#127 – Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, TN

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(1) THE BREWERY & OUR EXPERIENCE

After leaving Jackalope Brewing Company in Nashville, TN, we drove a whole quarter of a mile down the road to meet with the people of Yazoo. Neil McCormick, who is their Sales and Marketing Manager, spent a significant amount of time with us showing off the brewery and going into detail about what makes Yazoo unique. Afterwards, he even acted as our tour guide of the city which made our time there about 10-fold better than most other places we have been. Below we go into detail about all of the events they hold (like Embrace the Funk and an adult-sized big wheel competition), the past, present, and future state of their business, beers, and much more. We cannot thank everyone at Yazoo enough for such a great time and hope to come back soon!

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(2) VITAL INFORMATION

Date of our visit: Tuesday, 04/29/2014
Open since: October 2003
Approx. Barrel (bbl) Output 2013: 23,500 bbl
Projected bbl Output 2014: 27,000 bbl
Brewhouse size: 40 bbl
Owner(s): Linus & Lila Hall
Head Brewer: Quinn Meneely
Packaging: Kegs and Bottles
Distribution: Tennessee and Mississippi

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Other things we learned:

* Linus began homebrewing while studying engineering in VA. After moving back to Vicksburg, MS, he continued to brew at home while working in the tire industry. He and Lila decided they would make a go at brewing professionally and Linus attended brewing school followed by an internship with Garret Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery. He started out doing all of the brewing at Yazoo.

* The brewery gets its name from the Yazoo River which flows through a State Park in Mississippi where Linus and Lila were married.

* The owners are still extremely active and hands on in the business. Linus Is typically the first guy you will see getting his hands dirty.

* They were operating at the original location for the first 5 years. New legislation mandated that they have a retail space which they cooperated with but did not expect the popularity and there were soon lines out of the door until moving to the new facility, which was previously a mixed-use industrial building with a night club upstairs. Taproom hours are limited because they do not want to compete with their great accounts in the area.

* Lila drafted a lot of the original label artwork and Linus’ mother has also contributed. Some of that work is on display in the brewery.

* In the last year they added more equipment to mechanize the bottling process (6-pack erector, palatizer, drop box) rather than doing much of that by hand and are now moving about 80 – 100 cases / hour.

* Using a mixture of 40, 80, 120, and 200 bbl fermenters.

* Utilizing hops from a hop farm just outside of Nashville. A varietal brought over to the US from a German family that has been grown on the farm from the 1930’s onward as it passed through the family. Rhizomes from that hop strain were cut and cultivated by another farmer the brewery works with.

* Celebrated their 10 year anniversary last October with a huge party. Bands playing throughout the two day event and they released a commemorative 10 Year IPA.

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* Embrace the Funk Fest is hosted at the brewery in early May (the second annual was held the Sunday following our visit). The event featured 30-40 sour beers, wild ales, and lambics, including 10 beers from Yazoo’s cellars, more from other American breweries, and international standouts such as Orval, Cantillon, and 3 Fonteinen. In addition, a local cheese monger brought out tons of funky cheeses collected over 9 months and a chocolatier created a variety of charcuterie – for example pickled cherries wrapped in bourbon barrel-aged cocoa. To top it all off, there was a DJ spinning nothing but 70’s funk vinyls and a special guest speaker, Sandor Katz, who is an expert writer on fermentation science. The event was held to 200 people to ensure that it was not overcrowded and everyone could enjoy themselves.

* Cooking With Beer Series: Partner with various chefs and restaurants around town and provide them with all the beer they need to cook with to prepare a four course dinner.

* Barely a 4K Beer Runs: Running & craft beer have developed quite the partnership and Yazoo hosts this event to keep the concept inclusive to even the most amateur of runners. The event is not timed, there are no winners or losers, and a participant doesn’t even have to run the whole way or finish . During one run they gave everyone capes rather than the traditional T-shirt. Runs have been hosted at various bars in different cities. They acquire goods over time and host raffles after the race – if you win, you HAVE to take the prize which is sometimes nice, sometimes not.

* Hosted Big Wheel Championships the past three years – Adult sized big wheels raced with Co-ed teams of 4 in a relay. The winning team wins a championship belt (reminiscent of a wresting belt) which is made out of old hub caps.

* Annual Hot Chicken Festival

* Participating in a variety of regional beers festivals, however have cut back to focus efforts closer to home. Do not really get involved in tap takeovers or pint nights.

* There is a program to incentivize bars and individuals to bring back and recycle their 6-pack holders in return for prizes at the brewery.

* The bear in the taproom sports a hat and a monocle in the fashion of Teddy Roosevelt — The story behind the word teddy bear comes from a hunting trip in Onward, MS where Roosevelt was unable to kill anything. The host trapped a bear and invited Teddy to kill it but he declined, being more interested in the sportsmanship of the hunt.

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(3) BEERS AVAILABLE DURING OUR VISIT

@ = Specialty/Limited Release; * = Beers We Sampled
* Hefeweizen
* Gerst Amber
* Spring Helles Bock
* Dos Perros
* Sly Rye Porter
* Pale Ale
* Hop Project #78 @
* 10 Year IPA @
* Sue
* Complete listing of beers

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What we learned about their beer during our visit:

* Focus on making beers that they enjoy and that feature drinkability so that several can be enjoyed on the patio.

* Dos Perros, a Mexican-style amber, was one of the first beers brewed. Originally made for a friend’s summer wedding in MS.

* Hop Project : The series began around 2007 and features various hop profiles, including some experimental hops or fresh hops, with the same grain bill. Over 78 versions released. Released one version twice after taking a poll of the public’s favorite as well as the best reviewed – re-released Hop Project 13 as Hop Project 50 which they bottled and kegged on Friday 13th.

* Sell bombers of Preservation Ale Pale Ale each year utilizing the previously mentioned unknown hop strain where a portion of proceeds goes back to support the associated hop farmer. Also host a yearly party where patrons will come out and help pick the hops.

* Sour/Wild Ale projects: Have a ton of different barrels at the brewery including Merlot, White wine, Cherry casks, Whiskey, 30 year old Appleton Estates rum, etc.

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* Year round beers : Dos Perros, Hefe, Ghost Amber, Pale Ale, Hop Project, Sly Rye Porter. 4 very distinct seasonals : Helles Bock in Spring, Gose in Summer, Fall Lager, and Onward Stout in Winter.

* Talk of doing an alphabet soup beer with one ingredient from each letter of the alphabet.

* Beers are primarily available in 6 packs of 12oz bottles but specialty beers will also be released in 25.4oz bottles, i.e Sue and 10 Year IPA

* Sat down with the owners of the Gerst brand and recreated their Amber recipe based on taste and memory. Pre-prohibition Gerst was the largest brewery in the southeast.

* Some contract brewing for Hap and Harry’s – Lager (high and low gravity) and Brown Ale.

(4) EXPANSION PLANS

Fill out within current distribution zone. Planning to lease another 7,000 sq ft facility to separate all of their wild ale projects.

(5) BACKGROUND OF PEOPLE WE SPOKE TO

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[Neil, Michael, Quinn, Brandon]

Name: Alan Fey
Title: Taproom Manager and Special Events
Been with company since: 2011
Previous Occupation(s): Classical Musician; Bar Manager
Favorite Superhero: Quailman

Name: Neil McCormick
Title: Sales and Marketing Manager
Been with company since: 2008
Previous Occupation(s): Driver, sales, manager for microbrew and import distributor
Favorite Superhero: Dick Yuengling

Name: Quinn Meneely
Title: Head Brewer
Been with company since: 2004
Previous Brewing Experience: American Brewers Guild
Previous Occupation(s): ?
Favorite Superhero: Iron Man

(6) MORE LINKS ABOUT BREWERY

* Brewery Website

(7) You can find the rest of our PHOTOS here

Author: Michael Roberts & Brandon Wurtz

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