Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Black Abbey Introduces Bottles of Barrel Aged Brews

Exciting things are on the horizon for South-Nashville brewery, Black Abbey Brewing Company.  In the last week they have announced the expansion of their taproom hours, introduced a new west coast style IPA, and now they have announced the release of bottles for the very first time.

This Sunday (5/31) from 1-6 PM, Black Abbey will beginning selling various limited edition 750 ml bottles of barrel-aged versions of their core brands; The Rose and The Fortress.  "Each barrel is unique and contributes one-of-a-kind flavor components to our beers.  The beer in these bottles is singular and special, each to a one," said brewery co-founder Carl Meier.

In other news, Black Abbey's Five Points IPA is now available.  The beer is 95 IBUs, dry-hopped with Citra Hops, and features an overwhelming aroma and flavor of tropical fruit.  Look for it at a bar near you, or pay a visit to Black Abbey's taproom at 2952 Sidco Drive, Nashville, TN 37204.

Beginning in June, Black Abbey's Fellowship Hall will be open each Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3:30 - 8:00 PM, Saturday from 12:00 - 8:00 PM, and Sunday from 12:00 - 6:00 PM.

Previewing the Brew Dogs Nashville Viewing Party

By Matt Kelsey

Wherever the Brew Dogs go, the craft beer will flow!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27th, Tennessee Brew Works will host a viewing party from 5 to 10 PM to premiere their Nashville-based television episode. Previously filmed in the Music City during a very heavy February snowstorm, Brew Dogs hosts James Watt and Martin Dickie visited with local brewers and collaborated on a unique craft beer, based on the area.

Watch along with local brewers and craft-beer aficionados before the episode airs nationwide on the Esquire channel. The event is free and open to the public, featuring local beers that were mentioned on the Brew Dog show’s Top 5 list. Proceeds from those kegs (and one from Tennessee Brew Works) will benefit the Tennessee Craft Brewer’s Guild.

The episode will be shown at the brewery at 8 pm and airs nationwide at 9 pm. There will be live music at the event and guests will be on hand to discuss their roles with the Season 3 TV show.

In anticipation of the big event, Tennessee Brew Works Founder Christian Spears answered a few questions to prepare everyone for the festivities.

What was your initial reaction when told Brew Dogs wanted to visit your brewery?
The process of bringing everything together with the Brew Dogs was a long one, which actually began last fall, maybe even late summer (I don’t recall exactly). After a bunch of discussions, interviews, etc, things went quiet for a good while. Then one day, out of the blue, they called and said they were coming within the month. We were excited, anxious, everything you might expect. You have to understand, I love this show and now we’re going to be on it???!!!

It was a rough week of filming, though. You might recall that the weather was incredibly bad the week of Feb 20th. The mayor was telling folks to stay indoors and to not leave your homes, unless it was an emergency. Laura was picking me up everyday because her Subaru could get me out of my neighborhood — it was bad out there. (Man, I really need a truck.) Nonetheless, we had a packed house for the filming of the collaboration release. Oh, the things we do for the love of beer. Since then, we’ve really just been concentrating on work. Business has been good, and I don’t think anybody has had an opportunity to stop and reflect on things yet. That’ll change this week I’m sure!

Who collaborated to create this craft beer?
The beer was a collaboration between Brew Dogs, Tennessee Brew Works, Bloomsbury Farm, Jeff Senn Guitars and the Arc & Stones band… think about that for a second.  As a bit of a nod to Tennessee’s unusually strict beer ABV/ABW restrictions, they brewed a Session Sage Saison… but, it wasn’t just any old saison… They… well… you’ll have to watch…

Didn’t Brewmaster Dr. Laura Burns say proceeds from this event will benefit the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild?
So, a bunch of other Nashville breweries were highlighted in the episode, too. During the episode filming at Tennessee Brew Works, the folks from Fat Bottom and Blackstone were having some pints with us (a bunch of the breweries came for support including Cool Springs Brewery, Alliance Brewing out of Knoxville, Yazoo, Czann’s and more) and suggested that we do a big viewing party together. We loved the idea, so we’re putting all of them on tap Wednesday (the five breweries mentioned in the episode) and having some fun! The other breweries kindly donated the kegs, so we’re donating $180 per keg to the Brewer’s Guild. Go Tennessee beer!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Dr. Laura Burns of Tennessee Brew Works

By Matt Kelsey

When approaching beer from an analytical perspective, Dr. Laura Burns has it down to a science.

As the Head Brewer of Tennessee Brew Works, Dr. Laura Burns has an accomplished background.  With a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a doctorate in Cell and Developmental Biology, she understands what it takes to create craft beer from the molecular level. She has enjoyed the opportunity to work at the brewery, bringing with her recipes of Kombucha and giving some of the beers on tap a slight spin. In my interview with her, we discuss the latest developments at the brewery, the barrel-aging program at Tennessee Brew Works, her appearance on an upcoming episode of Brew Dogs (viewing party on May 27th at the brewery) and her participation in the Nashville chapter of the Pink Boots Society.

Are you originally from Tennessee?
No. I’m originally from upstate New York. So, my background is drinking a lot of Northeastern beers. When I turned the drinking age, I was loving Saranac, Ommegang and Southern Tier was starting up. I spent a couple of summers in Maine doing research and I loved Allagash, Unibroue, Long Trail and Otter Creek. Those beers were in that market and I got to drink them early on. When I was growing up, I really did have a good exposure to some awesome craft beer before I came to Nashville. When I came to Nashville in 2007, I was drinking a ton of Yazoo, Blackstone, and Boscos, still keeping it craft and local. Finding good alternatives in the local scene is kind of where I like to go with it. I don’t necessarily want to drink a beer because everybody else says it’s awesome. I want to drink something local.

Please tell me how you got into the beer industry.
Actually, I started out pretty nontraditionally, but I don’t know what the traditional way is for anyone starting out, any more. I did a PhD at Vanderbilt. I worked in the yeast lab and I studied cellular stress responses, so anything the yeasts are exposed to in the environment during the brewing process: Any temperature changes, any stresses like alcohol, salt or pressure. I studied how yeasts respond to those stresses and change their metabolism and how they express their genetic material they have to adapt.

How did that lead you to becoming a brewer?
I’ve always been really interested in the molecular details of things, but the way to apply my Ph.D. was kind of new to me. Basically, I was very interested in continuing the research direction, keeping my skill set and applying it to some sort of big project. Really, I was hip to the opportunity to consult and advise Tennessee Brew Works on their yeast program. During that experience, I realized that my training and my academic background actually benefited me a lot on the brewing side. I brewed a lot at home, but I didn’t see the commercial aspects of it until I started here. So, coming in and realizing there were a ton of ways to apply that science got me really interested. There’s a lot of creative aspects. I was brought up in a family of artists and cooks. For me to apply it to something very creative, too, is super fun.

How did you get your start as a homebrewer?
Originally, I started homebrewing six or so years ago. It was actually when my husband and I first met. Every weekend that we would spend together, we would find something new and fun to do. We both like to drink beer, but being able to make beer was really fun for us. We shared that hobby for a while. When we got married, we brewed all the beer for our wedding. The beer was a very special thing for us to bring to the wedding. We loved being able to serve that to all of our family and friends.

Beyond that, I always like to experiment at home with anything fermented. One of the new products that I brought on at Tennessee Brew Works is the Kombucha. Before I started here, I was brewing Kombucha for five years. It was a passion and something that I like a lot, because it brings a lot of nutritional benefits. You’re not just drinking a sugar-packed soda, you’re drinking something that stimulates digestion and also has a lot of probiotics. It is a low-cal, very flavorful alternative. I change the recipes every season for a new Kombucha.

We love pairing all of our foods with our beer, now. We have an amazing chef, Jay Mitchell, who’s doing a fantastic job. We also work to pair the Kombucha with beer. One of our favorite things right now is to pair a Strawberry-Lime Kombucha with Walk the Lime. It’s kind of like bringing the Kombucha seasonal and the beer seasonal together, so that we have a very nice beer-bucha to offer. It’s kind of a super-fun version of a shandy. We love that.

How would you describe kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. It’s very tart, because of the production of vinegar and it has a nice effervescence like a sparkling drink.

What flavors of kombucha have you created?
We do Cranberry Spice, for the winter, Strawberry Lime for the spring, either Pineapple Ginger or Pineapple Mango for the summer and we have two seasonals we’re still working on for the Fall. I might blend the two of them together.

Did you ever incorporate any bizarre ingredients into your homebrewed beers?
I don’t know how bizarre they got, but we definitely used maple sugar for some of them. We used roasted pecans, that was really fun. We had a very nice Nut Brown that was based off hazelnut nectar. I think Tennessee Brew Works probably goes a little further on the adventure side than I did while homebrewing. Thai basil and sweet potatoes are probably things I wasn’t getting into at home, but they’re super fun here.

Please tell me about Tennessee Brew Works' flagship beers.
We kind of carry five beers as our flagships. That’s the Southern Wit, Extra Easy, Cutaway IPA, Basil Ryeman and Country Roots. We’re usually carrying all of those year round and promoting them equally. Anyone who comes to the brewery will get a flight of those five beers. Not all of them sell equally, but we promote them as our flagships.

What’s seasonals do you brew?
Our current seasonal is Walk the Lime. We carry that from late February to early May. We’re going to do two summer seasonals. Our summer seasonal, act one, is a very fun fusion. We’re calling it the Nashweizen IPA because it’s a wheat beer using Hefeweizen yeast, but a very hoppy IPA, using some very nice tropical hops to compliment the yeast profile and bring it together to make a really juicy, tropical fruit-forward IPA. That’s actually my first creation at Tennessee Brew Works. The rest of the beers we have are all the original recipes we started with.

Since I came on, I have put my knowledge into cleaning up our system and also maintaining our yeast strains very well, so they give the right esters and the right flavors to each beer style, making them taste amazing. Some of them I’ve been able to put my own little spin on. I get to redo the Farmer’s Beat a little bit for the next summer seasonal. We had a Beet Saison that we did last year for our major summer seasonal. We’re going to release that as our late-harvest summer saison. It’s still under development. I’ve done, like, five pilots of the Nashweizen, so I’m pretty comfortable saying what it’s going to turn out like, but the Farmer’s Beat is just going to have a little bit of a twist on the original recipe.

Do you have an approximate date when it’ll be released?
The Nashweizen will be available before the block party and that’ll go for six weeks. Then we’ll transition into the Farmer’s Beat.

For the rest of the seasonals, we’re definitely keeping the Natchez in the Fall. We love Walk the Lime. Just on hop availability, I made a couple of little changes to that seasonal, but it’s very similar to the original concept. And then we’re going to make a whole new Winter seasonal this year. That’ll be fun.

What kind of beer trends have you noticed lately?
IPAs are beyond a trend. People are interested in the hops. We feature a lot of American hops in our beers, but our beers are not overwhelmingly hoppy. We do not have a West Coast IPA, per say, but our balance in the Extra Easy is coming from the citrusy American hops. Some of the hops that we use in the Cutaway are experimental, some of them are a little bit different. They’ll give a garlic or an onion flavor. We’re rounding out the recipe of the Rye with the citrus to give it a little bit of a contrast, but we’re not going for an overwhelmingly citrus bomb. We’re going to experiment with the first recipe of the Nashweizen IPA. It’s something that I really enjoy and it’s kind of selfish because I’m going to be drinking a lot of it, but it’s going to have a super nice wheat mouth-feel. The backbone is going to be very creamy and smooth. Along with that, it’ll have the taste of banana that the Hefeweizen yeast throws in and a little bit of spiciness, a little bit of the clove, as well, to balance those tropical hops. That’ll be a nice IPA, but hopefully it’ll be something more than just the IPA drinkers will try.

Can you tell me a little about your barrel-aging program?
We’ve started up a really nice partnership and relationship with Prichard’s Distillery. It’s a famous Tennessee Distillery. Everybody around here knows about it. We pride ourselves in our relationship with them, especially the really awesome barrels that they have available. We’ve used a barrel from their Double Chocolate Bourbon several times for different beers. We’ve put our Southern Wit in that barrel and we pull a lot of really interesting characters from the Oak. It’ll offer a little bit of vanilla, but on a wheat beer, it comes across as coconut or tropical. And then if you throw the Country Roots in there, the balance will more or less be that whiskey flavor coming through, along with that vanilla Oak smooth character that balances out the coffee and chocolate.

We love the barrels we’re getting from Prichard’s. The rum barrels are actually what we age Walk the Lime in. We had four barrels they offered us: Two of them were from a private stock reserve which they aged their rum for 15 years. Those came really fresh, right after they packaged their rum. You get the rum and the coconut flavors… that’s funny because ‘The lime and the coconut’ was my original inspiration. We aged our Walk the Lime for about two months and because the barrel was still wet, we got a ton of flavor out of it real fast and then we used a little zesting of lime to bring back the brightness to it. We kegged from it with the krausen that we had from a freshly fermenting batch. That’s something cool we developed in the brewery. We use natural carbonation for all of our normal beers. As the beers are fermenting, the yeasts are releasing alcohol and CO2 as they metabolize the sugar. We use that natural CO2 that is produced to carbonate the beer. The same concept goes for our barrel-aged beer: We’re using actively fermenting wort that has enough sugar in it to reduce the carbonation needed. In the barrel, we have carbonation within two to three weeks.

As a homebrewer, when I was carbonating my beer, I knew there was a quick and easy way to do it and then letting the beer naturally carbonate a couple of weeks really rounded out the flavor and produced a balance that I appreciated. So, when I came here, I certainly saw the value in what we were doing. We also don’t filter or pasteurize any of our beer.

Will your barrel-aging program be seasonal or year-round?
As long as we can continue receiving these really nice barrels by Prichard’s, we’ll be barrel-aging our Country Roots, Extra Easy and Southern Wit. Out of our flagships, those do the best in the barrels. We’re really happy with how they turn out.

Have you barrel-aged all of your beers?
Yes, we have. Actually, we didn’t barrel-age the Cutaway because we felt that it would take away from the flavor. We didn’t want to prolong any of the aging. If you drink an IPA, the best time to drink it is as soon as it’s released. I like to get the refreshing, crisp hops that come through in the first month and a half. If you’re going to age it for two months, all of that character would be gone. Unless we develop a dry-hopping procedure for the barrels, we probably won’t do that.

What’s the latest development for the brewery?
One thing that’s amazing that’s happened in the last two months is the kitchen. That was a huge thing for our tap room. We have a full set-up: A beautiful commercial kitchen for our chef, Jay Mitchell. At our first beer dinner, we paired each of our beers with different dishes that he created to either increase intensity, contrast pairing or similarity-based pairing. He featured them very well. It’s really awesome for us to have that offering.

Not too far in the future, we’re looking into packaging options. We’re in the process of talking with vendors, getting quotes and making sure we’re keeping consistent with practices that we want to have in the brewery, as far as how our beer is processed before packaging. We’re developing what layout our packaging line will have in the extra space we have in the back. I think we have somewhere around 11,000 square feet of space left. We’ve occupied about half the space that we’re in right now, including the tap room. We have another area in the back which we can add on fermentors and bring on a packaging line. Probably by 2016, we’ll be up and going with that.

Are you thinking about bottles or cans or both?
Thinking about our branding, our logo and tap handles, we’ve always kind of been bottle-centric. Cans are kind of new and they’re awesome. They’re environmentally friendly, economical, they keep out oxygen and you can keep a quality product in a can, but I think we’re just nostalgic and interested in bottling, to start. Hopefully with the growth and how everything goes, maybe we’ll be able to do both, someday.

Are you aiming to bottle all five beers?
All five, eventually, but we’ll bring fermentors in to really support two of them, to start. Our bestsellers by quite a bit are the Southern Wit and Cutaway IPA. To start, we’ll perfect the process with those two beers and really making sure we’re comfortable with the new brew schedule, getting them out on the shelves and keeping them in stock. It’s kind of hard, once you hit the market to make sure you’re not overstretched and keep consistent product out there.

What do you attribute to Nashville’s booming craft-beer scene?
It probably has to do with the growth of the city and the young population that we have. When people come from all different areas, they bring their interests with them. People from the craft-beer Meccas of the Northwest or Northeast are in Nashville, too, and really appreciate local beer. So, we have to accommodate that. We have to also introduce everybody who had their domestic beers that they’ve stuck to for 20 years to something new. Maybe they haven’t been exposed to it. I feel like we’re just breaking through what was a little bit of a drought. It’s probably more or less relating back to the laws. I think we’re just accommodating a new market of people who are interested, so we might as well brew a quality craft beer for them.

Will Tennessee Brew Works have any sour beers the near future?
I like sour beers and they can be done very well. Our production, as is right now, really is focused on clean beer because of our time constraints and also it’s smart to have a separate facility for souring. That’s not to say we don’t use wild yeasts. We have wild yeasts in our barrels in the back, which we use to bring in more of a funk flavor to our flagships. We have released Wild Roots and Sour Wit. Those are two of our wild-aged flagships. We haven’t added any additional cultures. We’re just going for the natural microbial population that’s within the barrels. There’s a nice relationship between the wild yeast and the wood in the barrel. They will not be present in the first round of the aging of the barrel. But after that first round, when all the spirits have pulled out of the wood, the second round starts to cultivate the culture. You can get a funky, sour, tart flavor because wild yeasts will produce a little bit of lactic acid. You don’t have to add bacteria to get the lactic acid. We can pull a little bit of the sour note into it, but mostly we’re getting the wild funky yeast character coming out.

I would definitely be interested in doing some sours someday and with the Kombucha, we already have a nice, weird culture of stuff going. We keep it clean enough where we can use four yeast strains and we don’t have cross contamination in our fermentors. We’re not so worried about a massive overrunning of some sort of souring bacteria. It’s definitely scary to a brewer, thinking about bringing any of those organisms in.

Please tell me a little about the Pink Boots Society.
It’s an international organization to promote women, beer and education. Originally, the founder, who was a brewer for a long time, was leaving the brewery and took a spontaneous road trip around the country. Out of the trip, she started meeting a lot of brewers. But every brewer she met would tell her about another female brewer in the industry. Eventually, by just asking for a female brewer in a state, she could locate that person. It was pretty surprising and awesome that she was discovering all of these women who were never connected. It started as an organization just out of necessity to bring women together who were in the industry. Then they started working together into a bigger purpose to really unite all the women brewers and any woman in the industry who is making part of their income based on the sales or production of beer.

We have a local chapter that started up in November. Zoe Glassman really pioneered the local chapter. She works for A Head for Profits. Since then, we have pulled probably 30 members. We meet monthly every first Monday and we like to go to each other’s establishments. We really support each other, but also, some of us just don’t get out enough. We need to be able to go around and see what everybody else is doing, have a good time and get to meet them. We’ve just started up, but I feel like we’re one of the strongest chapters, nationally, already.

To our knowledge, we’re the first group to brew our own beer. Every year, there’s a national brew day for women and we all brew a beer called Unite. We have a common theme for the beer and we brewed over at Jackalope. Sally Cooper and Bailey Spaulding, Karen Lassiter and I all got together with Danielle Daniel and Nina Ritchie stopped by and joined in on the fun. We finished it just before the East Nashville Beer Fest and debuted it there. We had our own tent set up and everything. We got to really bring awareness. Half of the proceeds of our sales will go to Pink Boots Society and that will lead to scholarships for women in brewing. The other half will go to Stephanie’s Fight, which is a local nonprofit that raises money for lung-cancer research. It was in honor of Stephanie Weins, one of the original owners of Blackstone, who passed away of lung cancer. If you’ve had a chance to try Blackstone’s Stephanie’s Dubbel, half of the proceeds of that beer went to this organization, as well. That beer was really fantastic.

How would you describe Unite?
Well, it’s a red ale. Originally, we were told everybody would be making a red ale with Willamette hops. Obviously, they say you can put whatever spin you want on it. We came together and developed the concept of the beer and we wanted to do something with a great hop aroma, so we were initially looking for some mosaic hops. But the availability for spot buying of Mosaic hops, right now, is really limited. I think Bailey asked Linus if he had any in house that he’d be willing to sell or part with and Linus donated his supply to us.

Do you know what the percentage of brewers are female in the country?
Our national numbers are no more than 10 percent, for sure. But that’s kind of different for the Nashville scene. We have quite a few women brewers and really passionate girls who are interested in beer. Being that we’re a very new scene, we’re not taking on many of the old stereotypes. We’re offering a little more opportunity and less bias in bringing more girls in.

What does 2015 bring for Tennessee Brew Works?
The packaging line, that’ll be the big thing. We’re excited about a couple of events coming up within the next month or two. We opened our patio and honestly, our patio is one of the best places for me to drink beer in Nashville. I love being out there. It’s beautiful.

We’re doing a viewing party for the Brew Dogs episode that was filmed in Nashville on May 27th. Esquire is sponsoring the Brew Dogs viewing event by providing the episode in advance of the airing event and we’re going to invite other breweries to put their taps on and feature Nashville beer, just like in the episode. We’ll be donating proceeds to the Tennessee Brewers Guild. That money can support some of the events that we do, but also help support the brewing scene. We’re super excited to work with other brewers and bring awareness to the guild. Together, we’re a part of the craft-beer scene. We really want to support each other and the industry in Tennessee.

After that, we’re having a block party on June 6th. Last year, our vision was to block off the street, have a kick-ass party and have the best kind of summer beer, ever. We had 2,500 people show up. So, we’re ready and rearing to go again. We might have been new and had the 2,500 people, but we’re ready to welcome another crowd. We’re going to have amazing music, Lightning 100 is working together with us on it. We’re going to have hourly releases of small-batch Kombucha and beer for three or four hours. We’ll have entertainment and a doggie tent to cool the pets off.

We’re hoping to enter some of our beers into GABF. We’re excited about that. You enter in August, they’re judged and then at the end of September is when the whole festival takes place. We’re excited about that.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The opportunity to work at Tennessee Brew Works has been beyond amazing. I’m completely supported by Christian Spears every day. He’s an awesome partner and boss to have in this new industry.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Previewing the Nashville Wine & Food Festival

by Matt Kelsey

This weekend, craft beer, wine, cocktails and food will all be celebrated at the second annual Nashville Wine & Food Festival!

On Saturday, May 16th, at Riverfront Park, from noon until 4 pm, greatness in multiple categories will be honored in the Music City. Food will be provided by top local restaurants and there will be more than 270 hand-selected wines from around the world. There will be many winery professionals available to discuss their wines, as well as many wine-and-food pairings available throughout the day.
Previewing the event, Events Director Jennifer Carr discusses what’s in store for this festival:

What’s the background of this festival?
The Nashville Wine and Food Festival was created by Paul Patel of Midtown CorkDorks Wine, Spirits and Beer who felt that Nashville deserved a wine festival where participants could have the opportunity to learn about wine, speak directly to wineries, and have all those great wines paired with food from some of the great restaurants in Nashville’s growing culinary scene.

How would you describe this festival to a newcomer?
This is going to be heaven for wine lovers. This festival will feature over 270 hand-selected top-notch wines and food from 20 Nashville restaurants. This festival will feature fantastic brands such as Cakebread, Chateau D’Esclans, D’Arenburg, Duckhorn, Gordon Estate, Henriot, Hugel, Kermit Lynch, Justin Vineyards, Sequoia Grove, Stag’s Leap and so many more. This is also a great opportunity for those looking to learn more about wine. Newcomers will get to taste ALL different kinds of wines, ask questions and learn more from the wine representatives and have the opportunity to visit our Seminar Tent for two wine seminars.

What’s new for the festival’s second year?
This year’s festival will have over twice the amount of food tents, 20 extra wine tents and will be pouring over 270 wines.

What does admission include?
$79 general admission includes samples of wine, beer, spirits and food from all 68 tents in the Food & Wine Village as well as a wine tote, Riedel wine glass, plate, and event tasting guide. $129 VIP admission gets you all of that plus access to the Landmark Bank VIP tent, which will have seating, private restrooms, a special VIP-only restaurant and four specialty wines.

Will there be food paired with different wines?
Wine and Food tents will be set up in a manner that makes wine suggestions: Italian food will be in the regions of Italian Wine Tents, etc.

Will there be representatives from all local and regional wineries in attendance?
Yes, there will be knowledgeable representative from all wineries or distributors there to answer any questions about the wine and to suggest food pairings. Jean Frederick Hugel, 13th generation winemaker from Hugel & Fils in Alsace, France and Thomas Fogarty, owner of Thomas Fogarty Winery in CA will also be there to give wine seminars and discuss their wines.

Can you tell me about the beer garden? Will there be any beer-food pairings?
We will have a large Beer Garden sponsored by Lagunitas as well as three smaller beer tents located in the Food & Wine Village that will feature Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, and Rivertown. We will not have beer pairings at this time.

Do you know who the bands will be performing at the festival?
Violinist Stephanie Wilson Harper, Americana/Folk singer-songwriter Don Gallardo, Singer Kristina Wrenn featuring guitarist Chuck Lambert and singer-songwriter Frank Ortegel. All local musicians.

Can you tell me what will be featured in the Mixology Tent?
We will have specialty cocktail samples available for guests.

Proceeds of the festival benefit the Nashville Symphony. Will that go toward scholarships, funding or something else?
Music education and community engagement have been at the heart of the Nashville Symphony’s mission since the orchestra’s beginnings. The institution now reaches more than 100,000 adults and children annually through its free education and community engagement programs. Every week during the school year, musicians and staff work directly with students across Middle Tennessee, offering concerts, classroom presentations, curriculum materials, instrument lessons and other hands-on learning opportunities. The Nashville Symphony’s Community Concerts series brings the orchestra’s music to neighborhoods across the city.

Are tickets still available?
Yes, tickets are still available and as long as they do not sell out, they will be on sale at the event, but the price will increase on Saturday. Tickets are on sale

Monday, May 11, 2015

PREVIEW: Brew at the Zoo - May 29, 2015

By Matt Kelsey

Featuring more than 100 taps of beer, Nashville’s Brew at the Zoo attempts to tame all species of craft-beer aficionados.

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere will host Brew at the Zoo on Friday, May 29th from 6:30 to 11 pm. This event will feature animals, live music, food trucks and many different styles of craft beers from local and regional breweries.   Admission includes a commemorative tasting glass, unlimited samples of unique craft beers, free parking and even a free shuttle ride to and from specific locations. This is a 21-and-up event and the animals (along with their trainers) will be available until sundown.

Proceeds from the event go toward the Nashville Zoo’s conservation efforts, which means attendees can simultaneously sample some great beverages while donating to a great cause.  Last year, Nashville Scene voted this unique fundraiser the best beer event in Nashville. Get your tickets soon, because this event always sells out!

In preparation for Brew at the Zoo, I spoke with Marketing and Public Relations Director Jim Bartoo to discusses what attendees can expect:

This year marks the fourth-annual Brew at the Zoo. I’m guessing they’re getting bigger and better with each year?
After all of our events, we review what works and what doesn’t to try and improve. The increase in attendance and Nashville Scene voting Brew at the Zoo as the ‘Best Beer Event’ in 2014 shows we’re doing something right.

How would you describe the event to someone who’s never attended?
It’s an outdoor festival focused and great beer and set in a beautiful garden surrounded by exotic animals.

Is this one of the bigger fundraisers of the year for the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere?
It is one of our largest fundraisers in terms of both amount raised and people attending. It has quickly become a key element in our ability to grow and provide an outstanding venue for everyone who lives and works in Middle Tennessee.

What’s new for the event in 2015?
We are offering a Conservation Lounge which will feature and oxygen bar, lounge seating, games, door prizes and more. All proceeds for the area will go to the Zoo’s conservation efforts.

Is the event sold out? Are tickets still available?
We’re not sold out yet but I wouldn’t wait until the week of to purchase tickets. This event sold out early last year and many were disappointed that they waited too long.

Will any specific animals be on display during the event?
We will have some select animals on display beyond their normal bedtimes. Guests can also expect several animals roaming around the pathways with our keepers. Have your phone ready for some unique selfies.

What’s the latest news with the recently born clouded leopard cubs?
They are getting bigger every day and are now quite mobile. Like all of our clouded leopard cubs, these two will eventually be paired with cubs from other zoos for breeding.

How far along is the zoo’s expansion?
The 8-10 year ‘Grow Wild’ plan is still very young. Guests can expect our new Entry Village to be complete by the end of this year. The new entrance road should be ready later this year. The new Andean Bear habitat is slated to open in 2016 as is a new spider monkey exhibit.

Are there any other upcoming events planned at the zoo that you’d like to promote?
If you like the idea of Brew at the Zoo but are more of a wine person, mark your calendars for our ‘Red, White & Zoo’ event scheduled for July 10.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This event would not be possible without the support of M.L. Rose Craft Beer and Burgers as well as support from Gray Line, Rhizome Productions and the many many brewers and distributors that choose to give use their talents and assets to make this happen.

I also spoke with Johnny Shields of Rhizome Productions about the event:

What’s new for the event in 2015?
We’ve kept everything we love about BATZ and made it better. We’ll have a larger footprint this year, exposing folks to more of the Zoo and what their ticket purchase is supporting. We’re also adding significantly more ciders to the lineup this year. This is a booming segment of the craft-beverage market. This also provides our guests with a little more diversity, as well as options for our gluten-free friends. We’ve also added the ‘Conservation Lounge,’ a ticket add-on that provides folks with a comfortable place to sit and relax while enjoying an oxygen bar, belly dancing, games and door prizes. 100% of the proceeds from this area go directly toward the Nashville Zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts. This is an awesome addition to the fest that we are very proud of.

Are there any breweries participating this year for the first time?We’ll definitely have some first timers out at the Zoo. We’re still finalizing our line-up right now but you can expect to see a lot of the new faces to the Nashville market out there.

What do you attribute to Nashville’s booming craft-beer scene?
Wow, how much time do you have? There are so many factors it’d be hard to name them all, but I think a big part is a perfect storm of the ‘shop local’ movement hitting the developing ‘foodie’ scene, that and the craft-beer industry all over was hitting an exponential growth curve. So, once we got a few local brews that folks could drink with pride, they were hooked on beer with flavor. And once you realize what a myriad of variables there are in the brewing process, you see what a beautiful symphony every beer is. And you want to experience them all. That’s my two-cent perspective anyway…

Last year’s event was great. Do you expect this year to be even bigger?
Bigger isn’t always better. We cap our ticket sales at all of our events to ensure the highest quality event for all of our guests. This keeps lines for beer, food, and restrooms at a manageable length and ensures that everyone is comfortable in the space provided. That being said, we are always striving to improve the experience of our guests, brewers, staff, and anyone else involved in the festival. So, yes, this year’s fest will be better in some respects, though most of those (aside from changes mentioned above) will be small shifts that most guests will not even be conscious of, but these are important to us none the less.

What are some of the food trucks that will be available?
Jeez, a lot. Here’s a short list, don’t have the full one in front of me: Joey’s House of Pizza, Grilled Cheeserie, Hoss’ Loaded Burgers, Smoke Et Al and now I’m drawing a blank… there’s like six more… Stay tuned. (ha!)

Will Halfbrass be performing? If not, are there other musicians performing?
That’s a good question. We love Halfbrass and really hope they can make it. There is an issue in their schedule right now that may or may not get resolved between now and then. But there will be plenty of great music out there. We’re spreading it out so there will be a variety of music in the different areas of the Zoo. Should be a lot of fun!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that everyone remembers that this is a big fundraising opportunity for the Zoo. The money from your ticket will go both toward Zoo operations, as well as their wildlife conservation efforts around the world.”

For more information about Brew at the Zoo, or to purchase tickets, visit their website here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Scott Swygert of HonkyTonk Brewing

By Matt Kelsey

Scott Swygert is an incredible multitasker. Not only is he the founder of HonkyTonk Brewing Company, but as the only full-time employee of the brewery, he also sells, brews, delivers, cleans, welds.

In my interview with Mr. Swygert, we discussed HonkyTonk's origins, preview his upcoming seasonal, and highlight the musical acts performing at the brewery.

How did you get your start in the beer industry?
I started as a homebrewer, as most people do. My previous experience in the beer world was delivering Budweiser kegs one summer. Other than that, I didn’t have experience in food and beverage or alcohol. I was a homebrewer and then came up with a business plan at the same time everybody else did, in Nashville, which was three or four years ago, when it looked like there was virtually no beer in Nashville other than Yazoo and a couple of the brewpubs. I think my timing was about the same as everybody else’s - the market was ripe for more good beer.

I lived in Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming and Alaska for probably 15 years combined. Out there, you kind of soak up the beers. It’s part of the culture. Then you’re in Tennessee and you look around and wonder, ‘Where is all the beer?’ I think that was the main impetus for me trying to get into it. I saw what I thought wasn’t enough local beer.

Were you ever in a homebrewing club?
I have since befriended most of the people in Music City Brewers and the Mid-State Brew Crew, but I wasn’t an active member when I was homebrewing. By the time I was on their Facebook pages, I think I was already raising money for this brewery. They’re nice guys. They run good shows and events.

What were some ingredients you experimented with, as a homebrewer?
My first brew was an Amber Ale. It’s not that different from the one that I brew now. It turned out pretty well. I had problems like most people do: Keeping the hops out of the fermentor and things like that. It was a flavorful beer. I was pretty impressed. The first batch was all grain and made a drinkable beer out of it. It was easy to get hooked, after that.

One of the funnier ones happens at least once, to everybody. I went to a big beer, like an 8% stout of some kind, and blew the top off the fermentor in the middle of the night. I woke up the next morning and the whole ceiling in the bathroom was coated in black fermentor juice. It took a couple of days to get that off the ceiling. I only ruined one batch of beer. I’ve been thinking about it for five years, now.

My theory is, now, that the water may have had chloramine in it. I’ve heard that it’s impossible to get chloramine out of your water. You can’t even filter chloramines out. You can filter chlorine, but this taste was so brutally toxic, I actually think it came out of the water in Williamson County and not the brew. I talked to the water guy around that time about the pH, because the pH was really high — it was, like, 8. He ran a test but didn’t tell me what he was using. I think some water districts dose their water with a certain chlorines during certain times of year, if they can’t get rid of some algae, they’ll try different things.

“Homebrewing’s fun. I haven’t done it in a long time, now. Once I started construction on the building, I didn’t have time to make beer. I probably took a 15-month hiatus from brewing. I didn’t brew a single thing, once I got the lease on the building, until I brewed the first batch in the building.

When did you get the lease for your brewery?
It must have been June of 2013. We’re coming up to two full years.

When did you open the brewery?
We started brewing in late September and opened the doors to the Tap Room in October of 2014. I had one beer on tap. Then two weeks later, we had two beers on tap. For a while, we probably just had two on tap. I think I would get a better batch and then I’d take the first one off. The first two or three didn’t hit the gravities, because I didn’t know how to measure the water in the kettles. I was just missing the gravities. I was trying to brew five or six barrels of beer in a 24-barrel kettle. You couldn’t see how much water you had in there. I finally figured out how to use a dipstick and did the math on what’s in the cone. Now, I still use that. If you make a 150-gallon brew and you miss it by 20 gallons, you’re messing up the beer. So, I’ve got it fixed.

How did you pick the location of the brewery?
Really, it all came down to the number. You’re always trying to get the best of both worlds: You want a retail storefront for a brewery to have a brewpub in the front and warehouse square footage in the back for your wholesale operations. The two really don’t exist very well together, at least from the financial perspective. It’s really hard to find one that works for both. This one works for both, but we’re going to spend more energy to create this retail space that I would have in other locations. We’ve got a great production brewery site and a slightly less attractive retail spot. I’m going to keep knocking on doors in the MetroCenter business park until we fill it up, consistently.

What is your flagship beer?
It’s one of the two IPAs that we’re making right now. I think we sell an equal amount of the Amber as the other two beers, in the Tap Room, but the bars don’t have as much love for the Amber. I don’t think they see it, yet. I might be able to convince them that they can sell a lot of that beer. It’s our ‘barbecue beer.’ The local barbecue restaurants have picked up that it pairs well with barbecue. It goes down really well. At beer fests, if people aren’t IPA fans, they’ll come back for two or three of the Amber.

We’re making the two IPAs year round, right now. One’s a West-Coast IPA, so it’s very bright, light-colored beer with a lot of hops in it. It’s dry hopped for at least seven days. It’s been a great seller at growler-fill locations. I think people start going to those wondering what they want to drink at home on a consistent basis. And then this Wheat IPA is a beer that wasn’t in our plan, originally. It was sort of an accident. People liked it, so we kept making it. ‘Wheat IPA’ might be a little bit of a misnomer because it’s not quite bitter enough in IBUs to be in an IPA category, but I want to get the recognition for dry hopping it. It’s really a dry hopped wheat pale ale. That’s our best on-premise-drinking beer, for pints. That one’s selling pretty well.

What kind of beer trends are you noticing?
I think IPAs are going to keep going, forever. The world spent 250 years drinking pilsners. Now, we’re going to spend the next 200 years drinking IPAs. I like lagers and pilsners, we’re going to make those too, but IPAs are not a fad. They’re not going away. People like hops. There’s a million ways to present the hops. You can dry hop, you can not dry hop, you can mix it in a darker beer, like a hoppy porter or hoppy stout, or you can make really bright-colored West Coast IPAs, which we are making. We actually make an East Coast IPA, too, that’s a little more malty, a little sweeter and a little darker. It’s not a dark beer; it’s more amber colored. That one is a great seller, too, I just felt like our first offering in the IPA category ought to kick ass. We’ll bring back the East Coast one, too.

I think sours are working. I don’t have the experience or the patience for it, right now, to mix it into our offerings. Barrel aging will continue, but I don’t think it’s anybody’s go-to beer.

Are those types of beers that you’ll try at some point?
Absolutely. Just not right now. I don’t have the manpower or the patience to mix it in every day. I’ve got enough on my plate. I want to have five year-round beers plus a seasonal, by late spring, with the equipment I have and the way I’m set up. If I can keep up with five year-rounds, I’ll be happy with that.

What are your intended year-round beers?
I’m going to keep making the Wheat IPA, Amber Ale, West Coast IPA and then we’re going to brew the lagers: A classic American pilsner, a Maibock (hoppy, strong lager) and an American Wheat beer. Out of those three, two of them are going to shake out to be year-rounds or mostly year-round, like 10 months of the year. The market’s going to tell me what people want to keep buying.

What’s your upcoming seasonal beer?
The Black IPA’s malt build is pretty much based on our West Coast IPA, plus the addition of black malts, but I changed the hops. It’s going to be more resinous and maybe piney. We’ll see how that goes. It’s a first-time brew for me.

Do you plan on brewing dark beers year round or seasonally?
For me, right now, it’s seasonal. It may be our sixth year-round in a year, so check back, but I’m not pushing stouts or porters. I did a brown ale that was my seasonal in December. It was an oatmeal brown that sold out relatively quickly. That was a great beer. That’s been our darkest, until the Black IPA, which is really a hoppy beer, not a dark, sweeter or malty beer. We’ll bring the brown back. That’s a given, for us.

Why do you think Nashville has a booming craft-beer scene?
I think it was so behind the times, that it couldn’t do anything but boom. The Southeastern United States, in general, was so far behind Colorado, California and Oregon that it couldn’t do anything but boom to catch up. We’re probably just barely getting back to the 50 percent mark would be for the country on breweries per capita or probably not even for consumption. I bet, if you look at the state of Tennessee, it’s probably still so lopsided toward macro, there’s plenty of room for consumption to grow.

Nashville is still budding for craft beer. I’m finding people want it, but the bars still aren’t turning their backs on macro. Some are, but if you go down to the honky-tonks, they don’t even have draft. There’s about four bars that have draft and the other 38 are all bottles. Some of them won’t even have cans. The response I got from one of the really busy honky-tonks was they weren’t willing to have cans because the bartenders couldn’t get the tops off fast enough. Those are mostly tourists and that’s their thing, now. The tourists are asking for craft beer, too, but if they’re downtown and somebody hands them a 16 oz. PBR, they’re not going to turn it down.

Speaking of honky-tonks, how did you come up with the concept for your brewery?
I was looking for a tie to the music biz, because I’m a music fan. I brainstormed with some people, for a while. I was bouncing some names around with my buddy’s wife and we got to Honky Tonk and I told her that was it. It took about five days before I filed for the trademark. My only hesitation was, did I have the guts to stand up to the name? If I make it Honky Tonk, we’ve got to come up with some really good branding. So far, I haven’t executed on all the ideas I have. I was afraid I couldn’t keep up with the name, but we’re going to get there. I think we can keep it real and keep it authentic.

How often do you have musical acts performing at the brewery?
I committed to the whole concept once a month. We’re going to be a part of the music scene. I want to support music in Nashville and do what I can. I think it’ll be every four weeks, on a Saturday. It might stretch to five or it might be three, it just depends on who we can get, at the time. The good bands aren’t available every Saturday that you want them.

What types of genres can we expect from your bands?
I’d say it’s a combination between rock and roll, blues and bluegrass every time. We might have a DJ. I’ve toyed with that. We might try that once in a while, just to change the scene and bring in a few different people and see what we can do.

How can interested bands get ahold of you?
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of that.

Don’t you have lots of room for expansion in your brewery?
We do. We can make a whole lot of beer at this location and I guess cans are coming this summer. I’ve got two main hurdles. I’ve got to figure out which of the styles are going into the cans and I want to make sure the artwork is perfect. I don’t have either of those answers, right now. Early on, I would have said one of our lagers and one of the IPAs in the can. Now, I’m just not sure which one of those is right. I don’t want to put it in the can, then have the cans sitting around. You want to get that right, the first time. We’re going 16 oz. cans, too. So, that kind of changes a little bit of the dynamic.

What does 2015 bring for the brewery?
Beer wise, American wheat lagers are coming up. More music and more beer.

For more information about HonkeyTonk Brewing, visit their website here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Wesley Keegan of TailGate Beer

By Matt Kelsey

The time to tailgate in the Music City is now!

TailGate Beer owner Wesley Keegan has brought his award-winning craft beer to West Nashville and it’s already a hit with the locals. After attending his brewery’s grand opening, I visited with Mr. Keegan to discuss his brewing background, to find out more about the tailgating superfans featured on his Artisan Series of beer and to learn how his brewery bucks Music City beer trends by featuring great local beers every day of the week.

What did you think of the grand opening for TailGate Beer?
It was packed, just nuts to butts, the entire time. We have parking for 200 here and people were parking on the street, and walking up the hill to come in. It was great, super humbling, overwhelming and better than we could have asked for. It was a total success.

How did you get your start in the alcohol industry?
As the story goes, I was working at a bar, bartending, and worked my way up to a manager, but I was also a homebrewer. I homebrewed because my friends did. I kept doing it and I liked it. Again, it was all ahead of the craze, so it wasn’t too common. When I had beer, I would give it to my dad. My dad didn’t drink, but he had a lot of coworkers who did and they loved it. He came up with the name, TailGate Beer, in 2004. He sat on it for a couple of years and Anheiser Bush originally contested it. He won that and he thought I should make a business out of it.

As far as my background goes, I just brewed beer so I could hang out with my friends and I liked to drink it. It wasn’t this phenomenon that it is today.

Did you have any experimental homebrew batches?
Right away, when we started brewing, the economy just started tanking. When I started buying things, I funded everything off Visa and American Express. I put myself through college, I had a good job, but not enough to build a business off it. When my dad gave me the name, that was it. I had bought enough to brew some beer, but I had to make sure I could make that money back. And then I had to brew it again, because that worked. That said, we had a lot of screw-ups. We made a really good American wheat for a lot of years, but one time we were brewing it and we fermented it way too hot and used the wrong yeast. We came out with this Bavarian-style wheat, which was fantastic. It tasted great, because it had banana, coriander and cloves. I loved it.

A lot of times, the experimentation, for us, became the byproduct of us just going through the ups and downs. Fortunately, we rarely made something that wasn’t a good thing. If it wasn’t good, we dumped it out. We wouldn’t ever try and force something out that we weren’t proud of.

How would you describe your beer?
Our main beer, that we brew in Wisconsin, really is on the lighter end of things, and that was the product of being in Southern California. Here, you call it high-grav, but in California, it was just beer. Everything was super high in alcohol in Southern California. It was just a hops race. In San Diego, an 11% beer was normal. So, we came out with lighter beers, because we had found we were early to can, we were early to do something besides a hop bomb and get on a session trend, before it became a trend. By and large, you could look at those beers, that we can on an international level as a mild, gateway style of session craft beer. That’s what it’s intended to be. I think that our style is most clearly seen out of the beers that we’re doing in Wisconsin, because the beers that we’re going to do here aren’t necessarily going to have a style. They’re going to be really creative.

Which of your beers is your flagship?
The blonde is our flagship, right now. The easiest way I can answer that question is when we got to 2013, we made the decision that we were going to relocate. We were making three nationally released products at the same time and we were starting a new series that was a quarterly release, then we had a small-batch program going on and we were trying a lot of different stuff. To relocate, we really tried to simplify everything, from our reach in distribution to our menu: All of the above. That forced us to assess what our best sellers are.

When we looked, we found that Blacktop Blonde, far and away, is our best seller. It filled a market void, because there’s tons of pales, tons of IPAs and those are the No. 1 sellers in craft beer, but it’s rare to find a gold that doesn’t stink; that doesn’t have a bad aftertaste. It’s really hard to hide flaws in lighter beers. That’s why the domestics use things like rice and corn, because malts, in general, create an odor, and it’s really hard to make it a non-offensive odor or to find a hop combination that’s not going to overpower it or make it a pale ale. It’s a complicated beer. That’s certainly our best seller and I would probably call it our flagship.

The Session IPA is our second-best seller. That’s what we came with to Nashville and what we’re building on. These are the two that we deliberately scaled down to, because we knew those were the ones that could sustain the move and the expense and the build at this level.

What are your upcoming seasonals?
Nashville is a very seasonal city, in most respects. We’ll find out about beer. Craft beer, in my experience, is not quite so seasonal, any more. When I started, it was very seasonal. I don’t know if the Peanut Butter Milk Stout is going to be a seasonal, just because the demand is so hot for it. I know we’re working a lot and we’re R&Ding a pumpkin beer. I’ve got a great pumpkin I did a few years ago, that I loved. It was super spicy, very floral, we called it The Pumpkin Pie. It smelled and tasted like pumpkin pie. It was fantastic. I want to do that, this year, it just depends on the scale that we do it. We want to try to brew seasonally responsive beers, but also in anticipation of our future releases.

One of the next releases that we’re working on getting into cans is our Orange Wheat. I hope that we get it out this year, but it depends. Again, we try to be responsive and it’s difficult, when you get to that size. When I go to 250 barrels, you’ve got to have to have a home and a plan for that, because at the end of the day, it’s beer and you need to be able to move it, otherwise it goes bad. So, a lot of the seasonal stuff and the creativity is going to come out of here and everything that comes out of Wisconsin is designed to be a volume product.

What kind of beers do you foresee pouring at the brewery in the near future?
Right now, in our tasting room, we’ve got 25 taps: One dedicated handle to every local brewery, one nitro handle and one cider handle. Those handles will change, every time a keg blows. For example, our nitro handle is always different. We’ve even done a Nitro Blacktop Blonde before, which was cool. It’s funny, out here, Nitro is so new, when people talk about Nitro beer, it’s almost like magic. We’re totally into Nitro and we’ll always have different cask beers going. I want to do a thing, like every Thursday, where it’s a Tap That Cask kind of thing, where we tap a new cask and we kill it that night.

Will you be brewing and pouring high-gravity beers at your brewery?
The TABC is full of great people who are super nice, but the process is really difficult and convoluted. You can ask the ABC one question and they’ll say, ‘It’s low gravity and we have zero jurisdiction over it.’ Then you can ask the beer board if it’s high-grav and they’ll say, ‘We don’t care.’ I know somebody does. Shouldn’t you? I come from a world where you make high-gravity beer, but I’m also in business. I have to make business decisions, sometimes. I really, really want to make high-grav. It’s been a very burdensome process, unfortunately. I’m working on it. I’d like to be able to serve high-grav here. I’d like to be able to serve wine. I know there’s a lot of corollaries between wine and beer. I’d love to be able to serve high-quality bourbons and whiskies. I want to, but it’s not my call. At the end of the day, if it’s going to hurt us, It’s not something I want to do.

Since moving to Tennessee, what’s your perspective of the Nashville craft-beer scene?
Well, I came to town before I made the decision to relocate here. I’ve got some family out here and I did a ton of research, because I didn’t want to come into a market that wasn’t going to be receptive of new entries or wasn’t a little bit developed. I’ve met almost everybody at all the local breweries, here. Great people. Super friendly. Very communal. I find that the newer guys are easier to reach, because they’re out doing it. I can appreciate when you’re on the bigger level, your phone doesn’t stop ringing, when you’re dealing with retailers or events or things like that. We’re kind of in that funky zone where we’re building a bigger space, but we’re still playing at a high level. But everybody’s been great.

Why do you think Nashville has a booming craft-beer scene?
It’s next. If we got into a time machine and we drove 88 mph back to Phoenix 2010, Phoenix reminds me of Nashville. They had about this many breweries. It was still kind of new. The bars were still serving a lot of domestics. If they had eight tap handles, four of them go to domestic and the other four rotate through the locals. Then that became two domestic and six locals. And then lot of them thought they could double their draft space by installing five-barrel kegs in their cooler. That’s happening here. A lot of the same things that I’ve seen happen in Phoenix, Connecticut, Minnesota and to some extent in San Diego, it’s all happening here. As exciting as it is, here in Nashville, I think the trend has finally come here.

Do you foresee attending any local beer festivals? You could bring your small-batch beers.
Yeah, totally. We’ll always have the canned stuff available, but in general, with beer fests, we’re pretty selective on them. That one is controversial for me. I think that there are so many that are such a money grab. There are so many people within the beer-festival industry and they run one festival a year and that’s their income. In general, they’re really bad for the industry. But as a whole, there’s a couple of really good ones. Specifically in Nashville, we had a great time last year at the Preds fest. The guys at Rhizome do a great job. I think that was our first one. There’s a couple of those that we’ll participate in, for sure. With that said, we’re going to have festivals, every month, at the brewery. I call them anti-fests.

Who’s the guy featured on your Dodgy Knight Artisan Series of beers?
That was something we started a couple of years ago. The idea was it was going to be released once a quarter and we were going to use actual people on the cans. That guy on the Dodgy Knight can is a person from London — Oxford, actually. He is one of the bigger football fans in Europe. We wanted to get a caricature of these tailgate superfans and partner them with a beer that made sense with their profile. He’s super nice. He’s a schoolteacher who’s tailgated in the U.S. a couple of times. Once he realized I was trying to tribute him and the industry of superfans and not make money off him, he was good with it. We have some other people we want to feature, but with the costs of developing new cans and the timeline when we relocated, the project’s taken a back burner. We are doing another installment of the Dodgy Knight, this year. The next time we do another superfan release, it’ll be something totally different.

Do you have any plans to tailgate at different colleges with TailGate Beer, next year?
Oh, yeah. I’ve tailgated at some of the best venues in the U.S. even though we didn’t sell in the South before moving to the South. One of my goals this year was to visit every SEC stadium, but we got so busy building. The biggest thing that predicates my travel is if we have distribution in that market. I know this year we’re probably going to expand, based on some of our retailers. We’ve been asked to go to Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky. If we can support it appropriately, we will do it and it will open up some of those opportunities.

There’s a lot of things we’re going to do, here, too. I want to put up a projector screen out back, so when the weather is good in the Fall, we can watch games outside, we’ll be tailgating, we’ll have food, drinks and a great place to hang out. If you can’t drive four or five hours to Tuscaloosa, hang out here with us. We’ve got good beer, we’ve got the game on, it’s an all-ages event.

What does 2015 bring for TailGate Beer?
A lot of building. We’ve got such a huge property, that we’re pretty much always under permanent construction, all the way into the Summer of 2016, but a lot of things are just happening as the result of traffic. We’ve already started some projects, here, that I didn’t think we’d start for another six months. But, the more people that come out, the easier it is to pay for those things. I’ve got my long-term plans and I know what I’m doing tomorrow, but what happens in the next three to six months can quickly change. I really want to bring out Orange Wheat. I know that this year we’re going to do a lot of construction, a ton of different, creative brewing, we’re adding to our exports, we’re working with a lot of great retailers and most of our domestic focus is going to be on Nashville.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The message we try to really deliver is from a tasting-room standpoint and a brewery standpoint. I think the city is really lacking availability. A lot of the tasting rooms aren’t open daily. Most of the people I’ve talked to say that when Yazoo opened, there was a lot of conflict with the bars. I get it. It’s like that in every market, when the craft breweries start getting bigger. But as the market matures, they realize that when people come here and they like their product, they’re going to ask for it at those bars. It’s not a competitive thing - it’s just a different thing.

So, I understand the way the market evolved and Linus did something incredibly intelligent in the way he set it up, but I don’t think breweries having tasting rooms is bad for bars and restaurants. Our No. 1 question when people visit our Tasting Room is where can I get this in town? We’re open every day. We serve beer from every local brewery - we’re the only one that does that! We have food. Outside of Blackstone, that has a great restaurant, we’re the only one that has that. We just want to make ourselves available, not only as a resource for ourselves, but to the other local breweries. If you come here, you’re going to spend the day drinking craft beer. You know it’s not going to be the same this week as it was last and we’re still going to feature everybody but our own. I’m not naive enough to think we’re the only good brewery out there.

For more information about TailGate Beer, visit their website here.