It was the coffee-chocolate stout that convinced Eric Lesage there might be a future in craft beer.

Lesage came up with the recipe four-and-a half years ago and it proved a hit with his friends and others when he offered it free at community events. 

It proved so popular that Lesage thought there might be something to this craft beer thing.

“That was the beer that really got us going,” Lesage said. 

On Friday, Lesage and his family will officially open Nine State Brewery at 200 Tompkins St. in downtown Inverness. It is run by Lesage, his girlfriend, mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law.

It's not your typical bar and that's the way Lesage wanted it.

Nine State Brewery is decked out with antique guitars, including a signed Alan Jackson. There's an old cigar press on the wall and a case knife display.

There is seating inside including a section that wraps around the bar area where patrons can watch the brewing process happening in the four unitanks (where the beer ferments).

What’s nice about Nine State, he said, is that he has the freedom to create any kind of beer he wants. There are no limits to the imagination.

Case in point: Dad came up with a beer called QB-Barb, a light blond, lower-alcohol ale brewed with his father’s special barbecue rub.

“He was standing around by the smoker and dad said it would be nice to have a beer that pairs well with barbecue,” Lesage said.

Then there's the Peanut Butter Coffee Chocolate Stout — an American imperial stout, brewed with peanut butter, coffee and cacao nibs. 

“We can experiment with different flavors and come up with something new,” he said.

People like having a hometown brewery where beer is made on the premises, he said. 

Lesage said he and his family saved four and a half years and invested their life savings into the project.

“This is definitely a dream come true,” he said. “It’s very exciting.”

Nine State Brewery won’t have loud music or multiple TVs showing sports, he said. What it will have, he said, is a laid-back atmosphere and maybe some non-intrusive blues music playing on a small speaker in the background.

“It’s a place to come relax, enjoy a couple beers and chat with the people that you’re with,” he said.

Lesage believes he’s in a great location. It’s across from the government center and near the downtown scene. He’s speaking with some of the restaurants downtown to develop a call-and-deliver system where patrons can order something and have it delivered to the brewery.

Pine Street Pub, for example, is going to leave its menu at the brewery, he said.

“We’re working with Oscar Penn to develop a bar food menu designed exclusively for Nine State,” he said.

Lesage said he will have at least six different beers on tap each day, including India Pale Ale, specialty beers and stouts. There is a 65-inch TV that provides a description of each beer. 

For non-beer drinkers, Lesage will sell red and white wine and sangria.

The place got its name because Lesage divided his time between Florida and Massachusetts for many years and the journey took him through nine states.

He’s been home-brewing for 10 years and felt it was time to open up for the public at a fixed location.

“Just like any home brewer, you always think you’re going to open a brewery,” he said.

“I think this will be a good experience for downtown Inverness,” Lesage said. “It’s something new.”

Father Bub Lesage is proud of his son and his determination to fulfill his dream.

“He’s been pretty driven,” he said. “We had the time so we thought we’d go right along with him This is his baby. He set his mind to it and he did it.”

Nine State Brewery is open three days a week: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit www.ninestatebrewery.com

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

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