Walking into Black Abbey’s taproom feels a bit like walking into church. As you enter the door and pass through a Gothic arch, you’ll see hand-crafted wood tables and church pews. The eight taps on the far wall rest under a deep-red Gothic arch. The lights hanging from the ceiling used to illuminate a little church in East Tennessee. It feels like a sacred place. But as Martin Luther said, “It is better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church.”
The taproom is open to the brew house, so you’ll see everything that goes into beer production. Congregants are separated from the brew house by rustic wooden beams and railings. The wood in the beams and tables was recovered from a storm-damaged tobacco barn. That wood spent a century working, now it gets to retire to a brewery. There are five eight-foot tables for beer lovers to gather around and discuss things like fermentation and sanctification.
The taproom will have a small kitchen to provide food, per local laws that say you can’t have a bar without serving food. Black Abbey will open the doors with just a few beers, but will be able to scale up with eights taps on the wall. Unlike most bars and taprooms, each of the taps is attached to an individual pressure regulator. That’s a nice touch because they’ll be able to set a highly-carbonated beer like a Saison at a different pressure than a normally carbonated beer.
Black Abbey takes its inspiration from Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Whether or not Luther was a brewer, we know he loved beer. Tradition holds that his wife Katharina was a brewer. Their home was the Black Cloister, a former monastery presented to the couple as a wedding gift from John the Steadfast. The idea for Black Abbey Brewing came during a late Saturday night home brew session years ago on October 31st, aka Reformation Day.
June and I first tried Black Abbey’s beers at the 2011 12 South Winter Warmer and we’ve been awaiting their arrival ever since. The new brewery is not yet operational, and they haven’t brewed on the pilot system in a while so we didn’t get to sample any Black Abbey beers. When the brewery fires up, Black Abbey will launch with three beers created in the Belgian style, yet accessible to everyone.
The Champion is a stock ale while the Rose is a Belgian blonde. Special will be a Belgian mild, somewhere between a single and a dubbel. Special will have the complexity you expect from Belgian yeast and brings a high-gravity Belgian taste to the low-gravity market. If you’re a fan of Fortress, don’t worry, it’ll be produced later. The beers will be available on tap throughout the area and packaged beer will come later, although they’re not sure if they’ll bottle or can.
The Black Abbey brew house has a new Premier Stainless Systems 20 BBL (barrel) brew system. If that sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen a Premier system while touring several other local breweries. Premier makes a good brewery setup and they’re popular here in Middle Tennessee. Production will start with three 40 bbl conical fermenters and a 40 bbl bright tank, but there is plenty of expansion room for more tanks. One of the cool features of the brewery is a large Hop Back, which sort of looks like R2-D2, and will make for some interestingly hopped beer.
Black Abbey was founded by Carl Meier, a self-described mad scientist, John Owen, the technical wizard, and Mike Edgeworth, MD. They guys hope to start brewing in August and open their doors in September. Stay tuned for info on the taproom opening, you won’t want to miss it. Let’s hope that you’re predestined to be there.
Black Abbey Brewing Company.
Created. Not Made.
June & I want to thank Carl for taking the time away from building a brewery to give us a tour and tell us the Black Abbey story. As you can see from the pics, they’re hard at work on the place.