Recently June and I, some good friends and a few ladies from Nashville’s Girls’ Pint Out got together at the future home of a new local brewery, Tennessee Brew Works. The brewery will be located at 809 Ewing Ave, a few blocks from 8th and Division and within walking distance to Jackalope and Yazoo. (Taproom crawl, anyone?) The brewery will be in a old printing company and we got to see it before construction started. It was a wee bit rough but we could imagine how great it will be based on the blueprints we saw. The brewery will have a taproom and a small kitchen with a limited menu. Like any good brewery, they’ll do growler fills too.
We spent the evening with founders Garr Schwartz & Christian Spears. Garr’s also the (very good) brewmaster and a local boy, his family has been in Nashville for several generations and he’s a proud McGavock High graduate. He spent a few years in NYC but moved back home in 2003 and last year convinced Christian that Nashville was great place to live and start a business. They met at Lehman Brothers, where they both started on March 19, 1997. I can appreciate taking the 18th to recover after a NYC St Patrick’s Day celebration!
You’d expect two guys starting a brewery to be passionate about beer, and you’d be right. These guys are excited about bringing their beer to Tennessee and their enthusiasm is contagious. It was obvious they’ve done their homework too, as you would expect from NYC big finance guys. I’m guessing working at Lehman Brothers taught them a few things about how business works. That’s great, because many breweries fail because the passionate brewmaster has no idea how to run a business.
One thing we learned about the new 25 barrel brewhouse is they’ll use a mash filter instead of a traditional lauter tun. It will yield a more efficient mash than a typical setup and the new brewhouse will use 50% less water and 20% less grain and energy than comparable sized breweries. That’s a good thing because brewers use A LOT of water. Beer is mostly water of course, but a lot of the water in the brewing process goes straight down the drain. Garr has been brewing the beers on a small pilot system until the big brewhouse comes online.
We sampled seven beers and I’ll tell you all about them, but will not tell you the names as some are still undecided. We kicked off the night off with a Belgian white ale that will be a perfect summer beer. Great citrus notes and hints of floral in a crisp beer that will pair well with light foods.
Next up was a beer somewhere between an English pale ale and an ESB (extra special bitter). The guys seemed reluctant to call it an ESB and I don’t blame them, the “bitter” in the name freaks out a lot of craft beer newbies. However, ESBs aren’t bitter at all, especially when compared to American IPAs. Unlike most ESBs, this one gets a hop addition after the boil. Homebrewers call these “flameout” hops, since the hops are added after you turn the burner off, pro brewers might call it a hop stand or whirlpool hops. Whatever you call it, post-boil hopping adds a lot of aroma and flavor without adding any bitterness. You’re gonna love this beer, it was one of my favorites.
We moved on to a basil Farmhouse/Saison with rye in the grain bill. The rye added a hint of spice while the basil adds the magic that makes this a perfect beer with dinner. The basil rye saison was easily in my top three. Next was a solid American pale ale with a spicy herbal presence that’ll will make it a perfect fall beer. Everyone agreed it would be a perfect beer at the Thanksgiving table. June says this one is her favorite.
From the pale ale we moved onto the IPA, naturally. A bit of rye in the mash adds a touch of spice that works well in an IPA. A good beer, but not hoppy enough for the discerning crowd that had gathered. One of the great things about the night was Garr & Christian’s desire to hear honest feedback on the beers. The IPA was a good beer, but we all wanted more hops. Garr told us others had said the same thing and he’s tweaking the recipe. I can’t wait to try the IPA 2.0. I’m more of a Belgian ale and stout guy, but when I drink an IPA I want it to smack me upside the head with hoppiness.
Next we tried a sweet potato stout that is brewed with baked sweet potatoes in the mash. The dark, creamy, smooth, sweet beer was a stout lovers dream. Besides sweet potatoes in the mash, there’s also rye. If you haven’t figured out by now, Garr likes brewing with rye. The rye add a touch of “umph” and a bit of rye spice to complement the rich roasty stout character.
The last beer of the night was a Belgian Tripel that Garr named Tripel Spears after his business partner. That name will be changed for production and I may or may not have suggested the new one. Time will tell. Of course, the tripel was high-gravity but the smooth malty richness and fruity esters made it easily drinkable, maybe too easy for a high-alcohol beer. I know I said some of the other beers were my favorite, but this truly was number one.
I think we planned on being at the brewery about 90 minutes and it ended up being twice that. The beers were delicious and the company was better. Christian and Garr are so enthusiastic about their dream that it was easy to talk about the project for hours. We had a fabulous night and we’re looking forward to many more great evenings in their taproom. June and I can’t wait to see you all there this summer when it opens!