Written by Ken Carman for Professorgoodales.net
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay Salt City, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
216 Noah Drive
Franklin, Tennessee 37064
Brewer: Mike Kraft
Mike Kraft facts from a previous Brew Biz interview
Mike’s from Nashville originally, Siebel trained. His first job as a brewer was at Hubcap Brewing in Veil, Colorado, and he spent nine years as the head brewer at Two Rows Brewing, with brewpubs in Allen, Houston and the Dallas area. Like many pro-brewers Mike comes from a ‘mixed’ background where he started out as an electrical engineer, but found his ‘happy’ in brewing.
Once up a time a brewery like Turtle Anarchy wouldn’t expect a lot of visitors. Over the years I have interviewed many a brewer in industrial locations and business parks and, at best, there may have been a tiny tasting room: mostly for the few who would stop by out of curiosity. Tucked away in industrial locations, business parks and other odd places, it was a quieter time where the beer went out a door that few folks, except the brewers, would pass through.
I remember places like Newman Brewing being mostly quiet, except the brewing process and the occasional visitor who was lucky enough to actually stumble upon the location of the brewery. This model still exists, like Hoppin Frog in Akron where, whenever I stop by, the brewers seem mildly surprised by such an occasional visit to buy a bomber out of the fridge. No real tasting room.
This is increasingly the old model. The busy, bigger, tasting room with scheduled tours has been the trend over the years. I think, eventually, you will find them everywhere and anywhere, and far, far less of the other.
According to brewer, Mike Kraft, their location is great: between various local businesses whose employees stop after work for a pint, and the steady flow of other customers who already knew of Mike and his talent, or heard great things about the brewery. And the good word seems to be spreading fast since they only opened the tasting room on June 13th, 2012, with Mike’s Belgian Wit.
That’s right: this year.
If you’re reading the Brew-Score version of this edition of The Brew Biz in 2013: last year.
You know: the year the Mayans’ fire breathing, Godzilla-like, calendar fell down on the job of exterminating us?
The Anarchy Turtle adventure began for Mike when he was brewing for a local brewpub and Mark Kamp walked in, hoping to become an assistant, talking about the brewery he wanted to open. Mike said usually he listens when people say that but, basically, has a “we’ll see” attitude. Why? Because a lot of people come in talking the talk, but actually “doing” is something else. Mark, and his brother Andrew, did help Mike out as he brewed for a while. And as he watched Mark and Andrew Kamp develop concept into reality Mike grew more and more interested.
Plus, he hoped to do more “fun stuff” like 50 Shades of Black where “there are no rules.”
”At a micro like ours the focus is 100% on the beer. When you work in a pub beer is not always the priority. Here, beer is the only thing we do. And with a micro there’s a lot more beer going out the door. With a brewpub they’re kind of limited as to how much they can sell. But with a micro (you have to remember) you need it to be consistent because people have to go places and have your beer taste the same.”
To provide you with an example, if I were to start my own brewery I couldn’t have Joe Quaffer go to his favorite pub, The Squat and Gobble, this week and try my pale ale, Putrid Pale and like it, then at The Guzzle Nuzzle a month latter “Putrid” seems to deserve its first name: or even just be very different.
Brewpubs obviously have concerns other than beer.
”As things took shape and progressed I knew I wanted to be part of something bigger…”
Now, with no restaurant concerns barking at Mr. Mike’s brew door, he brews on a brand new Premier system with a 2880 barrel capacity, 15 barrel system, four 30 barrel fermenters, a 30 barrel bright tank, and a large, high ceiling, production facility begging to be filled. Now, since beer is the focus, and there’s plenty of space to expand, expand they will, according to Mr. Kraft. Their kegs are tapped in over 50 restaurants and pubs now, and that’s about 6 months later! Mike talked about plans to fill the room and to can, not bottle, their product.
”We need to get people beyond the stigma of beer in a can.”
We both agreed it was a great way to serve the product and talked about various breweries, nationwide, which have gone to cans for their product, like Caldera and Sierra Nevada.
Mike also spoke of maximizing their capacity and distributing to east Tennessee.
“Lipman, our distributor, has been really great.”
(Why do breweries usually call them “flagship” if the whole point is they’re not going to just “sail away?” Oh, by the way, these beers all use the same house yeast. Other brews depend upon the style, obviously.)
The grain mill you see below the brew system, Mike tells me, can mill a hellacious amount of grain per hour. The brew kettle and mash tun you see to the left keep Turtle Anarchy’s beer lovers satisfied with a constant flow of their regular brews. Descriptions from their site follow….
Another Way to Rye
”This beer is a bold Rye India Pale Ale with an added spiciness from a healthy addition of rye malt. The rye also contributes a nice red hue to the beer. Despite being heavily hopped during the boil, we add a generous amount of hops during the end of fermentation to give this beer a pronounced citrus hop aroma and flavor.”
”This beer is brewed in the golden ale style. It has a strong malt backbone with just enough hops to balance it out. However, we use two ingredients that set this beer apart from other Golden Ales: Gambrinus Honey Malt and bitter orange peel. The honey malt adds a special sweetness to the beer while the orange peel compliments it with a citrus flavor and soft bitterness.”
”Portly Stout is our robust stout. It is brewed with three different dark malts and has a creamy, smooth mouth feel. We kept the hops to a minimum so that the roasted malt character could be the predominant aspect of the beer. It is just a solid, straight-up stout.”
The stout is interesting because it’s featured in their 50 Shades of Black series where Mike ages it in Corsair Distillery barrels, uses coconut, chipotle: you never quite know what’s fermenting at Turtle Anarchy.
One hopes they don’t stop at 50, or come up with another concept so grand.
”Corsair (Corsair Artisan Distillery in Nashville) has been real generous about getting us barrels as you can see.” (And, yes, I could. Great for letting beer sit in former whiskey, gin, rum and spiced distilled products like Corsair’s pumpkin spice or vanilla been.) “I did a coconut stout in one of their rum barrels that turned out really, really good.”
Next month, when Anarchy will be hosting Music City Brewers, he hopes to have a Curry Stout on tap, a Scotch Ale, “hopefully some of the Corsair stuff” and an ale version of a Helles, called Infidelis Helles on cranberries from the northeast. He describes Infidelis as a “lighter, gateway, beer.”
The day I visited for the interview Mike poured me a sample of the Gingerbread Stout: nicely balanced with off white head, the body seemed full, yet not out of bounds for stout. Obsidian. The spices filled the mouth, yet background in the taste. Millie wanted to try it and, since I forgot my camera, we stopped the next day to take pictures. Rats! The keg had blown. So we had the Infidelis Helles, Helles style, but with an ale yeast. Light on the palate, there was a definite carbonic sense and some minerals, like perhaps a water profile with higher calcium and slight magnesium.
Not a lager? True, but that’s often a plus, in my opinion. I found it smoother than some more “traditional” versions.
Mike tells me he watches the Food Network a lot, which is where he gets many ideas that wind up in 50 Shades of Black and elsewhere.
And we had the Scotty Don’t: Scottish ale. I thought it might have peated malt, but Mike said it was smoked malt. (Minus the use of burning peat, obviously.) The smoked sense just enough; lingering in the background, closely cuddled up to a nice caramelized malt sense.
One of the regular features these days at Turtle is their 50 Shades of Black where they take their Portly Stout and go crazy. Right now Mike has it sitting on curry spices. The first time we visited that version at coconut. A very popular version is called Smoke and Mirrors with chipotle and cinnamon. Mike said he’s made it three times so far. Remember: they just opened this year.
You never know what crazy, yet wonderful, idea will be “tapped” as a 50 Shades of Black.
Mike said he wants to do sours, but will do it first on the Brew Magic pilot system, for obvious reasons. This system was brought in by Mark and Andrew: co-founders of Turtle Anarchy. It was Mark’s personal homebrew system, now used for R&D and small batches.
”We also need it to be warmer in here. During the winter we keep it at a steady 55, anything less affects fermentation.”
Now that Turtle Anarchy is on tap at over 50 locations, Mike wants to distribute to the east, plus get a canning line. For now they’re just distributing their flagship beers to pubs and such to solidify: essentially establish, the brand. Mike said that distribution would take about a “3 year run, and then maybe they’ll start carrying some of our rotating beers.”
Advice for homebrewers? For those who are just starting, don’t go all grain at first and don’t do too much at once. Read first and then team up with more experienced brewers. Experienced brewers: pitch enough yeast and remember temperature control is crucial. Then for those wishing to go pro: volunteer first. It will turn into something.
When I first heard of Turtle Anarchy I wondered, “Can the Franklin area really support yet another brewery? When I was told the location, I was even more skeptical. But when I heard that Mike Kraft had moved over to Turtle I felt better. I have interviewed Mike before and I have met few brewers who seemed so laid back, and so comfortable, and obviously talented, who could make it work. And the beer I have had there impressed me as well “Kraft-ed,” if you wish. Then I saw how quickly Turtle took off, despite being surrounded by brew-“rabbits” who started brewing before Anarchy opened its doors. Think of it like the Aesop fable.
Though I wish no brewpub or brewery ill, and only wish for there to be more: like the Tortoise and the Hare, I think it possible that a few rabbits just might be left behind by Turtle Anarchy.
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.”