If their schedule holds, Pat and Lisa Miller will finally be able to take the word “home” out of the description of their brew before the summer ends.
The husband-and-wife entrepreneurs have begun work on their new craft beer brewery, dubbed the Natchez Brewing Co., in an historic building in downtown Natchez. Renovations on the building at 413 Franklin St. have just begun, but the work is not extensive and the Millers hope to have the brewery in operation in approximately two months.
“The building’s interior has exposed wood and bricks, and we want to keep that,” Pat said. “We want our company to pay homage to Natchez’s history as well as be a part of the area’s tourism — help bring more visitors downtown. We probably could have put this in some warehouse on the outskirts of town, but we wanted to be here.”
While the Millers are new at entrepreneurship, they are veteran brewers. Pat is a Natchez native who left the area when he was 18 years old for the U.S. Marine Corps. He subsequently became a military police officer, providing security on Marine One, the presidential helicopter. After his service, he continued his law enforcement career in Washington, D.C., for many until he joined the National Park Service and was transferred to Asheville, N.C.
A native of Plymouth, England, Lisa and Pat met in 1998 while he was still in the Marines. After losing touch, they were reacquainted in 2010. Lisa then moved to Asheville in 2012 where Pat introduced her to craft beer, and together they shared the passion to create something that was their own. Soon thereafter, they were married and moved back to Natchez in the summer of 2012 to be closer to family and raise their three daughters.
Back in Natchez, Pat was surprised to find very little craft beer available, and the couple was thrilled to see the passage of a new state law in July 2012 that raised the legal alcohol content level in beer.
Working from their home, the Millers started brewing, eventually landing on four beers they wanted to bring to market. They are: Bluff City Blonde; Silver Street Pale Ale; Old Capital IPA (India pale ale); and Revival Coffee Porter, made from local Steampunk Coffee Roasters’ “El Pecan” blend of fresh-roasted coffee.
The Millers have since taken their beer to the public, and Pat said they were pleased with the response. Natchez Brewing Co. participated in April at the Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival, where they rolled out their Revival Coffee Porter, and held a tasting/video presentation at Fat Mama’s Tamales in Natchez last month.
However, it is the response from sales calls that have the Millers optimistic.
“When we started this thing, I really worried that we wouldn’t get enough accounts,” Pat said with a laugh. “But practically every restaurant and bar around here wants our beer. Now, I’m worried about meeting the orders.”
Still, they face start-up financing issues. Lack of capital to build out the Franklin Street building, which dates back to the 1800s, was a major hurdle. The Millers, who spent a year looking for a site before choosing Franklin Street, have funded all work to date out of their own pockets, but they need more funding and don’t want to accrue excessive personal debt.
So, they have turned to Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects. The Millers set their Kickstarter campaign goal at $25,000.
The campaign is set to end this week. At press time, the campaign had netted $7,000. However, Pat said he didn’t expect to hit the $25,000 goal, and doesn’t see missing the mark as a lack of support for the Natchez Brewing Co.
“I think it is more of a lack of understanding of exactly what Kickstarter is. It’s new, and I feel people have been hesitant to contribute,” Pat said. “I told my own family about it, and they were still confused.”
Undismayed, the Millers are pressing forward, overseeing the renovations and planning for their opening. They are planning on a full-time staff of four with seasonal, part-time help added when needed. In addition to brewing, Natchez Brewing Co. will offer tastings onsite as well as merchandise.
For more on Natchez Brewing Co., visit www.natchezbrew.com.