But Eskind hasn't been resting on his laurels. He's been working behind the scenes on an exciting new product that is rolling out in the market this week, Ruby Cut. This is a 90-proof whiskey made by aging his base product in California port barrels. Since aging in the summer is different from the slower process of aging in cold weather, Eskind divided his small batch into two lots and filled an equal number of barrels during the summer and during the winter. The whiskeys lay in repose here in Nashville for six months apiece until it was time to blend them together and bottle them for a unique small release.
The port barrels contribute a lot of color and character to Cumberland Cask Ruby Cut. Probably the most notable effect of the experiment is a dramatic smoothing out of the finish, especially when you consider it is a higher proof than a lot of other Tennessee whiskeys. This is the result of the two separate aging sessions interrupted by some extra time mellowing in steel vats while the other half of the batch is taking a short oak nap.
The original plan was to bottle the summer batch and the winter batch separately, but when they were blended the resulting product was too good to pass up. Ruby Cut will be a very limited release and should be available at better liquor stores around town starting this week for around $60 per bottle. It will not be distributed outside of Middle Tennessee, so if you have a long-distance whiskey aficionado on your holiday gift list, Ruby Cut might just be the ticket.
Pontes and Wendkos will take over the spot on Nov. 25. The venture has been months in the works; Wendkos left her management stint at Josephine's earlier this year to focus on finding her own place. She stumbled across the Dino's listing on a real estate site several months ago and immediately notified Pontes. Though they had a couple of competitors fighting for the lease, Pontes and Wendkos were victorious.
"We want people to know how much we love and respect Rick," Pontes says, pointing out that the whole process started with a handshake deal with Wildeboor, one that was fully realized when the papers were signed this morning.
"We wanted to make sure he's taken care of," Wendkos adds.
The duo is quick to say that Dino's will remain a dive bar. Yesterday local musician/promoter Carter Hays, who books shows at Dino’s, asked Pontes via Instagram, “How much are you changing about Dino’s?” Pontes responded, “Keeping it as is. Love Dino’s. Respect you and the neighborhood."
However, there will be changes to the smoking policy, and a lot of additions to the bill of fare.
Black Abbey's Carl Meier had promised Bites that we could come see when their two new 90-barrel tanks arrived. When I was reporting on a beer cover story this summer, I asked about the high ceilings in their space on Sidco Drive.
Why so tall?
They hired the folks from Hampton Crane to pick up the tanks, newly arrived by train from the West Coast and China before there, and to get them into place. Using some giant cloth straps and a few hooks, two forklifts brought each tank off a flatbed truck, into the brewery and flipped them up onto their feet. From there, a single forklift navigated under an air line, between the brewhouse and the chemical depot, around a tank (and its hoses) and into place on the front wall.
And the crazy part is that when the tank came to its final resting spot, it just sat on four stainless steel discs with little nubs that fit under the legs.
The three-minute drive went like this:
There's a full drum kit tucked into the rafters of the brewhouse with a comely mannequin (wo)manning the drum throne, and the brewery staff even has their own band known as The Yeasty Boyz.
So it was natural when local radio station 102.9 The Buzz went looking for a partner to produce a special limited-release beer in honor of their Rocktoberfest, Mayday was the natural first call.
Rocktoberfest will take place at Mayday Brewery this Saturday, Sept. 20 from 1 to 9 p.m. The event will feature local rock bands, fun competitions hosted by 102.9 The Buzz and German-style food and drinks. Plus they'll be releasing their collaboration, Buzz Brew at the party.
I'm sure some of you who are younger than I am will recognize these bands, so let us know in the comments if there any can't miss choices:
It was your typical Americana scene: lots of beards, lots of plaid (both in the crowd and on stage) and lots of heads bobbing to the sound of an instrumental group fronted by two guitarists, one on a Telecaster and the other on a steel, as they ripped through a tight little set.
[The fact that the author has a beard and is wearing plaid may be interpreted however the reader would like.]
And most of the crowd was sipping Americana, too — that's the name of a smoked IPA that Yazoo Brewing Company created just for the festival. (Technically, the name on the label is Americana Fest Ale.)
The Grimey's crowd was the first to get the new brew, which Yazoo will have available on tap or in bottles at all of the AmericanaFest venues.
At 62 IBUs, it's hoppy but not overly bitter. Built around the same smoked barley that the brewery uses in their Sue beer, Americana has a very clean finish. First you get hops, then comes the smoke, then comes a little bit of malt at the end. We could easily knock back a few of these while listening to bands over the long weekend.
Look for it if you're attending the festival.
Old Forester is one of the distilleries that grace Music City with their special releases, and two new products should soon make appearances (albeit briefly) on local liquor store shelves soon. The first is the latest iteration of their popular "Birthday Bourbon" series, established to commemorate the birthday of George Garvin Brown, the founder of Louisville-based Brown-Forman and Old Forester. Here's how the company describes this year's gift to the drinking public:
Selected from a single day of production and handcrafted by Master Distiller Chris Morris, this limited edition small batch bourbon is vintage-dated — offering a one-of-a-kind character and flavor profile that will never be replicated. Its unique decanter-style glass bottle is a throwback to the late 1800s when Old Forester was first produced. Each bottle features the founder’s signature and the dates on which the bourbon was barreled and bottled.
Available starting in September, the 2014 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon will have a suggested retail price of $59.99 and will be sold at most liquor stores nationwide. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is bottled at 97 proof.
“This year’s selection evokes a creamy, soft vanilla bean character with flavors of cinnamon spice, maple syrup and citrus,” said Morris. “The complex flavor and warm finish with just a hint of sweetness make this year’s batch a must-have release.”
It'll come and go quickly, so keep your eyes peeled. The second release is another historical reference to George Garvin Brown, this time to his practices as one of the premier (and premiere) blenders of whiskeys in the 19th century. Brown-Forman has maintained some sort of presence on Louisville's Whiskey Row since 1870, back when present day Main Street was still River Street, with warehouses full of whiskey strategically positioned to be loaded on steamships to travel the country.
George Garvin Brown used to buy whiskey from several different manufacturers and then blend them to create a consistent flavor profile for his own product. His personal guarantee of quality printed in his own handwriting still appears on every bottle of Old Forester.
Perhaps you were part of Nashville Scene's inaugural Tap That Beer Crawl last summer, when we herded groups of beer nerds around Nashville to enjoy samples from our city's ever-evolving brew scene. Perhaps you were one of the people who got to ride on my bus (yes, we provide transport by way of spacious, air-conditioned charter buses — who wants to walk around outside in August, anyway?) which meant that you got to enjoy all of my beer-fueled bad jokes and feeble attempts to start flippy cup tournaments at each location. And perhaps you were one of the people on my bus who peed in the parking lot at Yazoo near the end of the crawl ... and if you were, I totally have pictures of you, which I will keep under wraps for a reasonable bribe.
OK, shenanigans aside, Tap That is a really cool event because you get to learn all about local beer from the people who make it, so you can share this knowledge with your drinking buddies on future visits to these fine watering holes. So as long as you promise to behave like a semi-responsible adult, we'd like to invite you to join us. The fun happens on Sunday, Aug. 17, (because on the seventh day, everybody drank beer) from 1 to 6 p.m. This year, we'll be stopping at Yazoo Brewing Company, Rock Bottom Brewery, Craft Brewed, Hops + Crafts and Jackalope Brewing Company. Tickets are $30 and include beer and transportation from brewery to brewery on the aforementioned air-conditioned bus. Food will be available for purchase along the way from some of your favorite food trucks.
Obviously this is a 21-and-up event, and I used to be a bartender, so I can totally tell if it's a fake ID. Also, while we generally frown upon peeing in parking lots, we totally hate drinking and driving, so call an Uber or one of those pink moustache rides to get to and from the event. I predict that this event will sell out, so get your tix today. And if you're a cute, single guy, please sign up for my bus. Kidding. Not really.
If all of this is not enough to entice you to immediately buy tickets, I leave you with some photos of last year's debauchery after the jump. Who knows, maybe one of the parking lot pee pictures is in there?
In single-barrel products, what you see is what you get, since once the juice goes in the barrel, there's nothing but time and temp that can really affect the resulting spirit. While this is often an interesting factor of single-barrel products, I personally believe that small batches are a better demonstration of the distiller/blender's prowess than simply selecting a barrel at the proper time and bottling it.
But every now and then I get a taste of a single-barrel product that I feel is truly exceptional, and Four Roses has done gone and done it to me again. Every year, Rutledge picks a small quantity of barrels that share a common mash bill and yeast strain from Four Roses aging racks, and bottles the select spirits under their Single Barrel Limited Release label. Even with a common recipe, there is still a little variation from barrel to barrel, but Rutledge believes that there is something truly special about this particular batch.
For 2014, Four Roses selected around 20 barrels which went into their oaky repose eleven years ago, just when Four Roses was returning to the American market in a big way after decades of primarily producing their standard yellow label for export. These barrels have produced about 5,000 bottles of bourbon made with a mash bill of 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley, using the F strain of Four Roses yeast, which is characterized by contributing a minty, fruity flavor to the spirit.
Fat Bottom initially had some quality issues
I heard from a lot of folks after Fat Bottom launched that they were getting a really uneven drinking experience. One batch would be good, another not so much. Ben Bredesen, Fat Bottom's founder, was up front about it when I asked him about what's changed since they opened up the brewery in the old Fluffo Mattress building:
Consistency and quality. We had a lot of quality issues when I first opened up. It was in the mode of we had been under construction for 10 months and it was like "Oh, crap, we've got to start selling some beer" to get some cash coming in the door. We started rushing things out. About two months in, I had this epiphany that bar owners were getting pissed off and people weren't liking the beer. I just realized that if we didn't fix this, I wouldn't have a brewery in a year. And so, we settled down, shrunk back, dropped some accounts and focused on consistency.
Jackalope and growth
Jackalope is on schedule to produce 5,000 barrels of beer next year, a staggering number for a microbrewery in just its fourth year. But popularity can bring problems, and if a brewery isn't careful, it can grow itself right out of business. Founders Robin Virball and Bailey Spaulding talked about the perils of being a popular small business.
Virball: Sam Adams does a special thing [giving loans to small breweries], but only for breweries that are at least a year old. Because there's a time for breweries when there's this demand and you're growing, but you're out of money that you started with, and you're like, "How do I do it?" because you need more money. It's always difficult.
Spaulding Understanding cash flow is important. We were at a point where six months after we were distributing, we were at 100 percent capacity because we grew much faster than we thought we were going to. That's why now, the tanks are coming in when we're at 90 percent capacity, because you learn from your mistakes. We were in a position where we needed a lot of money, so we did a second investor round.
Apparently, the big boys have taken notice of (y)our insatiable thirst for Fireball, because Jack Daniel's has rolled out a new brand extension called Tennessee Fire. The 70-proof liqueur is priced in line with their most recent line addition, Tennessee Honey, and is made by infusing Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey with a proprietary red-hot cinnamon liqueur.
Initially, the product is being rolled out only in Tennessee, Oregon and Pennsylvania. (Y'know ... our sister states.) However, if Tennessee Fire spreads like wildfire, expect to see it available nationally soon. Having tried it myself (strictly as a journalistic exercise, of course), I have to say Tennessee Fire is a bit mellower than Fireball. The sweetness of the whiskey comes through a little better, even if it is masked by the cloying syrupy Red Hots candy overtones. If that's what you're going for, more power to you, buddy. It'll definitely get you where you want to go.
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