This is the entrance to Mayday Brewing in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The picture on the left: the complex from the entrance looking east, right is the complex from the entrance west. The shadow in the picture on the left is the ghost of Gasper the Friendly Gueuze who used to work here. We just happened to catch a picture of him as he stared fondly at what has happened to his old haunt: wishing he could have a Mayday beer too. Nah, just me taking a picture. Yes, the building is huge. Mayday occupies 12,000 of the 100,000 square feet, but they don’t own the building and soon, hopefully, other businesses will be moving in. A church is already being built, inside: where you can genuflect on your way to having a beer, or wash yourself of your sins after washing down a pint. Actually I’m guessing they’ll be open different hours, but more on that later.
521 Old Salem Hwy
Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37129
Written by Ken Carman
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
Written by Ken Carman
Millie and I sailed down I-24 to Mayday in our Honda Element a couple weeks ago: the GPS lady with her annoying only mid-range digital whine interrupting the conversation, occasionally. I highly recommend anyone from out of town heading there who doesn’t know Murfreesboro intimately use a GPS and input the address.Yeah, the GPS lady can be annoying, but their location is a bit odd even for someone like me who made regular business trips to Murfreesboro in the 80s to pick up freshly pressed records, and then spent time culling business contacts there in the 90s..
But be careful. Don’t take everything she says as gospel. If you come from the east and the lady tells you you’re arriving at the address, drive just a little further and look on your left. From the east apparently the GPS lady thinks that Mayday is owned by hobos who brew their batches on the railroad tracks, their John Hartford cupped hands, around brew-tin cans down this Murfreesboro back road.
Yeah, I managed to slip a song reference in there.
With the size of this place a thousand or more train hopping, Gentle on My Mind singing, hobos could live here. But, ssh! …don’t tell THEM. Save it all for craft beer lovers.
Tis holy water.
Our interview was at four. Nothing better than to be greeted by one of the owners at the door: Pamela Nelson.
But you just don’t walk in the door of the brewery, or the tasting room, if you parked in the big parking lot. This is a huge complex that for the past 57 years has gone through 5 plant expansions, 8 changes in ownership. It has been a mill, and had a business in it that made cedar buckets: this complex has been home to a lot of businesses over the years. So, on your way to Mayday, you’ll walk down a few long halls, past where a church is moving in on the left: Ozzy said the minister was excited to have a brewery so close. Can’t blame him. A few years ago the Professor (professorgoodales.net for those reading the future Brew Score edition) ran an article speculating that Jesus and his disciples drank mostly beer, not wine, because Roman nobility took most of the wine. Beer was the most common quaff among the common folk, and Roman nobility usually hoarded the wine: looking down their supposedly long Romanesque noses at the common folk and their beer.
So maybe us craft beer lovers are walking in the footsteps of the Master. Beer soaked footsteps. Squishy footsteps of…
Back to Mayday…
You won’t be alone on your journey. On the way to Mayday you’ll find pictures, articles and special entertaining touches on the walls, like the “Whoooo needs beer?” sign.
We do! We do!
Once you’ve followed the Mayday not so yellow brick road, ignored the lion, the tinman and the strawman… skipped past the big room for the church that, at the time I wrote this, was still being built… you come upon several banners and the door that leads to Oz. OK, OK, actually not “Oz.” “Ozzy.” And not just Ozzy, but his wife Pamela, the tasting room and the brewery.
As far as I know the lady of the brewhouse has no little dog named Toto, but it certainly has been an Oz like adventure for the couple, one with a mission to bring good beer to Murfreesboro. You might say “a mission” to drop a great brewery on wickedly bad beer.
The door into brewery will be on your left, once you pass through that door the brewery will be on your right through windows and the tasting room straight ahead.
I think you can see the brewery has a lot of space and Wiz, their brewer, said they would be filling some of that space in, as well as offering seasonals and planning to can beer eventually. One option for the seasonals is a Roggenbier, split the batch and use different yeasts.
Of course they had the space partially filled in with kegs when we visited. As you can see even though there are quite a few kegs they don’t even come close to filling the room.
I was curious about a set of tanks that looked like a mash tun and a boiler, but obviously weren’t. They looked more like tanks you might buy at TSC: some kind of heavy plastic. These are for water treatment. One of the servers told me spent water at the brewery is used for cooling and other purposes: recycled essentially, and then, according to Ozzy, the brewery’s water finally ends up here, except waste water from the restrooms, obviously. The city of Murfreesboro checks criteria like PH and informs them how that water must be treated before the contents can go into the sewer.
Meet Nick Wisniewski, brewer at Mayday, otherwise known as “Wiz.” Wiz started as a homebrewer then went to Siebel. That’s where he met Ozzy, in Chicago. Ozzy told him of his plans for what would eventually be called “Mayday.” Wiz said the plan from that moment on had been to brew at this new brewery when it came on line. Before Mayday he brewed at Metropolitan, a small 15 barrel brewery which only brewed lagers, Goose Island: their North Clybourn location and 2 Brothers in Warrenville, Illinois, just west of Chicago.
Wiz oversees an all new, DME brewhouse where their house yeast is White Labs Edinburgh: WLP 28. They keep a spent jar of the yeast on the bar for tips. They use hop Union pellets.
When I asked Wiz about his advice for homebrewers he said, “Don’t take it too seriously! Don’t worry about making the world’s best beer, be excited to make beer.” He said he doesn’t really have any personal brewing philosophy.
For those seeking to become professional brewers he advised, “You have to roll with the flow and the punches: put on many hats; be a plumber, mechanic: not always just a brewer… whatever it takes to get it done.”
He said they had no plans to do sours yet, but maybe some barrel aged.
So let’s take a look-see at the beer, OK?
We enjoyed the beer and had in-depth notes we could have shared with you. But we decided we would prefer to return a year later and compare the beer now to then. They just opened and there’s a standard, of sorts, when it comes to assessing brews from any newly opened brew biz: wait at least one year. We agree with that standard. So, for now, here are the four beers that will be their main taps, with only brief notes…
Boro Blond: Blonde ale.
Velvet Hustle:Pale Ale.
Angry Redhead: Red ale.
Evil Octopus: essentially I think this is Mayday’s version of a Black IPA. Some dare call the style “Cascadian,” though it doesn’t have to have Cascade hops in it. Perhaps BHA might be best: Black Hoppy Ale, because Dark IPA, or Black, IPA are problematic too. How can you have a Black (India) Pale (Ale?)
OK, enough editorializing. On to… beer!
Our favorite was the Evil Octopus. We already knew we liked this one, but getting the sampler proved one thing to us. Beer in a small sampler glass doth not always present a beer as well as it should be presented, especially when it comes to aroma and head. The more the better, aroma-wise, right? At first we thought: “not as hoppy as last time.” But something about a full pint made all that return. More beer, in a wider glass seems to concentrate the aroma, which of course adds to that other sense: taste.
Black as the bottom of a deep, deep ravine in the ocean, or an inky squirt from an octopus, no light shined through Evil except hints for deep ruby highlights. The head was huge in a pint glass vs. very little in sample glass, and more tan than white, unlike the other 3. A floral hop sense greeted the nose with some roast, somewhat Munich-like. If you’re looking for more bitter than floral or fruity, this is the brew for you. Not a lot of bitter: just enough to say “hello” to your taste buds. A good balance. We recommend.
Boro Blonde is definitely a quaff for those seeking lighter fare’, and there was a slight corn sense, mostly in the aroma. One guy at the bar told me he liked nothing else at Mayday, and elsewhere he drank Bud/Miller type beers, I realized it was pretty much the perfect quaff for that kind of customer. (Probably those customers who might be more fond of Miller, since Bud’s adjunct is rice.) And educational for said customer, since it has a better malt profile, complexity, compared to more simplistic, mega-brew, quaffs.
No names mentioned.
Cough… “champagne or king of beer,” cough, cough.
Clarity was excellent on all beers, except Evil, for obvious reasons, and the brewer tells me they don’t filter! All heads had pillow with a few rock-like bubbles. A lot smaller in the sample glass. Evil’s head was huge in a pint glass, we didn’t observe the others. Hey! We had to drive home! We picked up a light malt sense, perhaps Pilsner. Carbonation in the body of the beer: on the tongue essentially and in mouthfeel, was light, but a bit prickly on the palate when it came to Blonde.
Velvet Hustle: this Pale seemed almost Brit-like at first, but as it sat and warmed the hops popped out, subtly. Still seemed a tad more caramel malt (like) than hop focused with Victory and Honey malts. The brewer told us Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial.
Angry Redhead: some butterscotch-sense: not butter, is expected in the style. Did not disappoint and we didn’t feel overboard, or all that “angry,” kind of like when your actual angry redhead just happens to be in a good mood one day. Could happen. Maybe. Miracles do occur. Mayday’s Angry is far, far more reliable, and certainly more pleasing in the long run, than the angry human version: and absolutely no where near as wild.
Shh! Millie’s reading this.
Their promotional material claims they wanted to brew “beer that’s easy to drink and balanced.” I would say they have achieved their goal quicker than many breweries so soon after opening.
While sipping on Mayday’s interesting quaffs, a gentleman who runs one of the two food trailers outside: Broad Street Eats, brought a “smashed potato” into the tasting room for all to try. We were so impressed we brought two Philly Steak versions home. Really good, though I think we would recommend you ask for extra cheese drizzle like the one we tasted in the bar.
And there’s plenty of room to eat his tasty fare’, and listen to the music. There was a gentleman there playing soft music and an electronic piano and singing. The two food trailers that visit Mayday are known as Two Guys in a Lunch Box and Broad Street Eats. I suspect it depends upon what night, day or time you’re there, which is serving the thirsty crowd at Mayday.
But the real adventure was about to start. Mayday was a vision made real by Pamela and Ozzy Nelson. According to company promotions he has been brewing for 18 years and the couple has “transformed their garage into a mini-brewery of sorts…” In their backyard they have a garden that includes hops. We interviewed Ozzy and Pamela Nelson, together. He even wore his John Lennon glasses for the event, giving the whole interview Instant Karma.”
I can’t imagine a more engaging couple. They met when they both worked in IT at HCA.
“I still have the same job; been working at the same company for 26 years. I saw people hired after me, promoted before me, and I decided to promote myself. We were new homebrewers and we wanted to be entrepreneurs,” Ozzy said.
Pamela bounced back with, “He wanted to be ‘the man.’”
I asked how much of an investment so far and Ozzy said, “Oh, about one million.”
They have 19 investors. They got their investors by word of mouth, some of them were people Ozzy worked with. Some work there, some not. Some are from Canada. One made the bar we were sitting at.
”Do you have a basic philosophy you started with?”
”We don’t suck, ” Pamela said.
Ozzie corrected her, “We TRY not to suck.”
Everyone laughed. It’s hard not to laugh as they banter back and forth.
“We wanted to start big and do it right, be ready for the explosion. We’re all about the regular guy.”
Pamela and Ozzy made it clear that they wanted beer everyone could drink, as in “the regular guy, or gal.” And being here in the Murfreesboro market was all part of that plan. While nearby Nashville has been booming, Mayday is here before the boom.
And as to “plans,” I asked about the future of Mayday brews…
”We have two 90 barrel fermenters ordered and a 90 barrel bright. We’d also like to do two Rye beers and split the batch. Maybe a Hefe yeast in one, and a Kolsch in the other. We’d call one ‘Maybe This Rye,’ and the other ‘Maybe That Rye.'”
Pam laughed and said, “We’re nothing, if not clever.”
While we were talking I noticed Ozzy had tattoos. I found out that was an understatement. He has TATTOOS!!! How did I get this picture? Well, as the guy on the piano started to play a slow strip tease… no, I’m kidding. Ozzy sent me a picture via E. Normally I wouldn’t include this kind of personal stuff, but it’s brew related too. The tattoo I saw a little of was one of Ozzy’s daughters doing battle with the Evil Octopus. When he told me that I just knew I needed to add it to my Mayday edition of Brew Biz.
I mentioned doing a collaboration project with other local breweries, like in Nashville.
“I’m sure we will. We’ve only been open since November.”
The same applies to charity and special events. Since they just opened, for now, these are definitely in their plans, but mostly for the future: but they do brew Jubilee and are proud to serve it in their tasting room: half of the Jubilee’s profits for that beer go to the OASIS Center in Nashville
Pamela is from east Tennessee: Maryville, and Ozzy is from here. He graduated from Smyrna High. The name came from a homebrewing incident when Pam noticed a brew pot was starting to spill over and told Ozzy, “You have a Mayday here.”
And the closing words went to Ozzy, “We should be at full production within weeks.”
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.”
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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After visiting the tasting room at Mayday, don’t forget to leave a tip!!! It’s the YEAST you can do…
(Yeast tip jar on bar)