Brewer and Distiller Profile: Andrea Clodfelter

Profiled by Ken Carman for professorgoodales.net

Despite the fact that neither of us are hard liquor fans, when Corsair Artisan opened in Nashville we decided to check it out. Two positive notes that attracted us like moths to the distill pot flame: this used to be the old location for Yazoo Brewing and the old car motif that seemingly engulfs the building.

We wanted to see what they’d done to the place. You know: the exquisite curtains, the fancy dancy carpet, the brew tanks and distilling equipment… All of that was untrue, except the brew and distilling equipment.

Courtesy posterityproject.blogspot.com
I also admit this just past the turn of the previous century building fascinates me: I love less mainstream old cars like Marathon which was the building’s namesake. The indies fascinate me. Of course, back then, they were all “indies.” It was the start of the automobile age.

Millie has never really cared for my automotive fetish, but the small, local, microbrewer-like distillery also fascinated both of us. Besides, hey, twas an excuse to do an article.

Which I did, and can be found HERE.

Scoot forward in time like a dog on its hindquarters… ewe. Scratch that. Slip forward in time like a well aged Scotch… that’s better… and we had become very comfortable with Andrea as our bartender at Corsair. Well educated: a biology major who went to college in Chattanooga, she obviously loves the business and the people she served. Plus her sticking roses, petunias, orchid, Brussels sprouts, hops in her hair and using weird hair dyes was just so entertaining.

I kid about the sprouts.

Sort of.

She has a very visual sense of humor, so some weird things do wind up in atop her head’s ample follicle forest.

Then, one day, she introduced us to the soon to be new tender: Evil Emily. Yes, that’s what she calls herself on the net. And I began to think Emily was truly “evil” for she seemed to have that flirty nack of letting the customer know she’s into everything you say, even when she probably not cause some ole fo like me yattles on and on about zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. what was I typing?

Hey, get off my lawn, the ghost of beer guru Michael Jackson!

Or was that the other Michael Jackson?

Oh, that was just a dream.

(Picture to the left… Evil Emily holding out a glass of some poison for yours truly to drink. Wench! I be not tempted!!! Oh, maybe a little sip… a little more… oh, what the hell, it’s sooooooooo good…)

Our concerned was that Evil Emily was so good at tending d’bar and relating to customers she would eventually take over and Andrea would be on the outs. I imagined poor Andrea on the sidewalk in front of Marathon… seeing eye dog, empty cup longing to be filled with quarters, wearing glasses, having drowned her sorrows in Spiced Rum, or Rasputin.

You know, it’s great to be wrong sometimes? Though what a missed opportunity, right Andrea? You could have even held a sign, “Will distill for a lifetime of free beer.”

Kidding.

Anyway, Andrea: originally from Nashville, had already been brewing for two years when she saw an article on Corsair Artisan in Garden and Gun, between the ads for bazookas and “plant your own poison ivy for profit and revenge.” No, seriously, according to Andrea, “Garden and Gun” is a more mainstream publication that covers general interest stories. She knew she had been reading everything she could on both brewing and distilling. She knew she needed a job. So she went to Corsair and, well, they admitted they didn’t have any locally made distilled product yet, but did they need a bartender for the taproom they took over from Yazoo.

She figured that…

A. She’d be around craft beer.
B. She’d get to see the distilled product made.
C. Maybe they might ask her to help from time to time?

“It seemed like a good deal.”

And, of course, they did. End of story. Goodbye.

You still hanging around?

Wouldn’t you rather be drinking Corsair Spiced Rum?

Joking.

Since then Andrea has taken a Siebel course. And while she had no formal distilling training she did get plenty of hands on experience. Then Jay, their brewer, stepped down. They needed someone to replace him. Didn’t matter what kind of “plumbing” they had, just that they knew how to work the plumbing… brewing-wise.

Why the “plumbing” comment?

Well, as many of my readers know, I have been doing a series on women brewers. This is my third in a series of 3.

I did ask if she has been treated differently as a woman brewer/distiller, and she said, “I would say, in general, people are beyond that kind of thing, though every once in a while people will say something that catches me off guard. I’ll be at a conference and someone will say, ‘Oh, you’re cute, what do you sell?’”

I told her, “That’s terrible!”

We talked about stock recipes vs. experimental, and how she designed the recipe for Cherry Wit Smoked and, “Right now we’re developing quinoa whiskey. Quinoa is a cereal, a grain, you often find in health food stores. There’s no set recipe for using it in distilling. It’s very earthy, in a good way that doesn’t taste like dirt. It’s a little nutty and it reminds be a little of brewing with oatmeal, but not that bisques’. Watching the fermentation is amazing because the quinoa has so many nutrients in it they just explode. Then I get to clean all that up. It’s ‘great.’”

Wiki tells me quinoa is a species of “goosefoot.”

Poor geese. Or would that be “pour geese?” Just think of them all walking around on stumps instead of those now distilled feet.

Yes, I do know it’s a grain, but as Millie my wife says about me, “Anything for a joke.”

I asked, “Do have any advice for anyone who might want to get into distilling?”

“Don’t be afraid of getting dirty or to clean everything. They want to talk about recipes but a lot of it is shoveling out grain. It’s not that glamorous.”

Next I asked about distilling at home…

Ken: “If someone wanted to do something illegal, other than ‘don’t do that,’ what would you advise distilling-wise?”

(Laugh.)

“Well, don’t do something illegal, but cut off your head…”

Ken: “Is this distilling advice for the French Revolution?”

(Laugh)

“The first thing that comes in the distillation is the head and it’s 145 proof… smells fruity: methanol. Don’t drink the poison!”

Ken: “How much of it is head?”

Millie, my wife; who was there too, said…

“Get your mind out of the gutter!”

(Laughs. You know I could have asked more leading questions but… never mind! )

“If I were doing a 100 gallon brew, which reduces to 5 gallons whiskey, of that 5 gallons I had collected I’d say a ½ gallon would be unusable.”

Seems to be about 10% of the final product, or so, I figured.

Andrea had to leave to take care of a batch, and when she returned I said…

“Now ve get back to da interrogation. When was the last time you tortured a hamster? No, um… any interesting adventures you’ve had?”

“Other than sweating?”

“It’s got to be hot back there…”

“Ambient temperature is 15 degrees more sometimes than outside… you get out and everything feels like air conditioning.”

“What would you say is the hardest thing about your job?”

“Paperwork and accurate records, trying to do too much at one time: looking at a computer screen and doing my paperwork (at the sane time) when paperwork is the last I want to pay attention to.”

I asked her if she had thought of joining the Pink Boots Society, she said she had an application but figured, “There’s so many great women brewers here in Nashville… maybe, maybe not.”

“What about in the future?

“I think they’re going to let me do a lot of blending. The Grainiac that got best of show at the ADI (American Distillers Institute) competition in Louisville, Kentucky was blended.

“Grainiac?”

“A 9 grain bourbon. That was actually a blend of a bourbon we had already and a 7 grain bourbon. “

“How would you describe it all? Is it hard? Challenging?”

“I feel fortunate, even on the days I feel bad and complain. Hey, I could be in an office, instead I get to stay here and play and be dirty and wear my ‘daisy do.’ I had an ex-boyfriend who was insistent on the ‘fact’ I HAD to be a librarian…”

“I CAN’T see you as a “librarian.”

“No, but I do drink to his health. Left to my own devices apparently I like to drink malt whiskey and wear blue hair.”