Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Beer with a Brewmaster: Karen Lassiter of Corsair

By Matt Kelsey

Corsair Artisan Distillery is well known for its award-winning whiskey and spirits, but with recent Tennessee legislation, the Nashville-based distillery has expanded its focus to include craft beer, as well. Visitors to its Marathon Motor Works base of operations are welcomed to tour the facility six days a week and visit the High-Gravity Beer Lab, which is currently the only location to sample and purchase the company’s beer.

Not long ago, I spoke with Corsair Head Brewer Karen Lassiter to discuss her brewing career, taking an interest in historical beers, the growing craft-beer scene of Nashville and participating with the Pink Boots Society.

Are you originally from Tennessee?
Originally, I’m from Pennsylvania. I grew up in the Philadelphia area, but I’ve been here, in Tennessee, for almost 25 years, now.

How did you get your start, as a brewer?
I started off, as a homebrewer. Actually, I’ll tell you the tale. I had worked in the graphic arts and the printing industry for almost 20 years and I started homebrewing, probably 10 or 11 years ago. I lost my job in the printing industry in 2007, right at the start of the recession and I had trouble finding another job and all I could find were entry-level jobs. What do I do now? Maybe it’s time for a career change. I had already been into craft beer and the craft-beer industry had been exploding and I also got to know some of the local, professional brewers, here in town, by being involved in the local homebrew club, The Music City Brewers.

I had been involved with them for a few years, by the time I lost my job. I thought, ‘Well, I’m unemployed. I guess I’ll look into taking some sort of training program.’ So, I took the Siebel brewing-technology course. It was like a three-month-long online correspondent’s course. When I got done with that, I really wanted some hands-on training. So, I ran into Travis Hixon — who was the brewer over the pub at Blackstone — at a beer festival, right about the time I finished my Siebel course and I asked him for an apprenticeship. He said, ‘Sure, you could do an apprenticeship with us, but we couldn’t pay you.’ So, I worked with them for a couple of months and wanted to do some more. I knew the brewer over at Boscos, Fred Scheer and approached him, but he told me, ‘We don’t do apprenticeships.'

But I also knew Fred’s boss, Chuck Skypeck, the guy who was in charge of all the brewing operations for all of the Boscos. So, I just went over Fred’s head and said I was looking to do another apprenticeship. I was even willing to come down to Memphis. He wrote back to me, ‘Well, Fred’s right. We don’t do any formal apprenticeships… but we’re looking to hire. Are you interested?'”
“They hired me as Fred’s assistant at the Boscos in Nashville and I worked with Fred for just a little over a year and then Fred moved on to bigger and better things. So, I took over after he left and then I was with Boscos for six years. Then, they closed and here I am, at Corsair.

When Boscos closed, did it catch you off guard?
The Nashville Boscos closed on September 22nd. I won’t forget that date, for a long time.

Did you ever get an official answer as to why the location was shut down?
Well, they were doing construction next to us and that really hurt our sales. I even had people come up to me and say, ‘When they knocked that building down, next to you, we thought they knocked you down, too.’ Part of that was the owner’s fault, too. If that perception was out there, they should have made sure people realized we were still there; we were still open. They didn’t do anything to promote our business… little to no advertising. I think there were some poor management decisions made, they had decreasing revenue and they started accruing debt. That’s pretty much what happened.”
“Another thing which really did us in, over at Boscos, with the explosion of all the microbreweries and nanobreweries here in town, that Boscos just didn’t do enough to promote themselves. I remember opening up the Nashville Scene and seeing full-page ads that Jackalope was running. I even showed them to my manager and told them this is stuff we needed to be doing, because these new breweries are starting up and they’re going to take the attention away. Boscos had been around for a long time and people wanted to try the new thing.

Boscos had many varieties of beers on tap. I’m guessing you had a lot of input on that?Well, I had some input on the seasonal beers. Boscos always had eight beers on tap: There were four regular beers and four seasonals. The four regular beers were more like corporate recipes, so they were served at all locations and there was some variation in what seasonal beers were available.

Do you have any plans to brew any of your previous recipes at Corsair, at some point?
A lot of my recipes were either hoppy beers, a Kolsch that was good – I have not yet brewed that here — I hope to do my KPA here, which was my hoppy beer. Right now, we’re trying to develop our recipes, here at Corsair, and we’ll probably incorporate some of my older recipes that I did at Boscos, maybe as seasonals, every once in a while.

When you were a homebrewer, did you ever experiment with any bizarre ingredients?
One of the reasons why Corsair was really interested in hiring me was that they knew I had experience with historical research, in brewing. My husband and I are involved in The SCA, which is a medieval reenactment group: The Society for Creative Anachronism. I’ve been involved with that for at least 17 years and my husband, Jack, has been in it for at least 20 years. I’ve always been interested in historical brewing and as a homebrewer, I’d done some research in brewing historical beers and brought them to our SCA events. I did an Egyptian beer, a Viking ale, an Elderberry Gruit… a Gruit is an old-style beer from the Middle Ages, that is flavored with all sorts of things, mostly a variety of herbs. When I first started researching historical beers, most of the recipes were using herbs like bog myrtle, yarrow, juniper, mugwort, wormwood, Chamomile, hyssop and all those weird things.

How did Corsair get into the beer business?
Well, I’ve only been a Corsair employee since October, so I don’t know the real long-range plans, but after I lost my job, when Boscos closed, Corsair called me up, that day. They said they had been planning on starting up beer production, for some time. They were tickled when I became available, because everyone here is mostly working on the spirits side of things. So, they hired me. I don’t know how long they had been thinking about that or how far back they’d had that in their game plan. Eventually, their long-range goal is to turn this space back into 100 percent beer production, like when Yazoo was here. All the spirits and whiskey will be moved to the new building, over by the fairgrounds.

Do you know a date when that will happen by?
They bought that building last year and they’re converting the space. They’re getting the stills set up and we’re probably still months away from whiskey being totally moved out of here.

Can you tell me a little about your brewing setup at Corsair?
Right now, I’m brewing on a pilot system and we’re just on an on-premises sales, for right now. Eventually, we hope to get into distribution, starting with kegs in different tap rooms and bars, and then maybe bottles and cans, after that.

Is there a central theme to the beers of Corsair?We like to have five categories of beer, in production or on tap, at all times. Since Corsair likes to smoke their own malts, they like to have a smoked beer, a historical beer, a hoppy beer, a seasonal beer and the fifth one is anything made from our Corsair malt.

Which would you say is your best-seller or your flagship?Well, our bestsellers are our hoppy beers and that was true when I worked over at Boscos, too. Hoppy beers always sell well. Our flagship beer for our hoppy beer is our Ancient IPA and we also do a Rye IPA. The interesting thing we do with the Rye is we barrel ferment it in our rye-whiskey barrels. I like the extra-spicy character that you get from the grain. It’s a nice, little twist to your typical hoppy IPAs.

What were some of your brewing inspirations for your Corsair beers?Some of the ideas for the beers are uniquely mine, but that’s actually a minority of the brews that we do. Most of the brews are a collaboration. The other people who brew here or have had experience with beer brewing are Matt Strickland, Tyler Crowell, and Emily Kendall, our tap room manager. She knows what sells and she has knowledge of beer. We all get together and have weekly production meetings and plan on what to brew next, depending on the season.

Do you have plans to release barrel-aged beers?No, because I think we’re waiting until we can do a larger-scale production for distribution into bottles. That’s probably more of a longer-range plan.

As a dark-beer fan, can you tell me a little about your current or upcoming beers?
One of our upcoming beers is our Chocolate Mole Stout. It’s brewed and aged with dried chili peppers and cocoa nibs. We debuted that beer at the Winter Warmer and it got a great reception. Once we put it on tap, it sold out quickly. That’s coming up again. That’s the only stout that we have coming up. We tend to not do the darker beers, much, in the summertime. We’ll be concentrating on wits and Hefeweizens. We’ll probably wait for the cooler months to do our Turkish Coffee Stout, because that’s a strong beer.

What kind of beer trends are you noticing?Well, there’s a lot of interest in sour beers, there’s a lot of interest in session beers and there is starting to be some interest in the historical beers actually using nontraditional ingredients, sort of like a resurgence of interest in Gruits, which is what they called beer before they started using hops in it. I have an interest in the session beers and the Gruit beers… not so much the sours. I’m not real keen on those.

To what do you attribute the booming craft-beer scene of Nashville?Well, it’s a combination of things. It’s businesspeople realizing an opportunity, that they can perhaps start a tap room or a brewery and have good sales, because it’s very popular, right now. Then it’s also people who are passionate, people like me, who started off as a craft-beer drinker and then migrated to a homebrewer, wanting to make it their career.

Would you have ever imagined so many breweries within the Middle Tennessee area, like there are today?I thought that it would eventually get to that point. When I first started at Boscos in 2008, there was Big River, Yazoo, Blackstone and us. That was it. Soon afterwards, Cool Springs Brewery was the first to start up, then Blackstone expanded to a production facility, Turtle Anarchy came… I actually know Ken Rebman, over at Czann’s. He started off in the homebrew club and so did Carl Meier at Black Abbey. I had talked to both of them, years ago, when they were in their planning stages. So, I had a feeling that all these ex-homebrewers wanted to start up their own breweries.

What does it mean to have a group of female brewers and members of the brewing industry meeting regularly via the Pink Boots Society?
It’s really awesome. I didn’t have a female role model to follow, when I started in Nashville, because all the brewers were guys, but I count them as my friends. There isn’t a guy or gal brewer, here in town, who I wouldn’t ask, if I had a question. I was the only one. Now there’s others and I think that’s a good thing. It’s interesting, since we had been talking about historical brewing. Historically, women were responsible, because brewing was considered a household chore. Each estate or household would brew their own beer. It wasn’t until much later, during the Industrial Revolution, when people started using machines to help them brew and men took over. For most of human history, brewing was put into the category of cooking. For a millennia, women were really in charge of brewing. Hopefully, women will start taking their rightful place, being in charge of brewing. (laughs)

Tell me a little about collaborating with the other breweries to brew Unite Red Ale.I cannot take much credit for that. Actually, Bailey Spaulding, over at Jackalope, was the one who came up with the recipe, keeping in mind what materials and malts she had on hand. She just threw it out there, ‘This is what I’ve got. How about we make an amber or a red ale?’ That sounds great. It was brewed at Jackalope by Bailey, Sally Cooper, Laura Burns and me. It was the four of us, but it was mainly Bailey and Sally, because it was brewed on their equipment and they’re familiar with their equipment. I felt like I just stood around and gave moral support. Jackalope gets all the credit, for brewing that beer.

What are the future plans for the Pink Boots Society?
I think the next project that we want to do is a beer-education thing, kind of bringing other women in, to try to learn about beer and try to have some sort of beer appreciation. The more women you have, who are interested in drinking the product, then it’s a natural progression that they’ll want to get into either homebrewing or professional brewing or something associated with that. Now, out of all the gals in our chapter of Pink Boots, there’s only four or five of us who are actual brewers. The rest of the gals in the local chapter either work for distributors or satellite businesses that are associated with the brewing process.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?I feel very fortunate that, considering what happened to Boscos, I landed in a good spot. Corsair is very interested in doing unique things, not only with spirits, but also with beer. I’m fortunate to have a really cool job.

For more information visit Corsair's website here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Previewing the Nashville Brew Festival

By Matt Kelsey

With the introduction of the Nashville Brew Festival, craft-beer festivals are a whole new ball game.

Craft-beer fans are encouraged to step up to the plate to First Tennessee Park (the new home of the Nashville Sounds) on Saturday, October 3rd, 2015. This inaugural beer festival will begin pouring beer at 1 P.M. (with VIP ticket holders leading off at noon). Attendees will be treated to unlimited refills of beer, music, games, food trucks and more. It’s a grand slam for craft beer and sports fans, alike.

Previewing the Nashville Brew Festival, Promoter Dan Silberstein discusses what attendees can expect at the event.

How would you describe the event to a first-time attendee?
It’s a unique opportunity to discover breweries you may have never heard of, or try beers you’ve never tasted, while enjoying a rare opportunity to be on outfield of First Tennessee Park.

This is the first year for the Nashville Brew Festival. What can attendees expect?
Over 55 breweries, 150 beers, food trucks, lawn games and great music. What makes this unique is the venue and the number of local breweries we have.

What would you say your beer festivals are best known for?
We’re very well organized, which sounds like a common trait, but we’ve been to so many festivals where check in takes a while, beer runs out, or the lines are long. We’ve done so many of these, we know how to address them in advance.

This is probably the first local beer festival held in a baseball field. Why hold it there?
Baseball stadiums are great venues because they already have all the permits. Additionally, having real bathrooms versus porto potties is a huge plus and we don’t need to bring in outside fencing, dumpsters, security, etc. From an attendee’s perspective, it’s a better experience than a public parking lot or park.

How was Nashville chosen to host this festival?
We found out that the new stadium was getting built and decided to reach out. It was more great timing than anything else. Plus, the beer scene is definitely developing and it’s great to jump in before it gets overly saturated.

To what do you attribute the booming craft-beer scene of Nashville?
It’s the same in every city: A symbiotic relationship between new breweries, more taps being made available at bars and restaurants, and festivals to help drive awareness for those beers.

Will attendees be able to run the bases in the stadium?
The whole field will be available and we’ll also have lawn games (cornhole, etc.) as well as speed pitch available.

Please tell me a little about how the baseball scoreboard will be used at the festival.
This will be one of the coolest additions to the event. We’re bringing in a video DJ to plug in and play videos of the songs that are played on the house PA system.

How were the participating breweries chosen for this festival?
We initially reached out to all the local breweries, and beyond that to the craft breweries that had reps in Nashville. In total, we’ll have 55 breweries.

Will there be any games or other entertainment options happening at the beer fest?
Yes, speed pitch and lawn games (cornhole) plus ping pong tables at the Center Field Plaza.

Are general admission and VIP tickets still available?
Yes. VIP is an added hour (from noon to 1 P.M.) and breweries are bringing a specialty beer for the first hour.

For More Information, visit the Nashville Brew Festival Website.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Previewing the Music City Food + Wine Festival

By Matt Kelsey

Foodies, prepare to get treated like rock stars this weekend, as the third-annual Music City Food + Wine Festival returns to downtown Nashville!

Bicentennial park will host the event on Saturday September 19th and Sunday the 20th as daytime demos, panels and tastings will take place, and later in the evenings, the festivities will continue with live music and culinary chefs in Walk of Fame Park. Produced by Grammy-award winning artists and Nashville residents Kings of Leon, along with world-renowned chef Jonathan Waxman, Vector Management’s Ken Levitan and Andy Mendelsohn, and Austin-based C3 Presents (producer of Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Austin Food + Wine Festival and Chicago Food + Wine Festival), attendees can expect to bond over food and music at the festival.
Tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday daytime activities, but the All-In passes have totally sold out. Get your tickets now!

Festival Publicist and Event Producer Sarah Abell gives more details about the upcoming event:

How would you describe the event to someone who hasn’t attended it before?
MCFW brings together superstars of Nashville’s local culinary scene with acclaimed national and regional chefs, wine and spirits experts. Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, the Festival features cooking demonstrations and panel discussions; intimate Tasting Sessions; Grand Tasting tents offering food, wine and cocktail samples from local and regional artisans; and Harvest Night, Saturday night’s signature event showcasing dishes from world-renowned chefs with live musical performances curated by Kings of Leon.

This is one of the largest festivals in Nashville. What would you say this festival is best known for?
A hallmark of our events is to have fun! We serve great food & drinks, have a dynamic roster of culinary and wine & spirits talent all set to terrific live music! MCFW offers the unique opportunity for festivalgoers to mix & mingle with some of the best chefs — both in Nashville and around the country — as well as musicians and wine & spirits experts. The festival grounds are intimate and attendees can walk around with a drink in their hand, chat with chefs and rock stars and meet fellow food lovers from around the country. One of our signature elements is a bad-ass dance party at the end of each day. DJ Mel spins live music all day Saturday & Sunday, and during the last 30 minutes to an hour, the center of the festival — right around his DJ booth — becomes a hive of activity with everyone dancing and having a great time. It’s not to be missed!

Celebrity chefs will be attending the festival, coming from a variety of backgrounds. Is there a common theme shared between them?
The festival honors the city’s great culinary heritage and rapidly expanding role as one of the country’s most exciting and buzzed-about food scenes, and the chefs represent local, regional and national restaurants. The partners — including chef Jonathan Waxman, Kings of Leon, Vector Management’s Ken Levitan and Andy Mendelsohn, and Charlie Jones of C3 Presents — put together a list of their favorite chefs and restaurants each year and we aim to highlight new and beloved destinations in Nashville and beyond.

What’s new for Music City Food + Wine in 2015?
On Sunday, we are thrilled to introduce the first-ever Gospel Brunch. The inaugural Gospel Brunch, presented by Smithfield, will be held Sunday, September 20, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. At the Gospel Brunch, festival attendees can enjoy chef Matt Bolus’ twists on brunch classics, including his Ham and Cheese Griddle Sandwiches and Hair of the Dog Buttermilk Bourbon Fried Sausages made with Smithfield bacon and ham, set to a live performance by Randolph and the Nashville Friends Choir, a collection of some of the best vocalists in town who often provide backing voices to noted artists across many musical genres, including gospel, country and R&B.

Also, due to popular demand, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint & Friends will return with an all-star line-up of some of the most decorated chefs and pitmasters across the country. Celebrated pitmaster Pat Martin will be joined by a host of award-winning chef friends to cook and serve an interactive, live-fire barbecue and grilling feast on festival grounds.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint & Friends area will allow festivalgoers to see, experience and taste wood-fired ingredients that have been slow roasted, grilled and barbecued on-site over live fire using a variety of cooking methods. Throughout the weekend, Martin and friends will serve tasting-size portions of whole-cooked lamb, hog, goat and fish, as well as beef ribs, coal-roasted root vegetables, and other ingredients cooked slow and low.

Dishes will be announced as they are ready throughout the day, via social media and on-site chalkboards, and Martin and friends will dish out tasting-size portions on a first-come, first-served basis. Tuck Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Wines will be on-hand to cook and pour Hogwash Rose, Linus Hall of Yazoo Brewing will serve Yazoo beers and Roy Milner of Blackberry Farm will share pours of his acclaimed Saison beer. The interactive Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint & Friends will allow attendees to talk with the chefs about their approach to low and slow cooking, and enjoy tastes of delicious barbecued meats, fish and vegetables throughout the day.

Under the direction of Martin, the interactive live-fire stations will feature a rotating cast of chef friends, including, but not limited to:

• Stephen Barber (Long Meadow Ranch, St Helena, CA)
• Tuck Beckstoffer (Beckstoffer Wines)
• Bill Darsinos (Southside Grill, Nashville)
• Billy Durney (Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn, NY)
• Steve Hutchinson (a seven-time Pro-Bowl and former NFL guard)
• Sam Jones (Skylight Inn BBQ, Ayden, NC)
• Joseph Lenn (‘Cue the Music, Knoxville)
• Edgar Pendley (Urban Grub, Nashville)
• Carl Ruiz (The Inn at Rikers Island, NYC)
• Jason Stanhope (FIG, Charleston, SC)
• Tandy Wilson (City House, Nashville)

Additionally, special guests will be stopping by throughout the weekend to help cook, including Salvador Avila (Prima); Matt Bolus (The 404 Kitchen); Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker); Trey Cioccia (The Farm House), Jason McConnell (McConnell House), and more.

What’s one aspect of the festival that people may not be aware of?
Our food bank donation is Second Harvest of Nashville.

Further previewing the event, Jim Stabile of Vector Management and Kings of Leon’s management team, gives more details about the festival:

How did Kings of Leon get involved with the Music City Food + Wine Festival?
It was their baby. I would say about in 2011, Caleb and Nathan — the two oldest brothers in the band — started to see the city developing, from an economic standpoint. When the guys tour, they eat at the best restaurants and travel the world. They had all these great celebrity-chef relationships, because they ate at all these great restaurants, but it wanted to host a wine-and-food festival in Nashville as a way to selfishly recruit them to open shop, here. At the time, there were a lot of franchise-type restaurants but not a lot of mom-and-pop places, like it is now. I think they were hoping to bring some of that cultural cache to Nashville, because they saw such promise in the market.

The first person they befriended was Jonathan Waxman and Adelle’s became a reality. They’re actually with that restaurant. Jonathan has become sort of a brand ambassador for the festival. Others, now, that have come to the festival for the last two years have kind of embraced Nashville and are looking at opportunities to open restaurants in Nashville. The impetus for the Food + Wine Festival to recruit chefs is coming to fruition, which is really great. Organically, it’s exploded. I’ve lived here for seven years, but over the last two to three years, it’s grown. It’s night and day from what it was.

Will there be craft beer paired with food at the festival?
There will be guest pitmasters coming in and working at Pat’s Live Fire area and to take that to the next level, there will be hand-picked craft brewmasters and winemakers pairing with his food. Brewmaster Roy Milner from Blackberry Farm Brewery will be there, Linus Hall from Yazoo will be there, Tuck Beckstoffer has a whole portfolio of wines, Andrew Mariani is coming in with some great wine pairings and I think there might be a couple of other surprises in store.

How were the craft beer, wine and liquor brands chosen for this festival?
It’s a delicate balance. We were really careful not to bring in the obvious guys. It was more craft and artisanal focused across the board. A lot of times these festivals will cut deals with a local distributor and feature their entire portfolio. Sometimes that’s wine, spirits and beer. In our case, we have great relationships with all the local distributors, but Nashville is still a fairly growing foodie market and it’s still emerging, as far as volume. We are literally hand picking the brands we want to feature at the festival. The distributors also help, because they know what kind of premium brands to feature. So, that brings a curated taste-maker vibe, which is why I think a lot of people like this festival, on the food side. We’re trying to bring that to the table for the beer, wine and spirits side, too.

For More Information:
Music City Food + Wine Festival Ticket Information
Music City Food + Wine Festival Webpage
Music City Food + Wine Festival Twitter
Music City Food + Wine Facebook
Music City Food + Wine Instagram

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Previewing the 2015 Nashville Whiskey Festival

By Matt Kelsey

Mark Twain was famous for saying, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
You’ll be able to find plenty of good whiskey at the Nashville Whiskey Festival, where more than 70 different distilleries will be represented, offering samples from many different countries, all over the world.

The fourth annual Nashville Whiskey Festival will take place on September 12th, 2015, featuring Scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese whiskeys, along with bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. There will be plenty of spirits in attendance, along with great catered food, live music a Moonshine Lounge and even a Cigar Lounge.

Corkdork Event Director Jennifer Carr previews the 2015 Nashville Whiskey Festival, which will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

As the Event Director, please describe some of your responsibilities.
Getting top notch distilleries from all the world to come and participate in the festival, lining up just the right food and live music acts to complement them, and spreading the word to make sure that all Nashville whiskey lovers know about this great event!

How would you describe the event to someone who hasn’t experienced it before?
The Nashville Whiskey Festival gives participants the opportunity to sample the world’s finest international and American-made whiskeys, bourbons, and scotches while interacting with distillers and their representatives. The festival also includes live music, tasty bites, a Cigar Lounge sponsored by Smokers Abbey, educational seminars by whiskey experts and a Moonshine Corner.

What’s the background of this festival? How did it get started?
Paul Patel created the Nashville Whiskey Festival in 2012 with the goal of encouraging participants to truly taste, learn, explore, and experience all the nuances in a variety of whiskeys. Regardless of personal taste preferences, this event is catered to a community with a deep appreciation for carefully handcrafted work by passionate, talented artisans.

What’s new for the event in 2015?
For the first time this year, the Nashville Whiskey Festival will welcome a couple of distinguished aged rums and Cognacs in to the festival. Two fantastic artisanal rum producers will be at this year’s festival: Diplomatico and Kirk and Sweeney. They will be joined by world-class Cognac A.E. Dor.

What would you say this festival is best known for? What can attendees expect?
This festival is known for having the best selection of whiskeys, bourbons, Scotches, Irish whiskeys, and Cognacs of any whiskey festival in the area. Attendees can expect to taste over 200 of these whiskeys, bourbons, scotches, Irish whiskeys, and Cognacs from over 70 distilleries while having an opportunity to chat with ambassadors, master distillers, and representatives from each distilleries.

Please tell me a little about the local distillers who will be attending this year.
We are very excited to have local distillers Peg Leg Porker, Cumberland Cask, Nelson’s Green Brier, Pennington’s, Jack Daniel’s, Old Hickory, George Dickel, and so many more. And we are thrilled to announce that Corsair will not only be in attendance but will introduce their newest spirit, Corsair Wildfire, their own in-house malted and hickory-smoke barley recipe, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!

How many distillers will be attending the event?
We will have over 70 distillers at the event.

Will there be any educational seminars at this year’s event?
YES! We have an amazing list of guest speakers including: Tim Laird (Brown-Forman Chief Entertaining Officer), Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey Master Distiller), Jameson Ambassador Darren Mooney, Four Roses Ambassador Al Young, Glenmorangie and Ardberg Scotch Sommelier Rachel Ewing (one of only two female Scotch sommeliers in the country) and Pernod Ricard Master of Scotch Craig Vaught.

Can attendees purchase their favorite whiskeys at the store, after attending the festival?
YES! Each festival attendee will receive an event booklet, on arrival, that they can use as an order form to buy their favorite whiskeys they tried at the event. They can turn those in after the festival to get their order filled OR they can bring their booklets in to Midtown Wine and Spirits after the event and shop for their favorite spirits they tried at the festival!

The Country Music Hall of Fame was an incredible location last year. Will the festival be setup on the same floor and location as last year?
Yes, we are very excited to be set up at the Country Music Hall of Fame again this year. This year we will also be adding a Cigar Lounge presented by East Nashville’s Smokers Abbey that will be set up on the patio. The patio will also house the Moonshine Corner, offering samples of outstanding moonshines from Popcorn Sutton, American Born Moonshine, Sugarlands Distilling, and Tenn South Distillery.

What’s one aspect of the festival that people may not be aware of?
We will be featuring some of the best whiskeys there are and will have some of the country’s TOP experts in attendance to talk with attendees about these outstanding products. We will also have many craft distillers in attendance with many of their award-winning whiskeys and bourbons.

What do VIP tickets include and are tickets still available?
There are some VIP tickets still available. VIP tickets include one hour early entry to the festival for crowd-free tasting and first dibs on the limited bottles, a goodie bag upon arrival, invitations to pre-festival tastings and seminars, access to the barrel-tasting room.

For more information, visit the Nashville Whiskey Festival's website here.

BEER SPOTLIGHT: Highland Brewing Company's King MacAlpin DIPA

By Matt Kelsey

Highland Brewing Company unveils the King MacAlpin Double IPA hop bomb via its Warrior Series. The first high-gravity beer to be released from this new bottling-line project is named after the first king of Scotland that promotes bold aromas and flavors to go along with a citrus punch and 10% alcohol by volume.

The Warrior Series will be released four times per year in limited quantities of kegs and 12 ounce four packs.

Head Brewer Hollie Stephenson notes, “Highland is known for balanced traditional styles, rather than high-gravity hop-forward beers. If there is balance, this beer is balanced in its extremes. It clocks in at 90 IBUs, with slight malt sweetness, and is double dry hopped with piney and citrusy Pacific Northwest Centennial, Amarillo, Chinook and Simcoe hops. This beer will uphold Highland’s commitment to high quality and consistency, while expanding the style profile one can expect from the brewery.”

Be on the lookout for future Warrior beers, which will include a Scotch ale, a Belgian Tripel and more. The next Warrior to be released will be a chocolate-milk stout in September that can be found in major markets at limited retail locations.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Celebrity Chef & Local Brewmaster To Open Mantra Artisan Ales

By Matt Kelsey

The growing Middle Tennessee brewery scene welcomes Celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan and award-winning Brewmaster Derrick Morse, who will open Mantra Artisan Ales, later this fall.

Chef Chauhan, of Chauhan Ale & Masala House is partnering with Brewmaster Morse, formerly of Cool Springs Brewery, to open a brewery and taproom that will feature high-quality craft beers with daring flavor profiles influenced by Chauhan’s Indian heritage, combined with Morse’s brewing expertise.

Located in Franklin, Tennessee at the former location of Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company, Mantra Artisan Ales will feature 24 taps, including six year-round staples, paired with many seasonal ales.

Mantra will feature six flagship beers, including the Saffron Cardamom IPA, Milk Chai Stout, Sour Belgian Style Pale, Sour Flanders Style Red, Belgian Style Wit/Saison Blend with Coriander and Bitter Orange Peel and a Belgian Style Amber.

Nashville will be the primary launch market for Mantra, followed by Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis. Additional markets, such as Asheville, N.C., Bowling Green, Ky. and Cincinnati, Ohio will be explored in 2016.

Just as Turtle Anarchy was a family-run operation, Mantra will also be a labor of love, as Chauhan’s husband, Vivek Deora, is in charge of growth and business development, while Morse’s wife, Kaleigh, will manage the taproom. Chad Frost, who previously worked for Derrick Morse at Cool Springs Brewery, will be assisting with the brewing duties. "

This project is a dream child of my husband Vivek and mine. Both of us have been working for years on infusing spices and bold flavors into beer,” says Chauhan. “Our dream is finally coming to a delicious fruition and we couldn't be more excited to partner with a scientific wizard like Derrick and our amazing team. The world needs to watch out for some extremely creative and intriguing beer!" 

“Since entering into the beer business many years ago, I’ve wanted to own my own brewery,” says Morse. “To work with the most talented people I know is a true blessing and will ensure the success of Mantra.”

For more information about Mantra Artisan Ales, visit their website here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Goose Island Returns to Nashville for Migration Week 2015

You might remember last year when Goose Island migrated to Music City for a week full of events.  Well guess what, they're coming back!

During this year's Migration Week, you'll have the chance to sample a handful of obscure offerings, partake in beer & food pairings, as well as choose from an extensive list of Goose Island brews at tap takeovers around town.  Here's the rundown of the schedule:

Tuesday - August 25 - Kick Off Party Tap Takeover at Hurry Back - 6-8 PM
Featuring Halia, Oktoberfest, Sofie, Matilda, 312 Wheat, Bourbon County Proprietors, Bourbon County Vanilla Rye, & Bourbon County Barleywine.

Wednesday - August 26 - Shrimp Boil at Miel - 6-9 PM
Featuring Sofie, Matilda, & Oktoberfest.

Wednesday - August 26 - Beer Dinner at Butchertown Hall - 7-9 PM 
Featuring Bourbon County Coffee Stout 2012, Sofie, Matilda, Goose Island IPA, Oktoberfest, 312 Pale, & Lolita.

Thursday - August 27- Sampling at Craft Brewed - 4-6 PM 
Featuring Bourbon County Stout 2013, Bourbon County Vanilla Rye, Juliet 2010, & Matila.

Thursday - August 27 - Sweets & Sours at Goozy - 7-9 PM
Featuring Hailia, Madame Rose, Lolita, Bourbon County Coffee, & Sofie

Friday - August 28 - Tap Takeover at 312 Pizza - 6-8 PM
Featuring Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon County Barleywine, Bourbon County Proprietors, 312 Wheat, & Matilda.

Friday - August 28 - Tap Takeover at Hop Stop - 8-10 PM
Featuring Bourbon County Stout , Bourbon County Coffee, Bourbon County Vanilla Rye, & Sofie.

Friday - August 28 - Tap Takeover at 312 Pizza - 6-8 PM
Featuring Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon County Barleywine, Bourbon County Proprietors, 312 Wheat, & Matilda.

Friday - August 28 - Tap Takeover at Hop Stop - 8-10 PM
Featuring Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon County Coffee, Bourbon County Vanilla Rye, & Sofie.>