Brew Biz: Werts and All

This week’s topic: An interview with Bailey Spaulding

This is an interview I did for The Music City Brew-Score: a publication of The Music City Brewers. Bailey Spaulding is part owner, head brewer for Jackalope in Nashville, TN. I have added notes for the readers here so context of the comments and questions is more apparent to readers who live elsewhere. Before we start the interview; the day after the interview I swung by again and asked Bailey about her being part of the new wave of women brewers in craft-brew world…

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.

Brew Biz is a column written by Ken Carman for Professor Goodales

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This is my first in a series of columns on lady brewers, but I wanted to make sure she knew I wasn’t intending to “ghetto-ing” her as if being a woman brewer was weird, different: in any way less an accomplishment. Or that she, and other women brewers, needed to be set to one side. When I returned the next day she thanked me for mentioning that before she told me what’s below. I not only asked Bailey to update her brew-story for us after our last interview, but if felt she was treated differently as a woman brewer…

Bailey: “Among fellow brewers? Not usually… which is great. It’s like perfectly normal; if I get treated different it’s more from an outside perspective. Sometimes they come in here and, well…. But then they have our beer and then it’s OK. Now there’s Pink Boot Society: for any women in the brewing industry; doesn’t matter if they’re brewers or involved in another way. Now they’re starting regional groups, like here in the southeast and we also have Barley’s Angels.”
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We’d been here before, me: across the table from Bailey. Bailey of Jackalope, Nashville, Tennessee; one of the new wave of lady brewers and distillers in the country.

  I’ve covered Bailey, Robyn and Steve’s story; where they came from and how the brewery started before.  Asked and published her story: how and why she became a brewer. Their web site tells their story in depth. So what’s left to ask, but…

After all this time, what have you learned?(Jackalope went from a small Brew Magic system to a big, somewhat automated, system since I interviewed Bailey last.)

Bailey: Where to begin? Well, I really couldn’t have imagined it would have taken seven months to set up the new equipment. I couldn’t have imagined I would have brewed 180 times on that Sabco system.  Your survival skills just have to kick in. You do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Anything you would have done differently?       

Bailey: Oh, YEAH! There’s always something that you wish: “Oh, God if I’d known this.” Probably slope my floors, instead of having to squeegee them as much. Our floor in the back is uneven and we did slope a little to the drains. I’ve now identified the low points where we need to squeegee them all the time.”

After brewing on the Sabco system for so long, when the new equipment came in did you folks set that up, or did you have someone do it for you?    

Bailey: Both. We’re working with Travis Hixon (former Blackstone brewer now at Popcorn Sutton Distillery: both in Nashville which has seen a rise in both new breweries and small distilleries in the past two years), he helped us with where we needed to put everything. We had Cornerstone Mechanical and Anchor Electric help us. They did the rest of our build out, like plumbing, mechanical and electric. The problem with Nashville is there are not a lot of places who have experience building a brewery, but they were so patient.

What do you think the cost of the upgrade was?       

Bailey: The equipment itself cost about $150,000. Installation was probably another $60,000.

What do you see in the future for Jackalope?

Bailey: Well, in the near future, we’re talking about expanding to other parts of the state: draft only.  Whenever people ask us about bottling: our plan is to can. When we started we said it was three years away, and they say, “Oh, no, THREE years away?” And I say, but we just had our birthday so that’s two years away.  It’s closing in, and we realize your ‘plan’ is never exactly what ends up happening, but it’s good to have. For example, it took us longer to distribute than we thought, but now that we have it’s growing even faster.

I have noticed since all this happened is the beer, the Pale has cleared up…               

Bailey: Yes, that’s the big system, having a conical fermenter helps a lot. We use the BioFine clear now. Bigger, better equipment and temperature regulation: each tank has a jacket and I can say I want this to be 66 degrees now. With all that you make sure the beer’s clear, but still unfiltered.

Would canning be a licensing problem in any way?          

 Bailey: No, it’s more a labeling problem: packaged beer vs. canned beer and what it has to say. Warnings and such, contents under pressure…

 …don’t throw into a fire              

Bailey: (Chuckle) PLEASE don’t do that. 

Have you been changing yeasts, malts…?                

Bailey: No, we’ve been using the same yeast… Ken: What do you use? Bailey: Irish Ale

White Labs?

  Bailey: Yes, which I love. I was a little skeptical when we used it for our Pale Ale, but I really like the way it works.  We changed a little of the ratios, like less caramel malt. Getting all you need out of them you need less with the equipment. (Essentially better efficiency-ken)

Have you thought about taking that White Lab yeast and starting your own in-house yeast?                 

Bailey: I think having the business was the most important part, and when we become more comfortable with that we might develop a house yeast. That would be great if we could.

So, no sours, huh?                

Bailey: Not yet. I’m NOT bringing anything funky back there. I’d like to have a totally different building for that. We are going to do a Gose-style beer. (See picture, top, left.) It’s a nearly extinct style of beer with saline water and coriander…  from near Leipzig. It’s a little sour and you can do that with lacto, but we’ll be doing it with a little sour malt. It’s lemon-y, tangy… we’re calling it “Casper.”

 As in “the friendly ghost?”     

Bailey: Yes. We use mostly white wheat, like in our Lovebird strawberry-raspberry. We’re going to bring that back. We did it because it was pink and we did it for February, but for the summer… we should bring it back. That’s one of the things we’re getting used to. We don’t do full seasonals and people will say, “Bring that back!” Sometimes I have to think about that, like Lovebird is a different yeast, so it’s more expensive. We’re using Weizen yeast for the Gose, so maybe we can use that for both.

Think you’ll ever use decoction or even double?    

Bailey: Mmm… maybe. We’re in a place now where beers we’re trying to keep everything consistent. Maybe if we have a specialty that would go better with that style.

Are you still dong special causes, going green?       

Bailey: Yes, we’re still donating to causes with our specialty beers like the Exchange Club, we do a lot of special events for causes. It’s getting hard getting used to saying, “No.” We do a lot of sponsorships of causes we like being affiliated with. As far as green-ness we do reuse water as much as we can in our brewing, we have skylights so we don’t have to turn on the lights a lot of the time and figuring out ways we can save energy is important. Not packaging means we have little waste. We do give all our grains to Hands on Nashville for their community garden. Now they’re right here the day we brew.

Anything new you’d like to tell homebrewers a year later?

Bailey: Just have fun with it. I miss being able to say, “I’m going to try… this.” So when Art Whitaker comes up from the Murfreesboro club comes up and says: “I have this Mountain Dew beer I made,” I say, “That’s awesome!” I expected it to be too sweet, but it was lemony.

I’ve had that.    

Bailey: It’s better than I expected. That’s great: you’re homebrewing, you’re experimenting and you’re having a good time. Don’t get discouraged.  I’m really excited to, someday, do some high gravity stuff. I’d like to do something with champagne yeast.

(Note: high gravity beer is a legal swamp in Tennessee. Only recently were we even able to buy it, brewing is still in limbo and only liquor stores can sell it. All helping no one except more permit etc. money for governments and less challenging competition for real big brewers who donate to campaigns of those who make the laws.-Ken)

What are the laws?

Bailey: We can’t brew anything over 6.25%. There’s a bill to increase it to 12, I think it’s going to take a few years for that to go through. Last year when Sierra Nevada was coming in they did ask them to create a brewer’s high grav license. I don’t think it’s been created yet.

I know that Linus at Yazoo (Yazoo Brewing in Nashville: around the corner from Jackalope.) has a distilling license, but I don’t know how expensive that is.

Bailey: Very, and like he can’t sell (the higher abv) Sue in the taproom. You’d need a bar license to do that and with growlers that would be a retail sale of liquor where beer is being sold. So… it’s a mess.

Do you have a lot of contact with the other brewers locally?

Bailey: Yeah! We’re starting a Tennessee Craft Brewers group. Linus and I are on the board, Jonathan from Marble City (Knoxville), the other Jonathan from Chattanooga Brewing and Matt Lewis from Terminal Brewing in Chattanooga. (Also see my column on Terminal from a while back.) I think that’s going to be really great, we’re going to be educational, have an outreach and also have a legislative side to it.

Bailey had to get on line: Southern Brew News had asked her to list the 5 beers she’d never tried and wanted to. We agree on BrewDog’s End of History and she mentioned a few of the Pretty Things beers;  I have tried more than a few. We spoke briefly of how they share a brewhouse with at least two other breweries in Massachusetts and how difficult that might be, then she was off to wing her way onto the digital airways, while Millie and I left for home after another enjoyable interview at Jackalope. Expect a short interview with partner Steve Wright in the future.

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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.”

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