William H. Gerst was born in 1847, coming from a long line of brewers in the Bavarian region of Germany. A short time later the National Brewing Company was established in 1859 and changed hands several times. In 1890 Christian Moerlein and William Gerst went into partnership to open the Moerlin-Gerst Brewing Company, until Gerst bought out Moerlin and the brewery became William Gerst Brewing Company in 1893. The brewery was located on 6th Avenue South here in Nashville, Tennessee. William Gerst received a Master Brewers Certificate in 1888, and in 1889 was elected the second President of the United States Brewmaster’s Association. Gerst had a passion for horse racing. In 1910 his horse by the name of Donau won the Kentucky Derby in 2 minutes, 6.5 seconds, and is to this date the only horse owned by a Tennessean to win the derby. Gerst was a prominent business man and also a family man with 4 sons and 2 daughters. The sons all worked in the brewery and eventually would come to run the brewery. William Gerst retired from running the brewing business due to Prohibition. He died on March 10, 1933 and never got to see his brewery after the Prohibition law was repealed that same year.
The brewery closed in 1954 and the original building was demolished in 1963. To keep the Gerst name alive, grandson, William J. Gerst opened the Gerst Haus Restaurant at 315 2nd Avenue North in 1955. Due to its proximity to the Nashville Courthouse, it became a popular hang out for attorneys and politicians throughout the 1960’s. The Gerst Haus relocated in 1970 to 228 Woodland Street and remained there until 1998 when it was demolished to make room for the Tennessee Titans Stadium. The much awaited third Gerst Haus finally opened after a 2 year absence in August of 2000 at 301 Woodland Street were it remains
Today ownership of the Gerst Haus belongs to Jim and Jerry Chandler, who purchased it in 1988. The Chandler Brothers commissioned the Evansville Brewing Company to begin brewing Gerst Haus Premium Amber beer. They brewed Gerst Amber until the brewery declared bankruptcy in 1997. The Pittsburg Brewing Company Purchased the Evansville Brewing Company the following year and continues providing Gerst Amber beer in the tradition of the original Gerst Brewery