Jackalope Brewing Company, Nashville, TN

 

Bailey Spaulding and Robyn Virball owners and brewers

There is an air of optimism and freshness when you speak with Bailey Spaulding, Head Brewer and co-owner of Jackalope Brewing in Nashville, TN.  She and partner Robyn Virball have opened the first all female owned brewery in the state of Tennessee and things are looking great for the duo! After getting their Brewers license this past year they opened as a taproom that served mostly house-brewed beers and a few guest beers.  The Jackalope brews were crafted on a small Sabco system that they had to utilize while their large brewery was being pieced together.  After seven months of operating in this fashion Jackalope has started to brew on the 15 BBL system purchased from Pacific Brewing Techniques.

Bailey and Robyn met studying abroad in 2002 at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where Bailey was doing a semester away from Harvard and Robyn was studying as an undergrad.  The two are originally from New England, Robyn from New Hampshire and Bailey from Vermont.   Their friendship has grown into the first all female owned and operated brewery in Tennessee.  Growing up in Vermont Bailey was exposed to craft breweries like Otter Creek, Catamount, and Magic Hat so she had an appreciation for craft beer that you may not find in a young woman in other parts of the country.  Craft beer was local, fresh, and most of all satisfying.  Bailey had the craft beer bug; she just did not know it.

After graduating from school the two went their separate ways, Robyn to Boston and Bailey to Nashville.  At Vanderbilt Law School Bailey met a friend who home brewed and suddenly she found herself wondering how she could turn this new found passion for brewing into a career.  She found herself thinking about what kind of brewery she would start rather than what kind of law practice she would open.  She contacted her old friend Robyn and in 2009 the two founded Jackalope.  Bailey convinced Robyn to move down to Nashville from Boston to help her start her dream business, a microbrewery.  The duo spent much of 2009 working on the business plan and the recipes for the initial beer offerings from Jackalope.  Time passed and the two continued to work on their new found business, and as the summer of 2010 started the recipes were closer to being finalized, the business plan and initial investor offering was closer to completion, and friends were asking for Jackalope beers for private parties and to “take on the road” (on their blog it is reported that one group of friends wanted the duo to brew beers for them to take to the Bonnaroo music festival).  Bailey and Robyn used these requests as a way to experiment with different recipes and to see what worked and what didn’t.  One thing the brewery wants to do is to offer different and unique beers to the folks in Nashville.  They have experimented with beets, barrel aging, and maple syrup to name a few ingredients.  They do not tie themselves to any one set of styles, but rather prefer to experiment across style guidelines.  Even though the brewery plans called for draft only distribution at first, they started working on label designs that would define the breweries image.  Bailey says that looking a few years down the road you can expect to see Jackalope beers in cans in the local market.

In August of 2010 Bailey and Robyn made a trip to Kiln, Mississippi to see The Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company and visit with owners Leslie and Mark Henderson to get more insight into the business of beer and brewing.  As the summer turned to the cooler weather of the fall Jackalope finally found a home, a place to set down and grow roots in Nashville and to start the next phase of its growth. The former Kirkland Floor to Ceiling Warehouse on 8th Avenue became that place for Jackalope and its two owners.  Plans for the Taproom started taking shape, and in January of 2011 building permits finally came through and demolition and new construction commenced.  February and March saw construction take hold in the building and all parts of the taproom and brewery started to take shape.  The bar was installed, lights and fixtures ordered and connected, flooring was poured and sealed, and painting commenced.  April and May saw the exterior signs go up, the completion of the taproom, and participation in their first beer festival serving Jackalope beer.  But before the brewery could officially open the team had to wait for the fabled Federal Permits to be approved.

 

May 20th saw the arrival of the brewing permits, and with much anticipation in the community Jackalope opened its doors as a taproom and brewery on May 21st, 2011.  The first beers were brewed on the small pilot system and served only in the taproom.  That first weekend the commercial scale equipment began to arrive and over the next few weeks the brewery began the long road to being pieced together.  The taproom opened once a week on Fridays for the first seven months as the team continued working on brewery installation into the summer months.

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It gets hot in Nashville in the summer, and in a hot warehouse the heat can really get to you.  Bailey was brewing with Jackalope Intern Steve, (Steve had joined the team and was helping the brewery in any way needed to get open) around the clock in order to provide beers for the Friday taproom hours, the upcoming Music City Brewfest, and the Grassy Knoll Movie Nights on the small system.  They brewed just about seven days a week in order to meet the demand of the taproom.  The brewery installation was taking more time that had been expected and in the heat of the summer it seemed as if the brewery had hit a wall it could not get over.

 

 

In the taproom many new beers were tested and introduced.  Jackalope used the taproom as a way to experiment with recipes and to find out what their new customers liked most, what they wanted and what they preferred.  They created Thunder Ann, an APA brewed with Chinook and Cascade hops in the kettle to 45 IBU and dry hopped with large amounts of Citra for a great West-coast flavor and aroma named after Davy Crockett’s wife.  The beer has a nice biscuit malt flavor from the use of Victory malt, a touch of sweetness from Honey malt and a small percentage of Carmel 40L.  Also released was Dire Wolf IPA, the recipe created by Jonathan Newman who works behind the bar in the taproom and assists with brewing.  Proceeds from the Dire Wolf went to the Nashville Prep Charter School.  Bailey and Robyn believe that their brewery should be very connected to the local community and that it should give back to that community that supports it as well as evidenced by all of the various charitable donations made by the brewery.  Other beers include Jack-Ale-Lantern, a fall seasonal, Snowman Stout (a part of the proceeds from the sale of the beer went to the Tennessee Literacy Coalition), Rainy Day Blues, and Cubcrawler.

Three beers will be offered year round, Bearwalker, a Maple Brown Ale, Thunder Ann, which is an APA, and Rompo.  Using the house Irish Ale yeast, Rompo is loosely brewed in the style of an Irish red, but Jackalope adds a touch of flaked rye.  The beer is light enough to be enjoyed over and over again by both by those new to craft beer and by those who have enjoyed craft beers for many years.  A rotating seasonal will also be offered and a portion of proceeds from its sale will be donated to a local charity.

In October of 2011 the first brewery test runs were done and finally on December 1st 2011 Jackalope Brewed its first beer on its new 15 BBL brew house.  That first beer was Bearwalker, a Maple Brown Ale brewed with 100% Vermont Maple syrup.  By the end of December and into January of 2012 the brewery was brewing large-scale full time!  Bailey and the Jackalope team thank Travis Hixon for his help in setting up the brewery and getting the team ready to brew on the big system.  Travis works for a local distiller and previously brewed for Blackstone Brewing, and offered his expertise to the new startup brewery.  Local distribution in Nashville started in January, and Jackalope is looking forward to a great 2012 with the expansion of their beers into the market beyond the walls of their taproom.

One can’t help but think this brewery and the creative people behind it will succeed.  The approach to beer, brewing, and life in general by the folks at Jackalope is one filled with positive energy, laughter, curiosity, and a will to do better than expected.  They honestly want to make a difference in both the world of craft beer and in their local community.  They do not always know the answers to everything they are doing, but are eager to learn at every turn in the adventure they have created for themselves.  As Bailey said in a phone conversation,  “When we started, we did not know what we did not know back then.” At each new opportunity in the adventure they come together as a team and make what seems like the impossible possible.  Nashville should feel proud and lucky that Bailey and Robyn decided to bring their dream to the south!

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