Brew Biz: Werts and All

This Edition: A review of the new “kid” on the Middle Tennessee brew block.

On Saturday 14th, 2 p.m., probably up on the balcony, Music City Brewers will be meeting at…

Cool Springs Brewery
600A Frazier Drive
Suite 135
Franklin, TN 37067
615-503-9626
coolspringsbrewery.com
Brewer: Mike Kraft

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Written by Ken Carman

Though plans can change, I probably won’t be there because I have an interview with Fred Matt in Utica, NY, and have to work on my retirement home in the Adirondacks, so I stopped by to check it out a few times more than I intended. You see I took pictures during my two visits. Later that day my camera introduced me to a feature I didn’t even know it had: “delete everything.” Aw, shucks, I had to stop again the next Saturday. Ah, a beer lover’s work is never done.

Directions: I zeroed out the trip just as I exited exit 68B off I-65; Cool Springs. Take the west portion of the exit. Now you could take the first left after the reentry to I-65: Mallory LN., then your first right (unnamed) and it will be on your left in a while, but I recommend passing Mallory and taking the next left that looks like it goes to TGIF and Walgreens… small Thomasville Furniture sign too. That’s actually an unnamed access road. Not even 1 mile to that turn. (0.8) Once you get to a stop sign your trip will probably read 0.9 or still 0.8. You should see Cool Springs Brewery in the brick shopping plaza on your right. Take that right then a quick left and park. If you keep going straight you might hear a few complaints in a British brogue from the owners because you will have driven right through the windows; not a good idea. )

I’ve been told that for the first few months, to a year or more, it’s best not to rate the brews at new brewpubs. Give them time to tweak recipes and “get their legs.”

Well, Mike Kraft blew that mostly foam laden assumption out of the wert.

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Obviously all that foam made the picture a bit hazy. No, after losing all those pictures I took another one and it looked good in the camera. Then the digital gremlins got to it and licked it hoping it tasted like his beer. Hope it was at least worth the effort boys. Driving to Cool Springs three times sure was worth it for me.

Mike is not too much younger than I am, or at least it seems so. I’m 55 and he’s “beyond 40.” Short hair, a tad tall; purposeful stride as he walks around his small brewery, then behind the bar to check taps and serving tanks and around the restaurant to see how his brews are being appreciated. Finally he makes the circuit again, back to the brewery.

“I’m not really into exotic beers, just great, well-crafted, examples of standard styles. I’m a bit more of a purist. No crazy brews, but the best ingredients and the highest quality possible. We will have several regulars. We will always have Franklin’s First: our Kolsch. Pecker Wrecker, our pale. A dark beer: right now it’s a Stout and up next a Porter. We will have seasonals too. I’d love to do a Russian Imperial, but keeping that style close to near 6.5%? Well it’s just not right. Hopefully the law will change.”

The second time I visited I swore he told me the first beer he poured was a Pale. It was Kolsch. I thought it very good but kept tasting an odd yeast item in the mix. Once we cleared things up, ah ha! As the BJCP notes in the category, some Kolsch yeasts can produce a slight sulfur-like character. Whew! Thought I had to berate a beer for a second.

Not my favorite by any means. When asked what I thought of it by one of the waitresses, I said..

“Not to my taste, but I think those who like Kolsch will probably be pleased.”

“That’s what we like to hear.”

The Hefe had a banana nose and taste; just a bit light for the fanatic who wants more but… hey! …we’re brewing for the public here. If I were to be that critical using just my tastes almost nothing in Nashville area would pass. I have taste buds that need beating. Alcohol laws in Tennessee alone being what they are, I know my desire to have whipped buds will always suffer a tad.

We found their red ale had more body than his other beers, bit of a darker malt sense than caramel. Not much of a nose. Less hop, more malt. About right, though we thought the color just a bit off: more a brown. But… so what? This beer; like most brewery/brewpub beer, was brewed for a different kind of competition: for the public in general. A restaurant is; in part, entertainment when it comes to atmosphere and presentation… especially beer in a brewpub. And like any entertainer, since they have been on the local brew-stage for just a few weeks, they’re still culling an audience.

Their Oatmeal Stout was fairly chocolate-malty, oh, so, slightly astringent, but not enough to be off in that sense. Nice roast. Could have used just a bit more oatmeal sense. The head died quickly as it coated the sides of the glass. Low carbonation. Very pleasing, an easy Stout quaff’.

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Mike brought me a sample of the upcoming alt: not filtered yet. Nice, hazy: quite a bit of caramelization. Lacy, pillow like foam that never seems to go away. My only criticism here, style-wise, is the hops seems a bit much in this sample for the style when it comes to balance but as Mike said, “It’s a work in progress.” Plus, let me guess, these are late additions I may have sensed that fade a bit by the time it’s filtered and ready to serve? Plus, to type a Ken-ism I use so often: I’m no style Nazi.

He brings in yeast and has no house yeast yet. As of now he uses Hop Union and uses only pellets. Cargill malt, the equipment is Premier Stainless and they have a 7 barrel system. 730 barrels a year capacity. According to the owners they got it “slightly used,” not an uncommon practice in the industry.

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Yes, that’s Millie in the next picture looking up at her handsome picture snapping husband. See the love in her eyes? No? Uh, oh. What did I do now?

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Serving tanks behind bar from the balcony.

Mike is from Nashville originally and is Siebel trained. His first job as a brewer was at Hubcap Brewing in Veil, Colorado, and he spent nine years as the head corporate brewer at Tworows Brewing: brewpubs in Allen, Houston and the Dallas area.

He started out as a homebrewer, and his recommendations for homebrewers are to always do a full wert boil, cool the wert before pitching and make sure you have a “quality yeast strain.”

I discovered, as with many pro-brewers, he comes from a “mixed;” engineering and brewing, background. There seems to be an interesting formula that take many years to ferment a great brewer. You start with seemingly unrelated disciplines like electrical engineering, slightly more related like plumbing… one brewer I met in Mass. also was an English major who loved sonnets. Yes, that “formula;” if one can even call it that, has conditioned some of the best brewers I have met over the years while interviewing micro and brewpub brewers. Few have come straight out of the brewing schools. As Todd Hicks; brewer of some note in the Emerald Coast area, said to me…

“Most beers I have had from brewers who have done nothing else but graduate from brew schools tend to be b… o… r… i… n… g.”

I assume one needs to see the wider; more esoteric, picture in life as well as the specific disciplines. Perhaps “well rounded” is a better descriptive? Well, if so, Mike is well suited to fill growlers growling to be filled with good beer…

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Cool Springs Brewery has that semi-industrial look that seemed to come into vogue when fern bars disappeared. High ceilings, small lamps strung down from the ceiling, red brick walls: I’m sure you’re familiar. Though fairly small; the wood work, the balcony and high ceilings atmosphere make it seem a bit bigger than it is, yet more cozy than most: a great use of limited space. There’s a nice private room off to the side that’s a bit too small for bigger meetings. Serving tanks behind the bar, brewery to the left as you walk in. Balcony up above as you walk in.

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Curse those beer seeking, blur causing, gremlins!

You’re greeted as soon as you enter in a very pleasant fashion, sometimes by one of the owners.

We found their red ale had more body than his other beers, bit of a darker malt sense than caramel. Not much of a nose. Less hop, more malt. About right, though we thought the color just a bit off: more a brown. But… so what?

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We both agreed, we enjoyed the Pecker Wrecker Pale more than the others, but this goes more to our preferences than whether it was technically perfect. This might qualify though as “perfect,” if your main qualification is which beer stands out from other brews in this crowded brewpub style. More of a Red than a Pale, color-wise, and the hops should satisfy those looking for a American Pale hop-wise. I must admit I had the second batch before it was being served and it was very hoppy: almost an IPA, but once I had it the next weekend it seemed to have mellowed a bit. Perhaps the effect of newly dry hopped beer? I did prefer the first taste, but not quite mellow enough to please the Pale seeking, general public, perhaps. The on tap product was still very Cascade-y, but not out of balance for the style. Nice mix of bitter and that citrus sense. Seemed to have a bit more body than a typical Pale.

We did get to meet the owners, from Britain. Chris and Jane Hartland. Here’s Chris…

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Yeah, the picture is a bit dark. Sorry. Digital gremlins got in the way of the lights; still looking for Cool Springs beer. Can’t blame them.

Chris left the military in England when they took him off then front lines in Afghanistan. He said he and Jane “had fancied buying a pub,” but wasn’t all that happy with smoke filled pubs in England. He had relatives locally; including his brother, and when they moved here they saw a pizza place that no one seemed to want to buy. Didn’t hurt that the former owner’s father had been in the military.

So far he estimates they’ve invested about 1/4 mil.

The first time we stopped by CSB we were doing our anniversary dinner. We had the Cacciatore Pizza.

Cacciatore

Prepared with or containing tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, and other seasonings: chicken cacciatore.

Source: The American Heritageģ Dictionary of the English Language,

Oops.

We asked, “Wheresa da tomato?” The menu said it was offered in pesto and marinara versions, but the waitress never asked which we wanted. Chicken, cheese, red onion, green pepper; if I remember right… but Cacciatore-like sauce? Tomatoes? Where? For those of us who grew up in Italian towns… if you removed all the Italians and Polish from my wife’s town, and all the Italians from the town I was born in, we’d have had no towns at all… this pizza will miss the mark. It’s also called New York pizza. Not sure how it’s New York; usually the crust is just a bit thicker on most New York pizza’s I’ve had, though it is foldable. Always a plus; especially if your a typical NYC cabby; running streetlights, while zipping down Park Ave near Grand Central… and you don’t want to spill on yourself when the other cabby coming up 42nd blows his horn and then gives you the universal cabby single finger salute.

Has there ever been a NYC cabby who didn’t blow their horn… a lot?

Don’t get me wrong. We enjoyed it; though a tad small for the price. That’s not really much of a criticism, because we’ve found that’s a typical situation when ordering brewpub pizza fare’. We even recommend that pizza. Quite tasty. We just think for the sake of those expecting something matching the taste of that rich, nice, fairly specific broth one usually finds in Cacciatore… well, using “Cacciatore” is probably not wise. Call it Italian Cheesy Chicken pizza, perhaps? The “Italian” might cover the slight Cacciatore intent behind the recipe. If the chef insists, perhaps “with a Cacciatore twist?” Though that would be a bit inaccurate, in our opinion.

The menu has plenty of other pizzas, fried cheese wedges; wish we had seen those earlier… subs, calzones, stromboli, plenty of salads including a tricolor tortellini. What, Brit owners and no steak and kidney pie? Oh, bugger! How my English/Welsh/Scot nature misses my steak and kidney pie.

Ah, but we did get to stop back the next weekend: we tried those fried cheese wedges that we saw a bit too late to order.

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No bad at all. A nice spin off of the usual mozzarella sticks.

OK, no steak and kidney pie, but, what: no Haggis Pizza? Not even for my old haggis and her… do they call the male version a “haggis,” a “haggie?” Or the children we never had, probably referred to in haggis lingo as “haggettes?” Hmmm… “Haggis Pizza” on the menu? Eh, probably not a good idea, though to put it on the menu would take a lot of heart… liver and lungs. If you can even… stomach… the concept.

The day I visited to interview Mike I took plenty of pictures, the last one including his assistant; someone Music City Brewers should know: Byron Greene… polishing the tanks. Then I went to Staples to do a CD so I could load pictures into the program and accidentally deleted everything; so my apologies to Byron and those who were in my first batch of pictures the gremlins destroyed. (“Bad gremlins, bad gremlins. No more airplanes or silly wabbits for you.”) It did give me a chance to Wreck my… again.

I think Music City Brewers will enjoy. Mike told me he should be able to be there.

Have fun.

Have a Pecker on me.

Just don’t “wreck” too much. And if you do, find someone else to drive. The only good “Wreck,” in this case, would be a few Peckers.
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Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to review, discuss and comment on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”