to Nashville from his native St. Louis. Like many graduates, he chose to stay in Music City and found himself teaching guitar. His passion for home brewing provided another creative outlet and, like many home brewers, he shared the results of that passion with family, friends, and neighbors. When a trip to the Smokies with his wife’s family presented itself, Chris faced a dilemma. As a beer aficionado, he wasn't looking forward to a weekend drinking the commercial light beers favored by his in-laws. But he didn’t want to offend his wife’s family by bringing beers that only he would drink. So Chris took a risk. He set out to develop beers that his family would drink and enjoy. So he tweaked some of his favorite recipes and settled on four beers that traveled with him to that fateful weekend.
The result of his experiment was life-changing. His brother-in-law, the most challenging customer, fell in love with a traditional Belgian farmhouse ale. The other styles that he presented were also popular with the family. While the beers had appeal for people who shied away from craft brewed beers, Chris found them to be interesting enough to satisfy his own tastes. He realized that there was a huge potential market for these beers in people who normally drink lighter, mass-produced beers. In early 2014, Mill Creek Brewing was born with a focus on creating approachable craft beers.
The recipes that Chris brewed up for that fateful family trip still form the core of the offerings at Mill Creek. That farmhouse ale that proved so popular with his brother-in-law is now called Silo. Smooth, light-bodied and refreshing, with a lower alcohol content than many craft beers, it is one of the most popular beers that they offer. Another favorite is Lil Darlin, a bright and refreshing wheat beer with a subtle citrus taste that is perfect for a summer afternoon. Landmark, a traditional, German-style lager, and Woodshed, an IPA, round out the Mill Creek staples.
No craft brewery would be complete without a variety of seasonal beers in their rotation. When I visited the taproom to learn more about the brewery, I sampled Wishing Well, their coffee oatmeal stout. Darker and richer than their core products, this beer is made in collaboration with The Well Coffee House, a Nashville based coffee house and roaster that operates as a non-profit building clean water wells worldwide. More on that collaboration later. They also have an Oktoberfest beer that makes it's appearance every fall and recent years have sprinkled fruit beers into their lineup in the summer months.
You can find Mill Creek beers in draft in bars, restaurants all over Nashville and into Kentucky and Alabama. You'll also find it in cans in a number of retail outlets, including Kroger. Bottles may be the dominant package chosen by craft brewers, but Mill Creek specifically chose to distribute in cans because they are lighter, easier to carry and store, without the risks of broken glass, and actually preserve the flavor of the beer better than a bottle. All part of their mission of making craft beer accessible and easy to enjoy.
Even though Mill Creek is committed to making craft beers that are accessible to consumers who aren’t necessarily fans of craft beer, they don’t ignore the tastes of more committed craft beer drinkers. Nor do they ignore the need for their brewers to explore and experiment. You'll find those explorations in their Shield Series. These recently launched specialty beers include a dark, strong Belgian, an imperial stout, and a delightfully hoppy double IPA. Available in draft as well as cans, these beers show off the skills of the brewers and transition from the simpler styles of their core beers to the complexities usually associated with craft beer.
If you really want to experience everything that Mill Creek Brewing has to offer, you need to pay a visit to the taproom. Located in an industrial park just off Nolensville Road in beautiful downtown Nolensville, the tap room sits in the 27,500 square foot warehouse that also serves as the brewing facility. Your beer won't get much fresher. A small bar and a number of picnic tables sit on the concrete floor with the brewing facility in plain sight behind a simple rope barrier. With that aesthetic, and the family and pet-friendly atmosphere, you feel like you're in Chris's garage enjoying the fruit of his brewing labor.
Of course, you can't have a taproom without food. Mill Creek Brewing’s food partner, Chago's Cantina, has a food trucked parked right there in the tap room. They offer a variety of snacks, tacos, and small pates that find inspiration in the craft beers brewed a few hundred feet away. I didn't have the chance to sample any of their offerings the evening that I visited, but they were doing a brisk business with a taproom crowd.
Community has always been an important part of Chris’ beer journey and it remains central to Mill Creek Brewing today. They’ve hosted fundraisers for a number of local charities and loaded up a semi of donated relief supplies to send to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. And that coffee oatmeal stout? Wishing Well is Mill Creek Brewing's second collaboration with The Well Coffee House, a coffee house and roaster based in Nashville that operates as a non-profit, building water wells in communities worldwide. Profits from the sale of the Wishing Well stout are being donated to The Well’s clean water project, funding the construction of a water well in Zambia.
If you aren’t a fan of craft beers and shy away from the strong flavors and strong beers associated with craft brewing, you should give Mill Creek Brewing a try. Their beers are light, refreshing and drinkable. Pick up a six-pack and prepare to be surprised and possibly find a new favorite beer produced locally by people who are passionate about making quality beer that you’ll enjoy every day. If you are already a fan of craft brewing and of the kinds of high-quality beers that a good craft brewery can produce, you need to explore what Mill Creek Brewing has to offer. Their core beers are eminently seasonable and easy to enjoy. Their seasonals and their shield series show off what a brewmaster can do with quality ingredients and a passion for brewing.
The Mill Creek taproom is located at 2008 B Johnson Industrial Blvd, Nolensville, TN 37135 and is open from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays and from 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Saturdays. You’ll also find their beers all over the Nashville area in restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and bottle shops.
Written by James Szuch for Live Laugh Love Nashville