Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
Written by Ken Carman
Corsair Artisan (Micro Distillery)
1200 Clinton St.
Nashville, TN (Old Yazoo location)
400 East Main Street #110
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Why would a writer who loves beer, has written about beer for many years, judged beer and who has never cared for distilled products write about a distillery? Well, because this distillery has a very distinct beer flavor to their story. And because I, personally, have found a new respect for distilling: the process, the dedication and the creativeness that keeps pace with some of the more experimental micro brewers out there.
Our story starts at the old Marathon building. Marathon was a car manufacturer after the turn of the previous century. It has since been turned into a park for up and coming businesses. Seems like my wife and I went through this brick portal many a time before Corsair was there.
Oh, that right, we did! Old Yazoo location. Yazoo Brewing out grew its old location and Corsair fit right in. You see they could buy Yazoo’s old location with equipment because distilling uses a lot of the same equipment brewing does.
Part owner Andrew (Not “Lloyd,” bet he wishes he had the money of an Andrew Lloyd…) Webber told me that the second wave of new distilleries to hit the country decided that parking themselves near, and working with, the new craft beer brewers was a wise idea.
The other owner is Darek Bell. Sales and Marketing Jason Ingram.
This all started about 10 years ago as distilleries went from 5 new distilleries to 200. You had what Andrew referred to as “ordinary folks,” then Anchor, Dogfish and Rogue, amongst others. The new guys and gals studied what they did right, and what they did wrong, and decided opening near a brewery would be helpful, while also paying a lot of attention to the dos and don’ts of brewing. Some “don’ts” aren’t quite as crucial. While sanitation is still on the agenda; because the flavor might still carry over, the higher alcohol level does take care of some problems.
The Artisans started in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2008. It took a while to change Tennessee laws before they could come here. That happened in August. The Fed and State is all set, legally, but Andrew told me point blank that it was pretty obvious from the ongoing wrangling that Metro doesn’t want them here.
They do have a tasting room open with Yazoo beers and quite a few odd and interesting taps from craft-beer-dom. That’s planned as a permanent feature here at Corsair. They obviously have a deep respect for brewers: feel a strong kinship. That’s because much of distilling at the beginning of the process is brewing: especially the way Corsair does it.
Darek Bell told me they often sit around while drinking some style of beer and ponder, “Hey, has anyone distilled this style yet? Let’s do it!”
About a month and a half ago I wrote an edition of Brew Biz that was on Yazoo. Linus Hall: owner of Yazoo, told me they brewed their first batch for distilling, I suspect the 100% rye. Linus said it took forever to get the rye out of their screens. While not 100%, I’ve worked with a lot of rye before for my home brew, “How Rye I Am.” The descriptive: “huge glob of Glue” just doesn’t quite do the mess created justice.
Here is their current line up…
Then you have the experimental collection…
From their site: “Corsair Artisan Gin, Gold Medal Winner, 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.”
Here is what they are working on…
Not too long after this edition of Brew Biz is published the Rasputin should be out. Being a giant fan of Old Rasputin I promise, I will try it. It is one of my favorite beers of all time. They used a clone recipe and varied it only a little to suit distilling. They are hoping to call it “Rasputin,” at the point this was first typed. I’d be surprised if North Coast says “no” to the usage.
Like my previous profile on Gary Burleigh, the brewer at The Brewerie in Erie, PA, who shares his brewery with other brewers, Corsair is planning on sharing their pot still with another distiller: Collier and McKeel. I love this concept. More for us, and a great… hopefully profitable… business partnership for them. So much better than some brewers, like one here in Tennessee a while ago I’d rather not name who wanted everything to be about him and his brewery.
The Corsair web site at the time was a bit confusing when it came to one of their products, so before I listed another product of this distillery, “Wormwood Wit – Traditional Belgian wheat beer infused with wormwood and hops,” I contacted Andrew via E. Here is what he wrote…
“Our Wormwood Wit is an experimental whiskey made from a traditional wit beer that is bittered with wormwood rather than hops.”
Here the rest of the “in the works” list…
You may notice they will be brewing beer and then, through distillation, mixing the two arts. Marvelous! One hopes both tasting rooms will blossom due to what the misinformed may consider a novel idea: distilling and brewing are by no means mutually exclusive. Indeed they are closely related. Sadly I find some in both communities don’t understand this.
I spoke with Darek Bell a few weeks after interviewing Andrew. A busy man: on the board at the zoo, owns a construction company, he is also part owner of Corsair. He’s working on a book called Alt Whiskey’s Book. I saw a preview and, if you’re into the new craft distilling scene, it’s packed with pictures and information about the exotic craft distilling scene. He told me Corsair is doing well in Portland, Oregon and San Fran. On the east coast it’s doing better in Knoxville than Nashville.
I’m not surprised. My experience over the past 32 years is that, as a general rule, Nashville is slow to take on new concepts.
Another unique brew-distill product they are working on is distilling lagers. Not being a lager fan I’m still interested in the result. To me many lagers taste sulfur-ish and maybe even a bit acidic: not in that pleasant “tart” sense you get with sour Belgian/Flemish Ales. But excuse me if I still cheer on, and then sample, the effort anyway.
Wormwood whiskey, anyone?
They like using odd malts. Often pale is the only malt base used. They use chocolate, rye, caramel, smoked…
I asked Andrew if he had any advice for home brewers.
“Only to keep experimenting. Outside of that, to know that any distilling without a permit is a felony, there is no exemption for home distilling like there is for home brewing.”
Hear that campers? So get that distillery out of your basement, your attic, or the super duper mini-micro distillery in the bird house. You know the bird house near that golf course? How did I know? A little… birdie… told me.
Well that joke was “1-under par,” wasn’t it?
When you do visit, don’t forget to say, “Hi,” to Will and Andrea the servers. Here’s Andrea. Last time I saw her she had hops in her hair, a green skirt over blue pants, sparkle on her face and in the eye… and this was a more normal day. You should see how she dresses when it’s not Halloween.
One hopes Metro will find a way to welcome Corsair. In a town where songwriters, musicians, studio engineers, restaurateurs, actors, film makers, home brewers and creative folks of all kinds thrive, one would hope a sign should hang high, “Innovation welcome.”
Because Corsair Artisan is that… and more
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting 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.”