Friday, January 29, 2010

Yazoo Keeps Busy Until New Brewery's Uncorked

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:04 PM

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People who love locally made Yazoo beer are dying to know when the new brewery (with a much expanded taproom) will open. I checked in recently with affable brewmeister Linus Hall for an update.

Launched in 2003 by Hall and his wife Lila, Yazoo Brewing Co. has outgrown its Marathon Motorworks space and is in the process of moving to a bigger facility at 910 Division in the Gulch.

Original predictions had the new brewery opening in mid-January, but Hall says some hitches in the electrical supply have delayed the project by a couple months. He's now giving early spring as the expected opening time.

Meanwhile, the current Yazoo Taproom continues to be the most adorable mini-pub in town, with lots of fresh Yazoo flavors on tap and baskets of Provence bread, fruit and artisan cheeses for sale as snacks.

Because the Yazoo staff is mostly busy with the actual brewing of beer, the taproom has limited hours (4-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2-8 p.m. Saturday). But this week Hall added special hours 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, where customers can stop by the taproom and refill their growlers (that's a large reusable glass jug) with Yazoo from the taps.

It's just a fill-up station on Wednesdays, no food or pints served, only recharged growlers to go. "Our customers didn't like having to wait until the weekend to fill up their growlers," Hall says, laughing.

That's a measure of the devotion Yazoo has inspired since 2003. A few years ago Hall started bottling his most popular flavors in six-packs for sale in grocery stores (though purists still prefer Yazoo on tap). Stores in a swath stretching from Memphis to Knoxville, from the Tri-Cities to Northern Alabama, now sell Yazoo six-packs.

Sly Rye Porter recently joined Yazoo's Pale Ale, Hefeweizen and Dos Perros in the ranks of bottled babies. Also bottled is Hall's ongoing series of Hop Project beers, where he tests wide-ranging varieties of hops to see what interesting flavors develop.

The latest retail development is a new variety pack that Hall calls the Pleasure Chest (nothing smutty here; it's named after a cooler he used to haul Yazoo to beer festivals).

"It's getting harder and harder to get more shelf space in grocery stores, even for good locally brewed beers, so we plan on using the Pleasure Chest to get our fans new beers that aren't yet available in six-packs," Hall explains.

If you want to enjoy Yazoo in a real restaurant setting, Yazoo is now available at some 150 restaurants around the state. Hall tapped a new market recently with A Beer Named Sue, a brew with a higher alcohol content that falls under the legal designation of liquor instead of beer. Due to quirks in local law, some bars and restaurants in Nashville are licensed to serve liquor but not beer. Sue is the only Yazoo beer that those establishments can legally serve.

As much as has been going on with Yazoo lately, the big excitement is still the future location in the Gulch. When Yazoo moves out of Marathon -- clearing the way for locally owned liquor company Corsair to start building a unique distillery on the premises -- the taproom will be blissfully three times larger. And the restrooms will be heated!

Speaking of warmth, the best thing to look forward to about the new brewery may be the planned beer-garden-style patio -- perfect for relaxing, cheese tasting and brew sipping once spring arrives.

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