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. 


Only two years later, Mark and Jim would snag the lease for the Red Silo location in Cookeville’s Westside. By luck, a used professional brewing system went up for sale in California and Mark and Jim hauled it back to Cookeville with two tractor trailers. After construction was done and they had learned the formula for the new brew system, Red Silo opened its doors in September of 2016. They were officially the first tasting room in all the Upper Cumberland. The grind had just started. 
Mark and Jim worked 80+ hours a week pulling double duty at their full-time jobs and at Red Silo for nearly five years. “We couldn’t quit our day jobs, so we had lots of people volunteer for tips and free beer,” Jim recalls. “Our wives worked nonstop and so did we.” Mark continues, “Our wives, Julie and Karen  decorated everything in the Silo and made it an inviting atmosphere. We couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
In 2019, Mark and Jim were able to purchase the Red Silo building as well as the Asian grocery store that was connected to it. They expanded the tasting room and the outdoor space and it now takes up an entire block of the Westside. 
On top of putting in countless hours at the taproom, Red Silo can be seen at many of the charity events in the Upper Cumberland including Habitat for Humanity’s Cooking on the Square, a school supply drive entitled Packs for Pints, the Cookeville/Putnam County Animal Shelter functions and 
supporting The Human Fund through donating proceeds from their annual Redstock festival. They also have a presence at many surrounding counties’ beer festivals. “If there is a beer festival and it has a charity aspect, we are involved,” said Mark. They have been crowned top brewer at the 2018, 2019 and 2022  Nashville Predators Craft Beer Festivals. “There were more than 70 brewers there, so that was a huge achievement for us,” said Mark. 
Red Silo has given the Westside of Cookeville a total re-vibrance. Since it opened, several new bars, restaurants and shops have opened surrounding it making it a go-to spot to hit on a night out. 
What are Mark and Jim’s long-term goals for the Silo? For starters, they would like to be open seven days a week. As far as expansion, a rooftop is in the works. Eventually, they would like to have their own distribution department and make Red Silo a state known brewery. They are well on their way. 
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