Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yazoo Brewing Company

There are certain attractions that people visit when they are a tourist in a new city. Often, those attractions are iconic of the city, and anyone who's around for a while -- a few days, a week, whatever -- would be remiss if they did not visit them. "You went to New York and didn't go to the Empire State Building?!" "What do you mean, you didn't see the Golden Gate Bridge?!" "The Pyramids were right there and you didn't even go check them out?! What's wrong with you?!" Yes, the interrobangs are noticeable in the accusers' voices. However, there are certain monuments, events, or places that locals call their own. They transcend tourist attractions because they are such an appreciated part of the overall community. The Yazoo Brewing Company is one such location that bridges the gap between tourist attraction and point of local pride, and we had the opportunity to tour it yesterday. 

When you visit the Yazoo Brewing Company, after managing to find a parking spot in the increasingly popular area of downtown Nashville known as The Gulch, there's the immediate sensation that it's anchored into its surroundings. The building, while painted in the recognizable red of the Yazoo logo, takes up its space without overtaking it, blending into the buildings around it like it truly belongs. Inside, they have a taproom, where you can buy beer by the pint, growler, or sampler pack and sip it on one of their wooden tables inside or the metal loungers on a small deck along the building's front. A sign points visitors to the tour desk, our destination. After showing our IDs, picking up our tour pass, and buying a pint while we waited, we walked around and admired the decorations and memorabilia.

The tour began right at six, and while there were only a few names on the reservation list, we picked up several walk-ins, making our group about a dozen large. Our tour guide, Lucas (who called himself the Senior Info Dispenser) started off the hour long tour with the company's history -- from dorm room microbrew to officially recognized craft beer that manufactures over 21,000 barrels of beer annually. As he spoke -- filling his monologue with humor and wit -- he poured the first of four beers we would be tasting throughout the evening. After the history portion of the tour was over, we toasted to "the holidays, all 365 of them" and sipped on our generous tasting portions of Dos Perros, Yazoo's Mexican style beer.

From there, we walked inside to view the tanks where the other various processes of the beer making take place, tasting more beer along the way: their Pale Ale, lighter but a bit hoppier than the Dos Perros, and their Hefeweizen, the Gold and Bronze medal winning light and fruity summer brew. After learning about the processes, we took a detour around the building to get to the packing portion of the plant. The detour was necessary because the building is packed with equipment, a fact that Lucas pointed out would invariably mean another move to a larger facility in the company's 3-5 year future. Once on the other side of the factory -- only about twenty feet from where we were before, but on the other side of huge, stainless steel vats -- we saw the assembly line that labels and packages the bottles. None of it was in operation, unfortunately, since it was after six and the machines had been shut down for the day. However, we were reassured that had the tour taken place during normal business hours, there wouldn't have been room to move in the flurry of productivity. Apparently, as we were told several times, there are no "normal" days of production, as they a typical day produces almost double what their machinery and manpower would "typically" put out.

After that, we walked back outside to sample the final brew: Sue, a dark, high gravity beer. It's black and moody, the perfect purposeful homage to The Man in Black, Johnny Cash. Some various questions from a few of the now well-oiled tour participants ensued, and then the tour was over.

I could have done a bit more note taking during the tour so that I could mention some of the more interesting points of the company's history, or some of the interesting processes that go into producing and packaging the Nashville native brew. And while knowing that most of that information is available on their website is a good enough reason for my slack journalism, their's a bigger reason: to get a true appreciation for what goes into craft beer, you have to go yourself. Reading a page online about how the company came to be is one thing, but hearing about it from a charismatic guy who seems to genuinely love and appreciate the product he's giving us samples of is a completely different experience. And seeing pictures of the elements that are involved with the process -- the massive vats, the wooden barrels (for special brews, of course), the snaking roll-lines for bottling and packaging -- is nice. However, standing beside -- and sometimes underneath -- them and smelling the aromas escaping from the process provides a new dimension to the experience. You can appreciate the work and love that goes into a product without experiencing those elements first hand. But, honestly, why would you want to?

Plus, free samples in a souvenir glass -- how do you get any better?

For more information about the Yazoo Brewing Company, visit

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