Friday, February 27, 2015

Previewing Frontstretch Fest

by Matt Kelsey

Taking place on May 2, 2015 at the Nashville Farmers Market, Frontstretch Fest hopes to create a new Southern tradition, bringing horse racing, bourbon, craft beer and regional foods.  Previewing the event, I spoke with Brian Bauer to discuss what’s included with the price of admission.

Frontstretch Fest Ticket Information:
$20 – Designated Driver
$49 – General Admission (Before the Event)
$59 – General Admission (Day of Event)
$99 – VIP ticket before the event
$109 – VIP ticket day of event

Please tell me a little about yourself and your role at the Frontstretch Fest.
My name is Brian Bauer, I am the Agency Director at Rockhouse Partners. We are a marketing company based out of Nashville and we are the co-producers of the Frontstretch Fest, in partnership with our parent company, Etix, which is based out of Raleigh. They’re the largest independent ticketing company in the world. They sell 50 million tickets a year. Together, we basically service clients from amphitheaters to festivals to music clubs and sports teams. They have the platform for which they sell their tickets and we help drive the demand for those tickets. We’ve also partnered with Rhizome Productions, who head up a bunch of major craft-beer festivals all over the country, particularly in the Southeast.

Can you tell me a little about the two upcoming events?
This is the inaugural year of Frontstretch Fest and we’re doing it in two locations. Here in Nashville, it’s going to be the world’s largest derby party, where we’ll have beer, bourbon and food, along with a lot of interactive events, from horseshoes to cornhole to tire swings to vendors. We’ve got a ton going on.

We’re also doing it outside Raleigh, in Raeford, North Carolina, at the Carolina Horse Park. It’s in the infield during their Steeplechase race. This’ll be the 64th year of their race and they will have about 10,000 people attending it. This is a cool festival in the middle of a bigger event and gives people the opportunity to experience it in a different way.

In your own words, how do you define the word, Frontstretch?
It stems from our initial concept of doing this event. Traditionally, the term, ‘backstretch,’ in horse racing, refers to the final turn, when the horses are coming into the finish line. Initially, we wanted this to be a precursor festival for Steeplechase races around the country. Over time, it became much more integrated with the Carolina Horse Park, so that it’s actually during the Steeplechase. It was a play on the word ‘backstretch’ and being at the front end of their event, so it became Frontstretch Fest. It’s evolved a bit, but it’s just got a good ring to it, as well. As we expand, we’re definitely looking to add more cities. Depending on the situation with various Steeplechase races and how we’re able to integrate, we might be doing it the day or the week before the race. I will say that our event in Nashville is the week before the Iroquois Steeplechase, but it is taking place during the the Kentucky Derby.

What is included with the price of admission?
It varies, but if you get a general admission ticket, I believe you get 15 food-and-drink tokens. I will add that when attendees register for our digital passport, they’ll receive an additional food-and-drink token. We really want people to feel like they’re getting a lot with their ticket. They also have the option to purchase more tokens onsite. There is also a designated driver ticket for both events that includes eight tokens for food samples.

For the VIP tickets, you’ll have access to the VIP tent, which has distillery and brewery classes, unlimited samples of catered food, specific samples of bourbons and beers that are only available for VIP ticket holders and private bathrooms. We’re working on having a cigar that’s exclusive to the VIP tent. It’s definitely an elevated experience.

Do you offer any sort of rideshare discount codes?
We highly recommend people use Uber. If you’re new to Uber and register using the code ‘etixfreeride,’ you’ll get a free ride to the event.

Can you tell me a little about the digital passport?
The digital passport is an interesting take on the printed card that you’ll find at the typical beer festivals. People can check which vendors they’ve sampled and take notes. By registering, you’ll get an extra token and you’ll get entered for a chance to win VIP tickets to next year’s Frontstretch Fest. People will go up to vendors and they’ll scan your passport and in real time they’ll ‘stamp’ their passport and they can take notes.

Can you tell me a little about the charity you’re supporting for this event?
We’ve got a really great charity in Team Red, White & Blue. They are a national organization that provides support and community activities for veterans. We’ll be raising funds for them. When people check out, to buy their tickets, they can make donations. Also, if people use our hotel-booking engine, $2 from every night booked goes to Team Red, White & Blue, as well.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’re really excited and we think this event is something you’ll definitely enjoy. We hope to get as much feedback as possible, because this is something we’re looking at doing for many, many years and we want to make sure we’re delivering the best possible experience. Because we’re a company that’s worked so many events, we’ve got a lot of experience with seeing what works well at other events and we’re applying that to this one. We know there are a lot of beer and bourbon festivals going on, but we think this one is going to be pretty special and unique.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Dan Dutcher of Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company

By Matt Kelsey

Hoping to start a revolution within the national beer scene, Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company has welcomed people to its brand by creating tasty, unique craft beers that are winning over new fans every day, one beer at a time.

I spoke with Turtle Anarchy Brewmaster Dan Dutcher to discuss the booming craft-beer scene of Middle Tennessee, expound upon the brewery’s expansion plans and discover the microbrewery’s pumpkin-beer recipe is brewed with more than 300 pounds of pumpkins!

How did you get your start in the beer industry?
I started homebrewing because I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I don’t know if it was law or if they just didn’t care, but at the time, I could go to a homebrew store when I was 19. So, to get through underage drinking, I just decided to make my own.

I realized that what I was making was a lot better than Bud, Natty Light and Olde English, so I kept doing that throughout the years. I left Pittsburgh. I was in Savannah, Georgia. I was in the Army for four-and-a-half years. About two years ago, I moved up here. I worked a little bit at Granite City, setting up there. I came into Turtle Anarchy as much as I could, because it was so close and I liked the beer, here, a lot. So, I started interning here and kind of worked my way up.

Growing up, how would you compare the beer scene in Pennsylvania to the current one in Nashville?
Well, Pennsylvania was a little bigger, than it is here. It seems, since my time here, that it’s been going well and it’s expanding a lot. When I came here, the only breweries were Turtle Anarchy, Yazoo, Jackalope, Blackstone, Mayday and Cool Springs Brewery. Since then, Black Abbey, Fat Bottom, Little Harpeth, Calfkiller and Czann’s have opened. I know I’m forgetting a few, but there’s more that are continuing to open.

What do you think is the reason behind the booming craft-beer scene here?
I’m not positive. It seems like it’s coming up, everywhere you go. To me, I think people are just starting to realize that beer can be a lot better than what you’re used to. Growing up, everyone thought there was just Bud, Miller and Coors. There’s stuff that’s a lot better than this. The first time I tried Sierra Nevada, I was blown away. I just started going from there.

What kind of beer trends have you noticed recently?
The IPAs have been huge, the past few years. My personal favorites are the sours and the wild-yeast strains. I see that becoming the next big thing, here.

Dark beers seem to be losing a lot of tap handles lately. Do you see them disappearing forever?
No. Actually, our stout is our best seller, year round. I love dark beers. I think some people attribute dark to heavy, higher alcohol, hard-to-drink beer. They’re really not. I could drink stouts all day; just as much as I could drink pilsners all day. I love stouts, imperial stouts, stuff like that… I’m a huge dark-beer fan.

How many dark beers do you normally have on tap?
Well, we always have the stout and we’ll do a couple of variations. I’d say three on tap, here, but we’ve had up to five. Our next one, coming out, is the Smoked Porter. That will be out, Halloween, here, and then November third, our distributor will start sending it out.

What is the current seasonal beer for Turtle Anarchy?
Our current seasonal is Set Phasers to Squash, which is the pumpkin ale. That will run through October and a little bit of November, then we have the 1864 Smoked Porter. For December, we will have a Christmas ale, we just don’t have a name for it, yet. It’s based off my Winter Warmer recipe, but since we don’t have a high-grav license, I had to bring it down to 6.2 percent. Hopefully, next year, we’ll have a high-grav license and I can bring it out as it should be, as a strong Winter Warmer. It’s still good now, it’s just lower in alcohol, than I’d like.

Speaking of which, how has the new Tennessee state law effected the brewery?
There are certain liquor stores that can now fill growlers and sell our beer. As far as us, that doesn’t go into effect until 2017, to when we can actually brew above 6.2 percent. We will be getting a high-gravity license before that. Since we do not have high-grav here, we can still fill growlers. Hopefully, it will get changed, to where you can still sell growlers, if you have high-gravity beer. I know you’re not allowed to, at other places, which is a shame.

Will there be any potential sour beers coming from Turtle Anarchy?
Yes. We have done some before. I have some whiskey-barrel sours going now. I’ll be doing quite a few Flanders red ale and Lactobacillus style, coming out in January. I would like to be doing a lot more sours.

You brew a few different pumpkin beers. What’s your stance on the topic?
We use real pumpkins. We used 325 pounds of pumpkin in our mash. I love pumpkin beers. I’ve had a few that weren’t good and the rest were great. We didn’t do it too strong. We didn’t want to go too sweet or too spicy, we wanted to keep it more like a lighter pale ale, with a pumpkin flavor. It was a lot of work. It was the first time we’ve done it on the large scale.

What [upcoming plans] can we expect from Turtle Anarchy?
Towards the beginning of [the] year, we will be bottling and canning...The first two beers coming out in cans will be Portly Stout and Another Way to Rye. The canning line is first and the bottling line will be in the middle of the year...[In 2015], will be getting bigger tanks, more fermentation space and a bigger brewhouse, so we will be putting out a lot more beer. Once we start canning, that opens up a whole new market.

Will the brewery be moving to a new location?
The taproom will stay here. The new location is in West Nashville. That will just be a production facility, for now. There are talks of eventually opening another taproom, somewhere in West Nashville.

For more information about Turtle Anarchy, visit their website here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Steve McEndree of Blackhorse Pub & Brewery

We're excited to announce a new weekly column from our newest contributor, Matt Kelsey, called Beer with a Brewmaster.  The column will feature interviews with local brewmasters, home brewers, and other members of the beer industry, and occasionally will feature brewers from outside of the region.  Matt's first interview is with Head Brewer, Steve McEndree of Blackhorse Pub & Brewery. Let us know on Twitter or Facebook who you would like to see featured in the future.

by Matt Kelsey

The Blackhorse Pub & Brewery has become a Tennessee tradition for many, brewing handcrafted Tennessee Ales and providing gourmet food to customers for many years. Personally, I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking at Blackhorse for a long time. In fact, I can still remember visiting Blackhorse for the very first time. It was the first microbrewery I’d ever visited and was where I tasted my first great craft beer. Since then, Blackhorse has expanded, adding a second location — now with restaurants in Clarksville and Knoxville — and continues to grow.

Not long ago, I spoke with Head Brewer, Steve McEndree to discuss Blackhorse’s barrel-aging program, to reveal their seasonal beers and to preview the brewery’s plans to can their beers in the very near future.

How long have you worked at Blackhorse?
I’ve been here about 17 years, brewing delicious beer.

Were you one of the original Blackhorse employees?
No. In ’92 they had The Pub, and then they tore the walls out on one end and put the brewing equipment in. They started brewing beer in ’95 and I started working here in ’96. I was a bartender/server/brewer’s assistant, so I cleaned vessels and did all the dirty work for a long time. And then, in 2000, I took over as head brewer and I’ve been here ever since.

Please tell me how you got into the beer industry.
I’ve always liked beer. I’ve always enjoyed beer. I was a military brat and I grew up in Europe. I probably started drinking good German beer when I was 14 or 15 years old. I remember my first Hefeweizen and fell in love.

When I was in the Army, I did a little tinkering with homebrewing. Then I got out of the military and moved here, to Clarksville, and got an opportunity to clean vessels, get cold and dirty… I don’t know who’d really want to do that, but I fell in love with it.

What were some of your first homebrew experiments?
It was mostly hooch. You know - It was mostly fruit from the Mess Hall. We really weren’t supposed to be doing it, but it was done tongue in cheek. We made a little bit and shared it with everybody.

Which Blackhorse location was built first: Clarksville or Knoxville?
Clarksville was first. In ’92 it was The Pub, then in ’95 the brewhouse came in and brewed beer for a long time. Knoxville is our second location. That place is doing really well. We’re doing a lot of distributing down there and our bottling equipment’s down there. It’s been a great complement to this restaurant and vice versa.

For the longest time, Blackhorse was the only place to get craft beer in Clarksville.
We’ve been the beer ambassadors in Clarksville for a very long time. I remember when we first started, McGee’s Pale Ale was a different type of beer than what everyone’s had. It was different than Budweiser. I watched people gradually grow into liking the Pale Ale and the Stout. They’re so popular now… we’ve been here, for Clarksville, to try something different, try something with a little flavor, broaden your horizons a little bit… It’s worked out. They’ve accepted us with open arms.

What’s your best-selling beer?
Our Barnstormer Red. That’s our flagship ale. It’s an Irish red with caramel malt. That’s our bestseller, but some of our other beers in the past are slowly creeping up there: Our Pale Ale, Stout and Vanilla Cream Ale are pretty popular, too.

How would you describe Coalminer’s Stout to someone who hasn’t tried it before?
I fell in love with stouts, years ago. I really enjoy our Stout. It’s kind of an acquired taste, if you haven’t had a stout or a dark beer before. If you love coffee and you love chocolate, you’ll love a good stout. There’s something about the texture, from the nitrogen that gives it a nice, creamy, delicious, chocolate, coffee taste. Then you can mix it with the Vanilla Cream Ale and it’s our version of the Black and Tan.

Can you tell me a little about your seasonal beers?
Our current seasonal, right now, is War Horse. It’s a high-gravity Scottish Ale. It’s about 10.5 percent alcohol. We serve it in a snifter. It’s quite delicious, especially on a cold winter night, sitting around the fire, sipping on some War Horse.

And then we have the high-gravity apple cider. It’s going over great. Last year was the first time we’d ever done a hard cider. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of people like it and keep coming back, asking for more. This is our second batch that we’ve done, and then we’ve got a second version of that. It’s got 15 percent alcohol and it’s aging in brand new white oak barrels. I’m going to do some tasting at the end of this month. Since they are brand new oak barrels, they probably won’t need to sit in there too long before they get too oaky. So, we’ll probably pull them out and put them on tap in January.

How many of your seasonal beers do you currently have on tap?
Right now, we’re kind of sharing our seasonals. I’ll brew a seasonal here, Knoxville will brew a seasonal there and we’ll just share, back and forth.

Ultimately, we’re going to put in another tap, so we’ll have three seasonals at one time. For years, we only had one seasonal, but now we’re at the point for three seasonals on tap.

What kind of beer trends are you noticing?
I think the sours are really coming back. Last year, I thought they were really peaking, but they’re just growing. They’re becoming the next IPA.

It seems like microbrewers fight a never-ending battle against the larger breweries.
American brewers are kicking butt right now. Everyone keeps saying, ‘When’s the bubble going to pop?’ I don’t see it stopping. As long as there’s breweries making good beer and maybe serving good food at a brewpub, having four or five in a town is not a big deal.

Please tell me a little about your barrel-aging program.
Last year, we started barrel-aging some of our beers. We bought a bunch of Maker’s Mark whiskey barrels and Buffalo Trace barrels. We started off by putting our high-gravity Scottish Ale, War Horse, in there. That came out good, so we tried some sour beers. We tried a Flemish sour and that came out great. We did some ciders and everything was awesome, so we’re going to do it again. This is our second year of doing it. We’ve already got some Flemish sour barrels filled in our warehouse and we’re going to keep expanding the program. The owner said he was going to buy some more barrels, so that gives me a thumbs up to fill them up. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.

What will 2015 bring for Blackhorse?
We are currently bottling all of our beers. We’re distributing in 22 ounce bombers. In January, we are going to can some of our beers and we’re going to expand on the barrel-aging program. I’ve got a couple of unique fermenting practices that we’re going to think about trying: Some wild brews that Mother Nature will be fermenting. I think that’s it. We’re going to continue to innovate and produce quality beers.

Blackhorse Pub & Brewery is located at 132 Franklin Street, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040.  For more information, visit there website here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Grand Opening of Nashville’s TailGate Brewery

by Matt Kelsey

Last week, TailGate Beer celebrated the grand opening of its brewery in Nashville, officially opening its doors to the public.

Before the celebration began, I was invited to attend a media tour of the brewery’s facilities with Wesley Keegan, owner and brewmaster of TailGate Beer.

Mr. Keegan got his start as a homebrewer, eventually opening his brewery in San Diego. Not long afterward, he was approached to brew and can his beer at a Minnesota brewery. Originally, his beer was only distributed in one county. One year later, he had expanded to seven states. Currently, TailGate Beer is primarily brewed and canned at Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin. In Nashville, TailGate uses a three-barrel system, which can brew up to six kegs, allowing the brewers to try many small-batch brews only available in its pub.

TailGate Brewery is located in West Nashville, housed in a former Moose Lodge that previously sat empty for 10 years (with the exception of one month, when a church temporarily set up shop there). Big plans are in store for the 7.5 acres surrounding the property, including a a soon-to-be-created Japanese walking garden, community garden (where the brewers hope to grow hops, spices and herbs), a German-style beer hall, tailgate area, event space and outdoor concert venue.

TailGate Brewery has the distinction of being one of the only breweries in Middle Tennessee to be open seven days a week, featuring 25 taps that highlight a rotation of local and high-end beers. There will be different beer specials every day of the week, including community-based event nights, where charities receive a portion of the proceeds. Craft beer isn’t the only thing that’s brewed at Tailgate. Also on tap is the brewery’s original craft soda.

The brewery also has a Growler Station, perfect for the always-on-the-run tailgater. Speaking of traveling, TailGate has a booming export business. This month alone, the brewery is shipping its beer to Sweden, Denmark, Australia and Singapore. That’s definitely some long-distance tailgating!

In the future, Mr. Keegan hopes to host a different event at the brewery, every day of the week (including a beer festival every month of the year). There’s plenty of room to expand at the brewery, as well. Eventually, Mr. Keegan hopes to brew up to a 50-barrel system, locally.

Don’t forget to take a tour of Nashville’s newest brewery. Tours are offered daily.

TailGate Brewery is located at 7300 Charlotte Pike, Nashville TN 37209

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Good People Cans Receive Facelift

Alabama’s oldest craft brewer, Good People Brewing Company, has announced that their “Ales from the Heart of Dixie” line has received new packaging - Which includes IPA, Pale Ale, and Brown Ale. “Delivering consistent beer continues to be our top priority, but we know that continued success requires solid branding,” said Michael Sellers, Good People co-founder. “Our packaging has to be unique and stand out for its quality.”  The new Good People packaging, including designs for Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Snake Handler, Bearded Lady, & El Gordo, was created by branding agency Lewis Communications.

For more information about Good People Brewing Company, visit their website here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jackalope & Black Abbey Team Up With Rudie's For Cloyster Stout

Two of Nashville's most beloved local breweries, Jackalope Brewing Company and The Black Abbey Brewing Company have teamed up with Rudie's Sausage & Seafood to brew an Oyster Stout, dubbed Cloyster Stout, benefiting the prostate cancer research.  Rudie's is the newly opened sister restaurant of the Riverside Village gem, Mitchell Deli, and they have provided whole oysters that have been used in the brewing process along with chocolate and black malt. 

The public will get an opportunity to taste this collaborative concoction on February 19 from 5 - 7 PM at the Jackalope Taproom at 701 8th Avenue South.

Beer Bacon Burlesque Review & Interview

by Matt Kelsey

In its second year as a festival, Beer Bacon Burlesque brought a variety of entertainment options to the Music City.

Appearing in the Wedgewood Houston area of Nashville, this event invited 2,000 ticket holders to celebrate, well, craft beer, bacon and burlesque dancing, of course! This was the first time I’ve visited Track One and I was impressed with the location for hosting large events. Since this was also the first time attending this event, I was pleased with the variety of beers and entertainment options.

Four bands performed throughout the fest and that doesn’t include all the burlesque dancing that was going on, as well. By late afternoon, there was a large crowd of people that prevented me from fully seeing the burlesque dancers on stage, but lines and crowds can be expected at any beer festival, especially one that lasts seven hours long! After the festival concluded, there was a bit of a social-media storm surrounding the event; however, I didn’t seem to have the same experience.

I arrived early, sampled a good variety of beers and really enjoyed the live music. After midday, lines waiting for beer snaked for a bit. I never realized the beer vendors were running out of product, I just assumed there were more people people arriving as the day went on, making the lines even longer (Which was true). The bacon samples didn’t last very long, but that was to be expected, since almost EVERYONE enjoys bacon (or at least they should).

Overall, we had a fun day, even if there were some bumps in the road. I look forward to attending the next party thrown by Hootenanny Events.

Some Highlights Include:

  • Mayday had some incredible barrel-aged beer! I couldn’t get enough.
  • Dancing to the great music of Kim Logan was a definite highlight…
  • So were the the bacon brownies and all the other bacon-related snacks!
  • VIP tickets included great catered food, as well!
  • Diana Gross wore some amazing Beer and Bacon socks!

Before the festival started, I quickly interviewed Sean Clem, owner of Hootenanny Events, to discuss Beer Bacon Burlesque and future events.

How would you describe the craft-beer atmosphere of Nashville?

“Well, it’s certainly expanding and that’s been exciting. I remember 10 years ago and it was only Yazoo. Linus and those guys did a wonderful job of introducing Nashville to craft beer and paving the way for guys like Czann’s, Tennessee Brew Works and Little Harpeth to come in and really create amazing products. Especially in the culinary and spirits world, when something comes out, I prepare myself to be disappointed and I haven’t been disappointed yet. That has a lot to do with Nashville’s overall creative energy and the fact the city is changing so much. It’s becoming a food town. Whether beer follows food or food follows beer, people with good taste tend to congregate together. The time is right for Nashville to emerge as a beer town. I think it really has.”

Bacon, beer and burlesque is the perfect trifecta. How did you get the idea to pair them together?

“Well, I like alliteration… (laughs). Last year, when we were putting the show together, putting beer and burlesque together obviously fits. We thought about adding bands, bourbon and somebody thought about bacon. It’s brilliant. I love bacon so much, I own a restaurant called Field House, that is beer, bacon and sports.”

Can you tell me a little about the background of this festival?

“I’m a craft-beer fan, but I’m also a fan of the artistic craft, that you find here, in Nashville, that falls outside the realm of music — Music City Burlesque, being one of the preeminent examples, that comes to mind. These girls are one of the best burlesque troupes in the country. They’re well known outside of Nashville and we wanted to give them a platform that allowed them to showcase their talents in front of an audience that may not be your traditional burlesque audience. There’s clearly a demand for their product and obviously a demand in Nashville for craft beer. I think it’s a good combination.”

What other events can we expect through Hootenanny in 2015?

“This is actually our first event of the season. We have 27 slated. Our next event is Mardi Gras Y’all, which is Nashville’s first citywide Mardi Gras festival. It’s on the riverfront. We had 35,000 people last year, we’re expecting about 50,000 this year. We do two stages, this year we’ve expanded to three, but the third stage is for karaoke. That’s on February 28th, then we have Nashville’s St. Patrick’s Day, which is on March 14th. After that, there’s something in April, then we do the East Side Hootenanny, which is a six-week concert festival in East Nashville. We’ve got so many things happening this year. We’re launching another music series: It could be Jazz on the River, it could be Jazz on the Lake. It’s a little bit smaller; a little bit more intimate. It’s on every third Sunday in April through September. We’re either going to do it at Cumberland Park or Nashville Shores.”
“As far as beer fests go, we do the Gulch Beer Fest, the Zombie Beer Fest (which is our Halloween beer fest) and the Americana Beer Fest (which is a celebration of classic, American brands and we’re partnering with the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association).”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“I have yet to work with a brewer in Nashville who hasn’t been eager to come to one of our events and educate the public about his or her beer. It’s very, very easy to want to eschew that sort of interaction. These guys want to educate folks about their product and I think that’s the key to what makes Nashville so special and what makes these brewers so great for our community.”