Coldwater Mountain Brewpub in Anniston, Jason Wilson’s latest venture
Jason Wilson proved his business acumen by founding the Back Forty Beer Company and making it a success – now he wants to do it again.
Wilson’s new microbrewery, Coldwater Mountain Brewpub, opened on February 11 and is located at 1208 Walnut Ave. in Anniston.
It was a confluence of factors that gave Wilson, who founded Back Forty in 2009, the chance to build another company from the ground up.
“This project was actually presented to us about three years ago, and the timing just wasn’t right,” Wilson said. “After retiring as CEO of Back Forty, I was looking for something else to do with my time. At that point, my partners Earlon McWhorter and Tommy Stevens approached me to reconsider this project. The timing was right and we made the decision to do it.”
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Also, the location was something Wilson couldn’t refuse.
“I’m a sucker for a historical restoration project,” he explained. “The Back Forty facility was built in 1942, my home in Gadsden Historic District was built in 1904, and this place was built in 1895. I just love breathing life into these old spaces.
“The (Coldwater) building is an old freight house (the historic L&N Railroad Depot) in downtown Anniston and is listed on the National Historic Registry,” Wilson continued. “We have spent the last eight months restoring the building and creating a large outdoor space for guests. The building is adjacent to the Chief Ladiga Trail, the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trails and the newly constructed Anniston Federal Courthouse.”
The prime location had another plus point.
“Coldwater is a little different because we were able to design the space as an actual restaurant and brewery from day one,” said Wilson. “Back Forty was originally built as a manufacturing facility, and over the years we have been able to transform the space, which was only possible because of our years of lobbying for legislation to allow breweries to sell food.”
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If anyone knows that starting a new business is difficult it is Wilson, but he knows how to build a successful business.
Back Forty started small and it took Wilson time and perseverance to really make it work, but today Back Forty has distribution agreements in seven states and has exported beer to Canada, the UK, China, Thailand, Malaysia and the Cayman Islands.
The company also has a second microbrewery in Birmingham and annual sales of around $2 million.
Wilson left the company last year – not an easy decision, but this new challenge has reinvigorated him and seen how to approach things from a different perspective than Back Forty.
“I learned so much with Back Forty,” Wilson said. “It was my life for more than a decade. Coldwater is basically a chance to do it all again and know what you didn’t know then. It’s a lot of fun.”
The food and beer on Coldwater’s menu are obviously two of its biggest selling points.
“Our Executive Chef, Andrew Denton, has a wealth of experience in fine dining,” said Wilson. “He worked in Atlanta at The Optimist and before that with Executive Chef David Bancroft at ACRE in Auburn. We built him a brand new canteen kitchen so he can be really creative. We also have a commercial smoker on site so there is a heavy BBQ presence on the menu.”
Brisket, chicken, chicken finger, fried catfish, pulled pork, rib and veggie platters are available, along with chicken (fried or grilled), chicken salad, pulled pork and smash burger sandwiches. Vegetables on offer include baked beans, cabbage, cornbread, hash browns, french fries, hoppin’ john, jalapeño slaw, smoked macaroni and cheese, Southwest grits and whole fried okra.
Specialties on a recent menu included prime ribeye with Brussels sprouts and potatoes, Gulf shrimp and grits with smoked sausage, braised beef ribs with sautéed vegetables, airline chicken with cabbage and hash browns, and crawfish fettuccini with sourdough bread.
Soups include Brisket Chili, Brunswick Stew, Chili and Smoked Tomato. Appetizers include beer-soaked peanuts, brisket sliders, jalapeño poppers, pepperoni flatbread, pimento cheese, and salmon patties.
Various salads are available, as well as a children’s menu and ice cream for dessert.
“The beer is a work in progress and we’re not going to rush it,” Wilson said. “I will be the brewer at this site, but I am taking my time developing the recipes for Coldwater. In the meantime we have a wide range of guest beers including several from Back Forty. And because we’re a brewpub, we also have a great selection of fine wines (red, white and sparkling) and rare bourbon.”
Stevens, one of Wilson’s business partners and co-owner of the new facility, will serve as general manager, although he has no experience running a place like Coldwater. Wilson sees a special quality that makes Stevens ideal for the job.
“He has worked in Goodyear management for nearly two decades and is an incredible leader,” Wilson said of Stevens. “He was looking for a change after Goodyear closed and I convinced him to bring his leadership skills to the culinary world. We are lucky to have him as part of this project.”
Coldwater is open seven days a week; The opening times are Monday to Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DrinkColdwater.