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ELKVILLE — Chris Harris has found a way to combine his love for beer and music into one facility.

Harris is the majority owner with three other investors in the Route 51 Brewing Co., and they are renovating the former Purcell’s Carpet Building just south of Elkville on U.S. 51.

The other investors are John White, Robert Eaton and Mark Toliver.

There are plans for a banquet room, tasting rooms, three music stages, a spacious beer garden, several bars and a parking lot to hold up to 300 or more vehicles.

Harris said the banquet room would be able to host special events and wedding receptions. He said the banquet hall will have a modern feel for special events, but in the tasting room just a few feet to the right, there will be an industrial feel just as the name implies.

The tasting room is planned to have an open feel with a long bar in the back of the room, several custom tables fabricated by local artists that will give the illusion of a highway with the brewery’s logo in the middle and a professional sound stage.

“I want you to walk in here and feel like you are in a brewery,” Harris said.

Harris has a background in the music recording business, and local artists playing shows at the brewery will have access to top equipment as well as the opportunity to have their show recorded.

If you have a bit too much to drink, or are planning a trip to see several breweries in Southern Illinois, Route 51 will have three hotel suites on the second floor of the facility.

For those who like to see the beer making equipment, Route 51 is planning to have all the fermenters and other equipment out in the open so customers can see where the ale, lager or stout they are enjoying was made.

“I want customers to be able to sit at the bar and be able to see a fermenter,” Harris said.

He has met with the Fermentation Science Institute at Southern Illinois University and plans to have a dedicated tap for homebrewers through the program. Also, he said students will have test batches and a work-study program at the facility.

The facility will also bring employment to Southern Illinois with salaried positions for a brewer, assistant brewer, kitchen manager, assistant kitchen manager and a general manager. Route 51 is accepting applications now and Harris said to send resumes to rt51brew@gmail.com.

Harris said the brewery is hopeful to open its doors in mid-August if all the permitting and construction timelines pan out. He would like to have about 18 brew lines on tap, with about five or six of those being flagship beers.

The addition of Route 51 would continue to make Southern Illinois’ presence in the craft beer industry alive. Route 51 would make the seventh brewery in the region along with Big Muddy Brewing, Von Jakob, Scratch Brewing Co., Little Egypt Beer, St. Nicholas Brewing Company and Abbey Ridge.

White Rooster Farmhouse Brewery is under construction in Sparta. 

Harris said he expects more breweries to pop up in the area in the next three to five years.

“Southern Illinois is probably three to five years behind the metropolitan areas, but I really think that is coming now,” he said.

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dustin.duncan@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

on twitter: @zd2000

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