Photography Cameron Flaisch
If alcohol-based establishments were seen as irresponsible and only for the rundown of society before the Prohibition era, that is definitely not the case in today’s world. Local breweries are springing up all across America and can be found almost anywhere where there is a thriving entertainment district. Now, these purveyors of tasty suds are seen as a force for good. In fact, according to co-owners of Rome City Brewing Company, Trent Prault and Jay Shell, every happening downtown has a brewery.
“Rome has one of the coolest downtown areas,” says Shell. “We needed a special brew to encompass all that Rome has to offer.”
Shell’s proclamation rings true as the duo quickly figured out they couldn’t brew enough beer to keep up with the demand. “We wanted to get bigger and we always wanted to expand,” says Prault, “but where we saw this as a hobby, it was quickly turning into a business.”
“Before we started, we were visiting other breweries to get a sense of what we were wanting to do, and they even began telling us that we would have to be ready to expand quicker than we were going to be,” explains Prault. “So, Jay and I started talking about distributing; we got our beers in a few places and it became obvious to us that we were not going to be able to keep up.”
The two then started looking for warehouses to expand their small space and brew bigger batches until they fell in love with their current building on Broad Street (333 Broad Street, Rome). Prault and Shell did a little renovation, bought all of the equipment in the spring of 2017 and the operation was born.
Lets flashback to the beginning of this venture and discover how a chance handshake led to a match made in paradise.
Jay Shell earned his Turfgrass Management degree from the University of Georgia in 2000. Shortly after graduating, he began working as the Superintendent for Meadow Lakes Golf Course.
During his time keeping the greens at Meadow Lakes as smooth as glass, Shell formed a band called Kneckdown. Being a Roman who also spent most of his nights gathering people in the community together with music, Shell recognized the void for entertainment and showing others in this town a good time. His wheels started to turn.
An idea Shell had to open a nightspot and restaurant named the Brewhouse became a reality in 2012, and he now had a stage to showcase local talent and host a packed house for his band, Kneckdown.
“I initially named the Brewhouse with the intention of brewing my own beer in the building,” explains Shell. But the young entrepreneur was business savvy and knew he would need a brewer to help guide him in the right direction.
This is where Dr. Trent Prault joined Shell and was tasked with creating the Brewhouse brew. Dr. Prault is a practicing vascular surgeon at Harbin Clinic here in Rome. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and later finished his medical degree at the University of Tennessee at Memphis Medical School.
As a hobby, Prault liked to brew small batches of beer at his house, labeling himself a “home brewer” before his current business endeavor with Shell.
The two connected by chance, as both Shell and Prault’s daughters played softball together.
Shell, concocting the idea of crafting brews specific to Rome, knew the perfect way to convince Dr. Prault to turn his homebrew hobby into another stream of income. “Trent and I got to talking one day after having too many of the beers he had brewed at home and joked around about brewing on a more industrial scale. We had the consumers, we just needed the beer,” says Shell.
Before the mugs were dry, the future business partners decided to move the home-brewing station to a more ideal location. Dr. Prault also attended Auburn University where he studied Brew Science and Operations. “People liked it, and it took off… but honestly, our first few batches were just okay. It was just really inconsistent,” says Prault.
If they were to keep up with the demand, while brewing a better batch of beer, they quickly discovered that they needed to upgrade their system. Dr. Prault and Shell began brewing on a four-barrel system (a system capable of making four barrels of beer yielding 31 gallons per barrel) when they moved into their current building on Broad Street.
V3 visited RCBC during the brewing and canning process, which is fun to watch for laymen or those new to the brewing process.
Walking into the brewery was almost equivalent to a scene from a fictional sci-fi movie that features extraterrestrials… except the waft of wheat and grains mixed with boiling wort yanks you back to real life fairly quickly.
The low hum of equipment becomes a suds-tastic soundtrack for aware beer aficionados. Dr. Prault and Shell were making their Goatmeal Stout and were in the process of extracting sugar out of the hot water from the grains.
“At this stage, what comes out of here is called sweet water because the sugar hasn’t been boiled yet,” explains Prault. “We then move it over to our boil kettle, which is where we add hops.”
Hops are a flowering plant that grows on a vine and their use in brewing has been documented for close to 900 years.
“Hops add bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer,” Dr. Prault continues, “and serve as a balancing agent to the sugary sweet backbone the malt provides. This process takes about six hours. Most of what we make is called ‘wort’ or the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer. Wort contains the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol. We put the wort into the fermenter and add yeast, which is what turns it into beer.”
It takes about 10-14 days to brew RCBC’s beer. That is how long thirsty patrons wait for the beers to go from grain to glass.
“Seeing a pile of dirt and being able to turn it into something down the road… I love that. It’s satisfying work, starting from scratch and then going somewhere and seeing our beers on tap. It’s amazing,” laughs Shell.
Where Shell describes Dr. Prault as the “brewer guy and the mad scientist behind it all,” creating and marketing the names of each specific craft beer is something Shell has been very involved in.
The first beer Rome City Brewing Company ever made was Downtown Brown, which was Prault’s original homebrew recipe. “We named our first beer Downtown Brown because we are located right here in Downtown Rome,” says Shell. “We wanted to give our beers a personal connection to Rome.”
“For our next beer, we wanted something that fit the Brewhouse. Everyone in there is either drinking Bud Light or Michelob Ultra. So, we thought it would be nice to make a beer that tasted and looked like what they were used to. This is where we came up with our Short Hot Blonde, which is a simple beer that has just two grains in it,” says Prault.
Clocktower was also a brew that Prault had initially made at home but has now turned into a neighborhood mainstay. RCBC was in the process of canning 111 cases of it during our visit to the brewery.
Above all of the machinery is a quaint area the duo likes to call the Taproom. Trent and his wife, along with Shell, decorated and adorned the taproom themselves. It has an outdoor patio that overlooks Tribune Street. The patio also hosts live entertainment almost every night. The Taproom serves food, and the menu is created using the Rome City Brewing Company’s beers as an inspiration for the dishes.
“We had local artists do all of the artwork throughout the taproom. We wanted it to be very beer-centric, which it is,” says Prault.
There is no doubt that all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making this beer makes the process very personal to Prault and Shell.
“Walking in to liquor stores or even Kroger and seeing our beers, or having people tag us on Facebook showing them enjoying their RCBC beers is incredible. We never imagined it getting this big, but we are already looking at the next steps needed to take this brewery even further,” says Shell.
The interview ended on a high note, as we could not leave without asking what beer in particular Prault and Shell loved the most. “It always varies,” says Shell. “Lately our favorite beer is the Goatmeal Stout. You can’t go wrong with the Short Hot Blonde, though.”
Drink up, Rome and remember to always be responsible.
In 1863, Union forces occupied Rome, targeting the city for it’s Noble Foundry, a key manufacturer of Confederate cannons and munitions. When he left, Sherman ordered the evacuation of Union troops and the town be raised. In 1871, during the rebuilding of the city, a tower was built as a part of the water works for the city. The clock itself was installed in 1872, and
has kept time ever since. This hop head’s dream of a beer was created to commemorate the timelessness
of our landmark.
A classic American India Pale Ale with 67 IBU’s and 8.5% ABV. A few of these, and time becomes irrelevant.
Downtown Brown Ale
American Brown Ale that started off as just a
homebrew experiment. A couple of grains added here and there, and we got a great, toasty brown with a hint of chocolate. Low hops aroma and taste broadens the appeal of this beer. This is one that the whole family could enjoy…in France maybe. Gotta be 21 here in
ABV – 6.5%
Short Hot Blonde
We all have that one special woman in our life. We named this beer for “that” girl. It’s a great gateway beer. For those of you who are leery of craft beer, never fear. This beer has the color you’re used to, and not too bitter. But this blond ale has a full, rich, malty flavor that both craft beer lovers, and craft beer newbies will enjoy.
ABV – 6%
Broad Street Wheat
Why did we make a wheat beer, you may ask? Because a good wheat beer is kind of funky. Not funky like your dad’s socks, funky like a bass line from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The hefeweizen yeast we use in this beer turns this batch of pale malt and red wheat into something that makes you want to bob your head to the funky beat being laid down, even if it’s just in your head.
ABV – 5.5%
In the 70’s and 80’s there lived a bootlegger in the southeast corner of Cherokee County, Alabama nicknamed Goat. The good folks of Spring Garden enjoyed a bit of the “good stuff”, and Goat was there to help. We crafted this stout with that outlaw spirit in mind. Everything you want in an oatmeal stout, dark and roasty, and a great mouthfeel.
ABV – 7%
Peggy’s Pale Ale
In 1944, Rome’s elders were concerned about the rowdiness of the soldiers being treated at Battey Hospital. There was little to do for these young GI’s in Floyd County. At the elders behest, Peggy Snead opened her house of ill repute which ran in Rome until the early 70’s. The finest girls and the strongest drinks were available only at Peggy’s for many years in Floyd County. Ask any Roman about Miss Peggy, and many will have a story to tell about this seedy little brothel on the hill. This smooth drinking pale ale honors her memory, and her contribution to Rome’s rich history.
ABV – 5.5%
Romulus Mango Rye Pale Ale
A perfect blend of pale, caramel and Munich malts.
The punch of the rye and heavy hops is smoothed out by the mango’s. This is not a fruity beer, but the hint of mango on the back end makes this an easy drinking pale for everyone.
ABV – 6%, IBU’s – 45