COTTONWOOD: Vicksburg’s first craft brewery is the ‘go-to’ place in downtown

Published 11:05 am Friday, November 9, 2018

Brewpubs and small craft breweries have become very popular in Mississippi in the last few years, and that includes Vicksburg where an award-winning brewpub has made a big splash since opening earlier this year.

Cottonwood Public House, one of downtown Vicksburg’s newest attractions, serves a mixture of locally brewed beer and craft pizza in a casual environment on Washington Street, while bringing a sense of community to residents of the area.

That was owner Tim Cantwell’s vision and goal when he decided residents of The Loft in his First National Building needed a place to come and go and have a casual dinner, listen to live music and enjoy an in-house brewed beer.

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“We are full in the residences and the folks who live here for the most part aren’t from here so they don’t have a sense of community,” Cantwell said. “We try to create a sense of community inside The Lofts. That deck is heavily used, but it’s not big enough and this was an ugly old rooftop.”

“We talked about public house because that is what we wanted it to be,” General Manager Jon Weimorts said of how they chose the name. “We wanted it to be this community place. You are going to be able to get good ingredients, quality food and drink. We also want it to be casual.”

The only way to expand the area was to purchase the buildings at 1309 and 1311 Washington St. and use the available roof space, which left them with the entire downstairs area to use for another project.

“I’ve known Tim many years and he called me to do some consulting at the bar at 10 South,” Weimorts said. “About a year later he called me out of the blue and we start talking about this building. They were talking about taking the building for the rooftop … We got the whole building so we were talking about how we were going to do everything. We were laying it out and we knew we were going to do a bar.”

After looking at the space available, they decided to also add a brewery to the project and created the Key City Brewery.

Brewer Zack Erickson moved to Vicksburg from San Diego, where he had spent the past several years working in the vibrant craft brew scene.

“That is the mecca,” Weimorts said. “San Diego is the largest craft brew producer in the country.”

Cottonwood’s brewing area is visible from the street through one of the two sets of floor to ceiling French doors that make up the front of the restaurant.

The kitchen in Cottonwood is dominated by a stone pizza oven, with food served in the restaurant made predominantly from fresh ingredients from local suppliers.

Weimorts and Blake Parmegiani, the kitchen manager, have been adamant not to use frozen ingredients, bur rather utilize local farms and distributors.

The restaurant has a Murphy bed style stage that can be dropped down to host live acts.

Since opening in February, Cottonwood has created 15 full-time jobs and has become the “go-to” place to hang out in downtown Vicksburg.

“The physical space and level of coolness is all we hoped it would be,” Cantwell said.

The new restaurant/bar has also brought accolades from across the state.

In June, Cottonwood was chosen Outstanding Economic Impact from the Mississippi Main Street Association as part of the Vicksburg Main Street Association.

And in an effort to expand the local home brewers hobby, Key City Brewing Company held a “brew off” in July hosted at Cottonwood called the “Key City Summer Homebrew Competition” that brought competitors from all over the state. Shelby Rayner and his single malt, single hop, Smash IPA named “Hoptimus Prime Did Have a Beard?” won the inaugural event.

Similar events are planned in the future, including an Octoberfest and an adoption event with the humane society. Next year, the roof top satelitte bar/beer garden and event space will open above the two-story loft apartments currently being framed.

“The community support has been great,” Weimorts said. “So many regulars come in and enjoy a beer or pizza or drinks, and they keep coming back.”