Mark Van der Bleek & Jim Helton
Revitalizing the Westside Through Craft Beer
Cookeville’s Most Influential People – Class of 2022
What happens when two strangers move next door to each other and share a passion for craft beer? In Mark Van der Bleek and Jim Helton’s case, the microbrewery destination that is Red Silo.
Jim began brewing beer as a hobby in 1999 after his wife bought him a home brew kit. In 2006, Mark and Jim moved to houses three doors down from one another and quickly found common ground with having kids the same age, large personal gardens and, you guessed it, beer. “I showed Mark my brewing system and him being a chemical engineer, he was intrigued,” recalls Jim.
In 2010, they began brewing together and eventually converted Mark’s basement into a makeshift brewery. They experimented with recipes over the next several years until they got the opportunity to attend the popular PBS event Blues and Brews as a home brewer in 2014. The response to their beer was so overwhelming that they began researching what it would take to sell beer commercially on a local, state and federal level. After several years of logistical meetings, Mark and Jim got an amendment to the ordinance so they could sell and serve beer without also serving food.
The wheels were turning.