Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!
Immediately after leaving COOP Ale Works back in mid-May, we drove across town to meet with the guys at Roughtail brewing. When we arrived, co-owner Blaine Stansel greeted us before having to commit to a 12th Round challenge that involved their 12th Round Strong Ale and 12 minutes of time. It was quite entertaining, so we were all in a good mood the rest of the time. While chatting with him and the other co-owner, Tony Tielli, we learned all about Roughtail’s business model, beers, and history. There are many attributes about the brewery and beers that are quite unique, so we can assure you that Roughtail Brewing will satisfy your thirst whether you’re trying them offsite or at the brewery. A new taproom was opened quickly after laws changed to allow breweries to pour samples, so stop by and tell them hi for us when you’re in town!
After taking a short break back in our home town of Dallas, TX, we started off our second leg of the trip by heading north into Oklahoma to visit COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City. While there, we spoke with co-founder JD Merryweather about the brewery; he told us that COOP had just celebrated their 5 year anniversary about a week and a half before our visit. To celebrate the occasion, they held an event that included live local music, food trucks, and over 20 beers on tap. We were also informed that the brewery has six year-round flagship beers – F5 IPA, Elevator Wheat, Horny Toad Blonde, Native Amber, Gran Sport Porter, and DNR Belgian-style Dark Ale – but they also do a lot of small batch recipes and firkins. Later on, JD (who is also President of the Oklahoma Craft Brewers Guild) gave us insight into beer and breweries in Oklahoma before we had to head to our next stop!
Our first Arkansas brewery visit back in May (2014) was to Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock. We met with Josiah Moody who was the head brewer at that point in time, but he has since moved on to his own project as a gypsy brewer under the tag Moody Brews. Josiah informed us about all kinds of cool things Vino’s has done, like hosting live music multiple times a week from local bands as well as bigger acts like Queens of the Stone Age. A cream ale, pale ale, IPA, and stout are the four year-round beers they offer for you to enjoy with their excellent pizza, but they also have specialty releases such as the blood orange saison we tried. The environment at Vino’s is top notch and we highly recommend a trip there next time you’re in Little Rock!
After spending time in Nashville, we made our way down to Memphis in order to visit with the owners of Wiseacre, brothers Kellan and Davin Bartosch. They were not open to the public that day, so we spent some time chatting with them about their brewery and their different beers. Following that, Davin walked us around the facility and told us all about his previous experiences with brewing (including stints at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL & Doemen’s Academy in Munich, Germany) as well as the current methods he uses at Wiseacre. The brewery has amazing artwork on the walls and keeps things fun by hosting activities like karaoke, foosball, and an Oktoberfest. Their beer can only be found in Memphis currently, so if you want to pick up some cans, bottles, or growlers, you’ll need to visit the area to do so (and we recommend you do). Ananda IPA and Tiny Bomb American Pilsner are the two staples that can be found year-round, but they offer a ton of other specialty beers throughout the year that you won’t want to miss out on!
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!
As we neared the end of our fourth month on the road, we made the trek from Louisville, KY down to Nashville, TN and met with the owners and staff of Jackalope Brewing Company on a hot Tuesday afternoon. We spent some time talking to them about their business, indulged in some of their brews including Thunder Ann American Pale Ale fresh off the canning line, and then they let us have some of the pizza they had ordered! Jackalope was the first all-female owned brewery in Tennessee and Robyn Virball & Bailey Spaulding have done some amazing things with their business, with the help of Steve Wright who was brought on as a third owner. This brewery was also the first one to use cans in Nashville, comes out with new rotators every 6 weeks or so, holds multiple events throughout the year (including an anniversary celebration and a Bruce Springsteen-focused festival), and also shares their building with a coffee shop. Under the slogan ‘Drink Legendary’ they have been able to brew a plethora of unique beer options for you to enjoy, so be sure to drop in and say hi when you’re in town checking out the capital of Tennessee – America at its best.
After visiting Against the Grain in Louisville, KY, we made the short drive over to Apocalypse Brew Works. Co-founders Bill Krauth, Leah Dienes, and Paul Grignon opened up the taproom (which they call “The Fallout Shelter”) on May 11, 2012 with the 3 1/2 barrel system they are using today. We spoke to Leah, the head-brewer, while sampling their brews and learned all of the information found below – including the fact that Leah is an active BJCP judge. Between the three co-founders, there is over 40 years of homebrewing experience which helped them open the taproom with 10 beers on tap and maintain that number since. Also, if you happen to be in the area when the world gets taken over by zombies, keep in mind that the brewery makes for a nice Apocalypse bunker since they can lock the razor wire laden gates to keep the zombies out; hence their motto “Drink Beer Til the End.”
During our time in Lexington, KY, we received multiple recommendations to check out Blue Stallion Brewing company. We originally made our way over there on Saturday night and then went back the following day to speak with co-founder Jim Clemons. Blue Stallion is currently the only brewery in Kentucky distributing lagers, which became a focus of head brewer Nico Schulz after getting his brewing start in Germany and then attending the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. Blue Stallion has a principal focus on traditional German lagers and English ales featuring traditional and proper glassware to pair with each style; they do not make any American styles. The taproom features a bar taller than any we have experienced in a space that used to house an old iron working studio. We had an incredible time there both days and thoroughly enjoyed all of the beers we got to try, including a collaboration they did with Against the Grain called All Funked Up Berwynnerweisse.