By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., Aug. 13, 2010
Bright Brewing and Eola School Restaurant in Eola is a little rough around the edges, but you have to admire the chutzpah that brought it to this little farming community on the West Texas prairie.
Don't get me wrong, Mark Cannon serves a good hamburger and fries. His fresh beer is a tasty treat in the Texas heat. And there are few places better to contemplate the meaning of life than on his patio in the breeze under a sprawling oak tree looking over the flat fields of corn.
When Cannon arrived in Eola in 2003, the old schoolhouse didn't have a single pane of glass in the hundreds of windows. There was barely a roof, and part of the auditorium had been destroyed by fire. He found the real estate on the Internet while living in Portland, Ore.
"Be careful what you wish for," Cannon advises. "You just might get it." His was the best offer on the property. It might have been the only offer on the school that was in use from 1928 to 1983.
A former car salesman, Cannon moved to the village thinking he could hire professionals to fix the building. "It's mighty hard to get contractors way out here," Cannon says. The repairs are taking longer than he expected because Cannon is learning how to do electrical, plumbing, roofing, cooking, and brewing as he goes. He definitely has become a Renaissance man.
Don't look at how far Cannon still needs to go with building. Consider instead how far he has come. The gym is now used for commercial storage. The sixth-grade classroom, with chalkboards on the walls, is a dormitory-style bunkhouse for hunters. The auditorium has a new roof and windows and will soon host events again.
When Cannon moved to God's country, a local home brewer helped him get started but soon lost interest. It took Cannon nine months to get his state license. "Well, the brewery seemed like a bright idea at the time," Cannon says, and the name stuck.
He makes 125-gallon batches of beer in the former science room and always has a couple of brews on tap. The brown ale and wheat beer are delicious. He also has a recipe he is anxious to enter in a national beer competition this fall.
Over the years, Cannon has hosted bicyclists, motorcycle rallys, disc golf tournaments, chili cook-offs, concerts, a home brewing festival, and folks visiting the school they once attended. A lot of people stop by just to taste his fresh, handmade brews.
Bright Brewing and Eola Schoolhouse Restaurant are north of the intersection of FM 765 and FM 381 in Eola, about 21 miles east of San Angelo. The schoolhouse is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm and Sunday 11am to 2pm. For information, call 325/469-3314 or go to www.eolaschool.com.
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