Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yazoo Introduces New Embrace The Funk Beers

In January 2013, Yazoo Brewing Company announced that they would be partnering with local homebrewer, Brandon Jones to create a series of funky and sour beers under the name Embrace The Funk.  While rarely available in bottles, Embrace The Funk offerings have been making an appearance on draft at the Yazoo Taproom, and last fall Yazoo even took home a Bronze Medal from The Great American Beer Festival in the Wood and Barrel Aged Sour Beer category.
On April 2, you'll be able to get your hands on three Embrace The Funk releases as Yazoo hosts a special bottle release.  Here's what you can expect:

Deux Rouges (Batch 2)- Brewed in late 2013 this Flanders Red style evolved for over a year with wild yeasts and souring bacteria in Merlot wine barrels.  This marriage of funky red beer and red wine creates a wonderful array of dark fruits, oak, vanilla and tartness. This is the base beer used in our Great American Beer Festival award winning "Cherry Deux Rouges".  Limit 4 bottles per person $20 each (750ml).
Delicieux -  Historically the Belgian Pale Ale style was a "session" or "everyday" beer for the areas around Antwerp, Belgium.   Our version of this Pale Ale is fermented with a classic Belgian yeast and two Brettanomyces strains from the Senne Valley in Belgium. Upfront subtle maltiness and spicy/peppery aromas from a generous Styrian Golding dry hop addition, lead to a hoppy dry delicate funky finish. Delicious! This ever-changing beer will age well. No limit on bottles (12oz) at $4 per bottle.
Funky Blue Persuasion - This is a 100% wine barrel fermented golden sour ale that aged with souring bacterias and wild yeasts. Then we added over 2 pounds of Blueberries per gallon along with a fresh dose of funky Brettanomyces for a secondary fermentation.  Right now this deep dark blue colored ale is bursting with a pleasing balance of blueberry, lemon citrusy sourness and funky Brett character. Make sure you don’t drink this one too cold, the character will come alive as it warms. With age the fruit will fade and the beer will increase in sour/funkiness. This is a single barrel batch, so we have to put a limit of 1 bottle per person at $25 each (750ml).

If that's not enough funk for you, there are still a few tickets available for Yazoo's FUNK FEST on May 2.  Buy your tickets here.

Beer with a Brewmaster: Ozzy Nelson of Mayday Brewery

By Matt Kelsey

Ozzy Nelson may be a big-time jokester, but there’s one thing he never jokes about: his beer. He is always serious about crafting very good beer, although there are many zany things scattered about the brewery, including a couple of photo-op gems found within the bathrooms. Even though the founder and president of Mayday Brewery focuses on the quality of his beer, he values connecting with people the most.  Mr. Nelson goes out of his way to show how Mayday takes such good care of their beer. The brewery has a unique jug-filling process and never sells beer in growlers, but always in “jugs of fun.”

How did you get interested in becoming a Brewmaster?
I’m not a Brewmaster. I don’t brew here. I hire two guys to brew. I don’t consider myself a master brewer. I’m just a regular guy. It’s about beer. I love beer, man, but I’m not a beer nerd. I’m a regular beer drinker, just like most people out there. I’m just a regular guy who wants to make beer — that you can drink more than one of — and love the people. And that’s what I’m doing.

How did you decide to start a brewery?
All my life, I had been worried that I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t want to be a fireman or a doctor and that worried me. All I knew I wanted to be was The Man. I’m The Man here. It could’ve been at anything. I have a full-time job. I work at HCA in Internal Auditing. I’ve worked there for 28 years and I’m good at what I do. I’m here when I’m not there. I’m the busiest guy you know, guaranteed.

Why did you choose Murfreesboro for the brewery?
I graduated from high school in 1983. In 1984, I worked as a cook at Captain D’s in Murfreesboro. I worked at several Captain D’s and that was the busiest restaurant. I said, ‘If I ever so something — which I know I’m going to do — I’m going to put it in Murfreesboro.’ It was a small-town atmosphere, you could get to know people. It’s just a big, small town.

What is the significance of Mayday?
Mayday is a term that comes from my dad. Whenever something goes wrong, it’s a ‘Mayday.’ There’s a lot of Maydays around here.

How were you introduced to beer?
My dad had kids for two reasons: Get him a beer and change the channel on the TV. He was a construction worker. I was getting him beer when I was walking. When I figured out how to flip that pop-top, that was when I started taking my first tips. I just didn’t take too much, or my dad would whip my ass.

How did you connect Mayday with beer?
I was brewing outside, had gone inside the garage, and my wife goes out. She says, ‘You’ve got a Mayday here. It’s boiling over.’ That’s kind of how it began.

When did you start Mayday Brewery?
I started working on it in 2009 and finally opened on November 30th, 2012

Tell me about your main beer lineup.
We try to amp up the fruitiness of the blonde… it’s a chick beer and I love chicks. I don’t want to make a bunch of dude beers. Then we have the Velvet Hustle. It’s a pale ale. The name came before the beer. When this guy introduced himself as the Velvet Hustle, I thought, ‘There’s a beer’s name right there.’ He said, ‘I talked to Yazoo and they may do something with it on a seasonal.’ We have the Velvet Hustle on our regular line-up. The Angry Redhead is a super-good technical beer. As far as that style, it’s just a little bit hoppier and a little bit more alcoholic than normal reds. It’s a great balanced beer and people drink the hell out of it, here.

The Evil Octopus is a dark India Black Ale. I don’t like the term ‘black IPA.’ How can it be black and pale? It can’t be black and pale. I say it’s an ‘India Black Ale.’ We make it as dark as we can and keep a lot of honey malt and Crystal 120 in there. We put very little roast in it. Then we hop like crazy, so that hop flavor comes out. It’s just so hard, with all that roast, to get it dark enough and to get those hops. We put twice as many hops in that beer as we do with the blonde. All our beers have honey malt in them except for Jubilee IPA. It’s kind of a signature malt of mine. I didn’t come up with it, but I’ve always loved to use it.

Another interesting, nerdy thing about Evil is that it has no pale, base malt in it at all. Usually, when you brew any beer, you’ll have a base malt — which is a pale malt. It’s the cheapest malt. It’s economical and it tastes good. We use 50 percent Vienna and 50 percent honey malt to make up the base malt for the Evil Octopus. Then we supplement that with other malts and put a little bit of roast in it, at the end. It’s a unique beer.

What beer is your best seller?
Out in the market, it’s the blonde. In here, it is a lot more equal. The blonde probably edges everything out, but some weekends it’ll be the Velvet Hustle.

Do you see a trend of people preferring hoppy beers over the rest?
Some people like that, but Murfreesboro is not Denver, Colorado. It’s not even Nashville. I love hoppy, hoppy beers. We do that on small batches. We roll out a small batch every Thursday at six o’clock. It’s 10 gallons. When it’s done; it’s done. That’s where both the brewers and myself will do some experiments on some really hoppy beers or some really malty beers.

You offer a different type of brewery tour than anyone else. Tell me about it.
In my tour, you get a pint glass and we have four kegs set up in the brewery, one for each of our beers. As we go through the tour, I’ve got the Beer Goddess and she is filling your glass, freely, as I open myself up. I say at the beginning of every tour, ‘You can ask anything, I am an open book.’ I will answer any question. If you want a recipe, take a picture of one of the clipboards on the tanks. Scale it down to your own system and brew it yourself. We’re all about the people. When I go on a tour, I know everybody’s name, up to 20 to 25 people. I try to know that person and I want that person to know me, so if they see Mayday out there, maybe they’ll decide to drink my beer. On my tours, I’m all about connecting with people.

For more information about Mayday Brewery, visit their website here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing

By Matt Kelsey

Middle Tennessee has had a turbulent history of brewing craft beer. Before Prohibition, it was once a thriving industry, then there were many dark years without any local breweries, whatsoever. Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing, explores the different eras of craft beer that helped brew a culture and build a thriving city.

Food, Drink, and Travel Writer Chris Chamberlain begins the book by examining the area’s brewing history during the 19th century.

Once Nashville was designated as the state capital, many German immigrants moved there, bringing with them different brewing styles. Craft beer was produced locally, but some Midwestern beer was shipped and distributed to the area, as well. During that time, there were multiple breweries within the area, including Nashville Brewery, Spring Water Brewery, Rock City Brewery and Nashville Union Brewery, to name a few. Although the downtown Nashville brewery changed names many times over within it’s first 30 years of production, it was most successful when it was known as The William Gerst Brewing Company.

William H. Gerst was a pioneer in the brewing industry and was also known as the king of advertising. He promoted a variety of his beers at the Tennessee State Fair and Centennial Exposition, gained lots of attention for creating cone-top cans and labeled it as “Brewed in Dixie,” before Prohibition practically shut down the brewery. Gerst lost his desire to brew malt beverages, near beers and other non-alcoholic drinks (Cola-Pepsin, Imperial Ginger Ale, sodas) during Prohibition, paving the way for his four sons to take over the brewery.

Once Prohibition ended and Gerst beer was back to being brewed once more; eventually, Pabst, Miller and Anheuser-Bush overcrowded the market, squeezing out the little guys. The brewery was sold to different investors and eventually, Gerst closed its doors in 1954 and the Nashville beer scene practically died for almost 30 years.

“The door was wide open for any entrepreneurs who might want to brew a beer that demonstrated any level of complexity superior to the watery light lagers that had become the darlings of the uneducated palates of Nashvillians.”

Once new Tennessee beer laws introduced legal brewpubs to the public, Bohannon Brewing Company, Blackstone Brewing Company, Big River and Boscos Restaurant and Brewing Company all invigorated the area with varying degrees of success. This became the second craft-beer era for Middle Tennessee.

And the current craft-beer era for Nashville and its surrounding areas is the biggest and best of them all. In fact, all 14 breweries that opened in Middle Tennessee since 1994 still operate today. That is a huge success. As of 2014, when the book was published, all of the local breweries are represented, including but not limited to Yazoo, Jackalope, Turtle Anarchy, Fat Bottom, Mayday, Tennessee Brew Works and Little Harpeth. Each brewer took different paths to open their brewery and each one has a great backstory.

Out-of-town breweries that have contributed to Middle Tennessee’s craft-beer culture are also included, along with contract brews, future beer projects and failed breweries, but each of these topics are only touched upon. I would have liked a little more information on each of these subjects, but specifically those failed breweries of Middle Tennessee. Surely there’s more than just a few that have recently failed.

Nashville Beer, as a book, provides great source material, but some of the information is outdated. Since the book was printed, Boscos closed, Yazoo now cans its beer and some brewers no longer work at their previous breweries. While not all breweries get the same page count (or the same number of pictures included), Mr. Chamberlain truly emphasizes the local-beer angle of being a Tennessee brewery.

The highlight of the book is learning the history of each of the breweries that have inhabited Nashville and its surrounding areas. I would have preferred a little more backstory behind each of the current breweries, but that’s just a minor complaint.

With homebrewing clubs and beer festivals promoting the local craft-beer scene, along with changes in a triple-layer beer tax and the development of Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild into an important lobbying group, the sky is the limit with no end in sight for local breweries to grow bigger and better, with each passing year.

Order Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing on Amazon here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Interview With Nashville Beer's Chris Chamberlain

By Matt Kelsey

Finding locally brewed craft beer in the Music City hasn’t always been easy. For quite a while, Middle Tennessee didn’t even have a single brewery within its borders. Food, Drink, Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing, chronicling the rise and fall (along with the current boom) of craft beer in Middle Tennessee. Recently, I got a quick interview with him to discuss the past, present and future of brewing craft beer in Tennessee.

First of all, what was your inspiration for writing the book?
I was a history major at Stanford and have been a food and drink writer for the past five years. So, when the opportunity to combine those two was presented to me by History Press, I jumped at the chance. As hot as the Nashville brewery scene has become, I knew that if I didn’t write this book soon, somebody else would.
and Travel Writer Chris Chamberlain has written

Please describe your initial experience with craft beer.
I was a horrendous homebrewer in high school and college, but I did gain a basic respect for the process and what made a good beer. In college, I drank beer that was so cheap and bad that my friends wouldn’t even steal it from my dorm fridge. (Which was sorta the point…) But we did have access to brewery tours at Anchor Steam, which was run by a fellow Stanford grad, Fritz Maytag. There, I gained a real appreciation for the craft of brewing and discovered what good beer could really taste like.

As a Nashville native, do you remember the Dark Days when there were no breweries in Middle Tennessee?
Sure, it was a huge deal when Coors finally made it to Tennessee. A friend of mine got a nice chunk of money from his grandmother, ostensibly to fund his Eagle Scout project. We used the cash to buy cases and cases of Banquet Beer and to rent a storage locker to stash it in for the summer. We’ve come a long way, baby!

What do you attribute to the success of Nashville’s booming craft-beer scene?
I think Nashville has a real dedication to creative collaboration, and it’s visible in our music scene, restaurants and visual arts. The craft-beer community has latched on to the spirit of ‘a rising tide raises all boats’ to cooperate and grow. Having interviewed every major innovator in the local brewery biz, I can say that each and every one of them is a genuinely nice person, with a laser focus on constantly improving their products and the industry as a whole.”

What is your favorite type of beer?
I’m not a huge hop-head and have to quietly admit that sour beers aren’t my thing. I prefer German styles like altbiers and lagers that are a little heavier in malt profile. I do like a nice porter, though.

If you could wish for one improvement in Nashville’s craft-beer scene, what would it be?
I know everybody would like to see at least one local beer take off as a national cult beer, but I just hope that our brewers will continue to innovate, while at the same time develop their own unique styles that are true to their passions.

What direction do you see the local craft-beer scene heading in 10 years?
Looking at Asheville, there’s a good track record of breweries as sustainable, investable businesses. I think that we could see as many as 10 or more medium-size breweries crop up in the next decade, and I believe that they will be additive to the market demand as a whole. Hopefully, existing breweries will be able to survive by focusing on their individual niches and staying true to their past successful strategies.

Since the craft beer scene is constantly changing, do you have any plans for an updated version of Nashville Beer or a second printing?
Heck, it already needed an update while it was at the printer, when Boscos went out of business. I joke that folks can just relabel chapter 6 as chapter 11. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write an updated edition in a couple of years.

Do you have plans to write future beer-related books?
I’m working with the Tennessee Craft Beer magazine and write frequently on beer topics on the Scene’s Bites blog, so that keeps me striving to stay on top of the pulse of the local-beer scene.

What upcoming projects or books are you currently working on?
I got 11 different 1099s last year, so my plate is pretty full of freelance gigs. I have a couple of larger products, in various stages of development, so I’m sure I’ll stay busy.

Where can people purchase your book, Nashville Beer?
It’s available at local bookstores like East Side Story, Parnassus and Barnes & Noble, as well as on Amazon. Most of the breweries in the book are selling it, plus some of my favorite taprooms, like Craft Brewed, The Picnic Tap and The Beer Pale. Or, call me. I’ve got a trunk full of them!

What upcoming beer-related events are you looking forward to attending in 2015?
I’m a big fan of Matt Leff’s Rhizome Productions events like the East Nashville Beer Festival and the 12 South Winter Warmer. Those are always favorites that I look forward to.

Order Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing on Amazon here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blue Moon’s White IPA Brewmaster Dinner

By Matt Kelsey

Beer dinners are all the rage these days, but Blue Moon Brewing Company has been hosting nationwide beer-dinner pairings ever since the brewery opened 20 years ago. Last week, Blue Moon wrapped up a five-city tour featuring their White IPA Brewmaster Dinner, hosted by Nashville’s Urban Grub restaurant.

There were approximately 50 attendees at the Brewmaster dinner, which included 20 people who were invited from the Blue Moon First Sip event that was previously held at Mafiaoza’s on January 29th, along with their guests and media attendees. Those 20 people were grand-prize winners from the earlier event, each receiving Nashville custom-etched growlers that served as their tickets to attend the Brewmaster Dinner one month later at Urban Grub.

This four-course dinner was created by the restaurant’s head chef and paired with four different Blue Moon beers, each complimenting the meal. The opening course was a butter-poached lobster, served with tarragon oil, peas, preserved lemon and sorrel, paired with Blue Moon Belgian White.
The next dish was Green curry, candied beets, shaved asparagus, potato and collard oil, paired with White IPA.

The main course was a roast pork, poached apple, rainbow chard, smoked garlic and mustard, paired with First Peach Ale.

The featured dessert was a carrot cake with icing and raisins, paired with Cinnamon Horchata Ale.

The Blue Moon White IPA was the featured beer at the dinner. Crafted as a combination of American IPA and Blue Moon’s classic Belgian White, the beer is created with wheat, orange peel and coriander. Brewed with a rare German hop called Huell Melon, with 5.9% ABV and 45-47 IBUs, the Blue Moon White IPA will be available nationwide on April 1st.

Founder and Head Brewmaster Keith Villa made a presentation during the dinner, speaking about the pairings of each beer throughout the courses and afterward, he gave me a quick interview to discuss the meal, as well as to explore the importance Tennessee holds for the brewery, which many people may not know.

For me, the highlight of the evening was enjoying the roast pork paired with the First Peach Ale (which was my favorite beer of the night) and learning more information about Blue Moon Beers. Each dinner participant received a souvenir glass, as well, which was a pleasant surprise. As this was my first beer-dinner pairing, I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand, but I really had a great time and hope more breweries choose Nashville to help promote their beers. Nashville really is a great beer city!

Although the White IPA Brewmaster Dinner tour has ended, you can receive updates for future Blue Moon events and promotions by following the social media of Blue Moon Brewing Company.

For more about Blue Moon's White IPA, visit their website here.

Photos by Matthew Freise 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Keith Villa of Blue Moon

By Matt Kelsy

Just a few days ago, the Blue Moon Brewing Company sponsored an exclusive White IPA Brewmaster Dinner that concluded a five-city cross-country tour at Nashville’s Urban Grub restaurant. The four-course meal was paired with four different Blue Moon craft beers that were quite tasty. The dinner was hosted by Blue Moon Founder and Head Brewmaster Keith Villa, who introduced each serving with some background information about each of the beers. After the festivities concluded, Mr. Villa visited with me for a quick interview. Read on to find out how Blue Moon became one of the top disruptors in the beverage world, learn the brewery’s connection to Tennessee and preview two upcoming seasonal beers from the brewery.

Please tell me how you got into the beer industry.
Originally, I was planning on becoming a pediatrician. I wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. But, I went to Belgium instead and got my doctorate in brewing. So, I studied for four years at the University of Brussels, in Belgium, graduated magna cum laude and became a beer doctor. After that, I started Blue Moon Brewing Company.

Back in ’95, when I launched Blue Moon Brewing Company, people did not appreciate Belgian beers. In fact, a lot of Belgian beers were unheard of. In fact, if most people wanted something unique, back in those days, they would search for a red ale — a Killian’s Red, Red Dog, Red Wolf — those were considered the top in craft beer. It was tough, because our flagship beer was a cloudy, Belgian-style wheat ale. People were just not familiar with that, so it took a lot of education. I had to travel a lot to get people to try our beer and I had to explain what it was all about, creating the orange-slice garnish in 1997, getting the glass just right in 1998 and by 2001, that’s when things started to really change and we became successful.

How long did it take to educate people about your beer?
Five or six years, it was right in that time period. I like to consider Blue Moon as a pioneer. We helped get things settled on the map, because a lot of other craft brewers, back then, did not have the resources to travel the country and educate people about craft beer. We did. In fact, we were recognized last month in Beverage World magazine as being one of the Top 50 Disruptors in the beverage industry. The top beer was Blue Moon and they credited me with changing how people think about beer and beer styles. It really was an honor to be included. It really is fun to see people enjoying Blue Moon now, whereas in the past, they may not have considered a Belgian beer for a craft beer. But because of Blue Moon, now their minds are opened to enjoying more styles that are offered.

When you started Blue Moon, I’m guessing there weren’t many breweries in Colorado.
No, there really weren’t. In the U.S. there weren’t many craft breweries. Back then, they were called microbreweries, because ‘craft’ wasn’t en vogue. It was tough, because a lot of people were brewing German- or English-style beers. Belgian beers were almost unheard of. I had just returned from Belgium with my PhD in brewing and I wanted to do Belgian beers. People were really taken aback by Belgian beers, because they didn’t understand what it was about. Our Belgian white was cloudy, spiced with coriander and orange peel. It took a long time to let people know what our beers were about. Additionally, I wanted to make our beers unique: Classic styles with a twist. That’s always been my philosophy.

Our first seasonal beer was a pumpkin beer, back in ’95. It was the first nationally available pumpkin beer in the U.S. Back then, most people wanted an Oktoberfest. They didn’t want pumpkin beer. People thought it was weird. I would tell them it was brewed with pumpkin and spices you would make pumpkin pie with: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. We fast forward to 2014 and my guess is here, in Nashville, there were probably a ton of pumpkin beers available.

It was about 2001 to 2002 when the tide had changed. The American consumer had started to appreciate unique beers that had flavor. We were doing extreme beers before they had a name for them. They didn’t know what to call them, back then. The market was changing and, to me, it was just an awesome experience to see. It was almost a vindication.

What do you think is the public’s perception of Belgian beers now?
The fun part is that we have influenced a lot of other craft brewers. I hear from craft brewers, a lot, who say that their first experience into craft beer was with Blue Moon and that inspired them to create their own craft brewery. It’s amazing. When I talk to consumers who tried Blue Moon and all of a sudden they start to experience craft beers, it really is a great feeling to be such a big influence in people’s perceptions of what beer can be.

How are each of the Brewmaster Dinners paired with your beers?
We have been doing Blue Moon beer-dinner pairings for all 20 years of our existence. We were one of the first. I was doing beer dinners back in 1995 and 1996, back before it was popular. Each chef is unique. Chefs are like artists.

I learned early on that you have to give the chef the creative freedom to do what he or she does best and that is to create a dish that pairs great with this particular beer. When you do that, you don’t dictate, you don’t prescribe, you just say, ‘This is the beer and these are the characteristics of it.’ You can give them a handful of ideas to compare with and they will typically run with that. They will create a dish that pairs well with each beer.

This event was part of a five-city Brewmaster Dinner tour. How was Nashville chosen?
Well, Nashville is a beer city. People really appreciate beer here. It’s up and coming and this place is awesome. This is our last stop of the White IPA tour. It’s amazing to finish up in this city, because, to me, it is a huge accomplishment. I would say 10 years ago, here, people didn’t appreciate different beers, but the market has changed so much. Now, if I can launch a beer here and people tell me they love it and they appreciate, I know that beer’s going to be a huge hit, because people here are very critical of their music and their beer.

I worked hard to design this beer, to give it that grapefruit-citrus nose, the bitterness that’s smooth and that drinkability that our fans expect of Blue Moon. For me to hear so many great comments about our White IPA from consumers, retailers, beer lovers, beer aficionados, novice beer lovers, but for them all to say it was an amazing beer, that, to me, says this is going to be really big. To hear the fans, here, in Nashville, of all places, if they love this beer, I know it’s going to be a hit. It was a great way to finish up our White IPA adventure.

Blue Moon is not new to Tennessee. Can you tell me the brewery’s history with our state?
A lot of people don’t realize that Tennessee was our home for five years. From 1999 to 2004 we actually brewed Blue Moon in Memphis, Tennessee. This is where all the Blue Moon in the states came from. That is the period where people around the U.S. discovered Blue Moon and it all came from Memphis. I spent a lot of time there. That’s when I first discovered wet and dry barbecue. I didn’t know the difference. Out in Colorado, we don’t have barbecue. (laughs) That’s when I discovered our beers paired well with a lot of the local foods.

Back then, I remember meeting with other craft brewers and homebrewers at Boscos, who were looking for new beers that they appreciated. When they found Blue Moon, they thought it was awesome. We owe so much to Tennessee. Once people find out it was brewed in the state of Tennessee, they feel proud of Blue Moon and they should be, because that’s when we became popular. I’m proud of it. It is the largest craft brand in the United States, right now, and we’re going global. I’ve launched Blue Moon in England, Ireland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Italy… little by little, we’re going across the globe and showing the true characteristics of Blue Moon. It’s really a great time to be a beer drinker. To me, it’s the best time, ever.

Will you return to Nashville for more events anytime soon?
I would love to. There’s so many events happening this summer in Nashville. This is going to be the place to be. I want to come back when it’s warm, when the sun is out.

What upcoming seasonal beers can we expect from Blue Moon?
This year is our first year for First Peach Ale. People are discovering that you can have a peach beer that is literally brewed with peaches, has a hint of tartness, a hint of that dark-caramel malt character, but it’s not sweet or overly sweet. This is a beer that men and women can enjoy and it goes really well with grilled foods. This is a great spring beer, but to me, it’s an early-summer beer.

We’ve got our White IPA, which is new. It will be out on April 1st. We have our Cinnamon Horchata Ale, which was paired with a great dessert, tonight. The Cinnamon Horchata should be in the Nashville market in independent six-packs by the first of next year. Until then, you’ll only be finding it in the variety pack. This winter, we have a new beer coming out. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, now.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Denver is where we call home, but Tennessee was our home from 1999 until 2004. For those folks who don’t realize that, that’s when Blue Moon became big. We were brewed right here, in Tennessee. That was our home, but back in Denver, we’ve got a lot of great beers. If any of the folks here want to come to Denver and enjoy the great beers that we brew, please stop by the brewery.

We would love to host them, have them try some of the brewmaster’s specials, especially during the Great American Beer Festival. That is the time to come to Denver, because everybody who is anybody in the beer world is there and almost every brewer in the states is there, trying to win a gold medal. It’s the Oscars of the beer world. That’s the time to go to Denver and try new beers, then come to our brewery and try some of what we have to offer. We have a lot of new things on tap, all the time. It’s a lot of fun, making beer. It’s our passion. We love it and we love sharing our new beers with all of our fans.

For more information about Blue Moon, visit their website here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Josh Garrett of Blackstone Brewery

Blackstone Brewery has made a name for itself, helping kick off the craft beer craze in downtown Nashville twenty years ago. Within that timeframe, a lot of good beer has been made, along with it, many awards were won at various beer festivals.  Continuing my Beer with a Brewmaster column, Blackstone’s Josh Garrett discusses the growing microbrewery scene of Nashville.

How did you initially get involved making beer?
I started brewing at home about nine years ago. I homebrewed for three years and then got a job working with Dave Miller at The Pub. This is the only brewing job I’ve ever had. When Dave retired, I kind of took over for him. Blackstone has been my one and only brewing home.

What were some of your homebrewing inventions?
Homebrewing was wild. Nothing was off the table with homebrewing. That’s the difference in professional brewing: You have to make beer that’ll sell. When you make it at home, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like. It can taste terrible, but at least you played with it. You throw anything you find in the kitchen, when you’re homebrewing. The first 10 beers I made were probably undrinkable. I had no idea what I was doing.

What would you say is your favorite type of beer?
I’m all over the board. I like pretty much everything. I would say IPAs are my go-to beers. I just like drinking hoppy beers. I love stouts. I’m a seasonal drinker. It pretty much depends on the temperature outside.

What’s Blackstone's best-selling beer?
Nut Brown is right now. That one’s pretty steady all year round, because it’s in the darker beer category, but it’s still a very light beer. The other brands tend to fluctuate with the seasons. In the colder months, porter sells substantially better than it does in the warmer months. Chaser — our Kolsch — sells substantially better in the summer months than it does in the winter months. I’ve decided most craft beer drinkers are seasonal drinkers, for the most part.

Would you say there’s a current trend for breweries making really hoppy beers?
I think IPAs are the hottest style of beer, right now. That’s why you see so many popping up. The thing that makes IPAs such a great beer to make is that when you have such a vast array of hops to use, you can make endless amounts of IPAs and none of them will taste the same. Whereas with a lot of beer styles, it’s pretty much a narrowly defined category. So, you’re going to have the same flavor, for the most part, between a whole array of beers vs. the IPAs, which can be all over the place.

Can you tell me a little about your pumpkin beer?
We sell more of our pumpkin beer in August, September and October than most of the rest of our beer the rest of the year. We sell crazy amounts of pumpkin beer.

Why do you think your pumpkin beer so popular?
It’s a great novelty beer and it appeals to everybody. People just love it for the season and ours is really good. It’s like drinking pumpkin pie.

Does Blackstone compete in beer competitions?
Oh, yes. Absolutely. We’re the most award-winning brewery in Tennessee. Our porter has won more Great American Beer Festival medals than any other porter in the history of the festival. I want to say we’ve won 18 Great American Beer Festival medals and eight or nine World Beer Cup medals.

What’s the secret behind your successful porter?
It was a homebrew of Kent Taylor, the owner of the company. He made it back in ’91 or ’92. That’s why he built the brewery. He made that porter and knew it was a phenomenal beer and wanted to sell beer professionally. He’s been winning medals for that for 15 to 18 years. It’s a solid recipe. There are very few porters that I’ve ever had that have come close, in quality. When that beer is at its best, it’s hard to beat that beer.

How will new Tennessee alcohol laws affect Blackstone’s beer distribution?
They changed the law to allow beer up to 10.3 percent to be sold in grocery stores, but I don’t think that takes into effect until 2016. You won’t have to buy it in liquor stores any longer. Right now, Adam Bomb is sold in liquor stores and we’ve got planned releases for a lot of high-gravity beer in the upcoming year through 2015. With the high-gravity law changing, that’s going to allow us to do a whole lot more. Shelf space is a big part of the issue with how many brands you can have. When the high-gravity stores open up more shelf space, then that allows us to do a lot of different brands. Plus, we still have The Pub, that we use as a test kitchen. A lot of our test batches are still being brewed over there on the smaller system.”

How long has Blackstone's bottling facility been in operation?
This facility has been here [for] three years. Everything was done at The Pub. We had been doing draft out of The Pub for retail sales for four or five years prior to opening this facility. We knew we had traction in the market. This was their main goal, I think, from the beginning, anyway.

What do you think about the burgeoning microbrewery scene of Nashville?
It’s blowing up. Sustainability should be interesting to see, over the long term. We’ve had seven or eight new breweries just in the last year and every time I go, they’re all slammed-packed full. People are really buying into it. It’s really nice. We’ll see different beers from other markets come into our city that we wouldn’t have had before, because our beer scene is growing. Other breweries are going to want to come in, as well. It’s tough for competition, with our own beer, but it’s also nice, as a beer drinker, to see these other brands coming into the state. It’s exciting. It’s taken a long time for our city to get to that point.

Blackstone is the only brewery in the state to have a functioning lab. Why build it?
Honestly, Schlafly. We brew all the Schlafly pale ale drafts for the entire country. They required a contract for us to have a lab. It’s a good thing they did, because we’ve learned a lot about our own beer.

How was that arrangement formed?
Dave Miller — the guy who was our original Brewmaster — was the original Brewmaster at Schlafly. When we got this facility going, they knew Dave well enough to know that he could handle their beer. They needed more capacity than they had in St. Louis, so they asked us to brew their beer.

For more information about Blackstone Brewery, visit their website here.