When you think of law school, brewing craft beer is unlikely to be the first thing that pops into your mind.
But that’s just how Bailey Spaulding of Nashville’s Jackalope Brewing Company got her start. The entrepreneur moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt Law School – but upon graduating, realized her true passion was beer.
“I mostly thought about what kind of brewery I wanted to open, and not what kind of lawyer I wanted to be,” she laughed.
Luckily for Nashville, Spaulding recognized that it was sorely lacking in craft breweries, and opened up Jackalope’s doors in May of 2011 with no business or professional brewing experience.
“Everything was a very steep learning curve,” she said. “The equipment was the hardest part, and we had to adapt and figure out what we needed when the equipment was delayed by three months.”
A brewery hitting its stride
Small hiccups aside, Jackalope has grown with leaps and bounds in the past seven years, so much so that their small facility in the trendy Gulch neighborhood isn’t cutting it anymore. Spaulding dished on the brewery’s upcoming expansion to Wedgewood-Houston – a move that will give her and her team some much-needed space to be creative again. She even hinted at the possibility of a new beer every week.
Spaulding largely attributes the brewery’s success to their close-to-home distribution strategy. While some breweries are trying to push their beers into any and every possible market, the Jackalope team has maintained a hyperfocus on Middle Tennessee. The brewery sells 80 percent of its beers in Middle Tennessee, while also serving markets in Chattanooga, Clarksville and Memphis.
East meets west for Fat Bottom
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Fat Bottom Brewing Company has also been churning out delicious craft beers.
Originally founded in East Nashville as the area’s first brewery, Fat Bottom followed Jackalope with a 2012 opening date. Like Jackalope’s Spaulding, founder Ben Bredesen’s career didn’t start in subs. The founder made his way in the tech world for many years before deciding it was time to start his own business.
“I came up with a lot of ideas, but I decided that if it wasn't beer, I wasn't going to be happy,” Bredesen said.
Fat Bottom can’t seem to brew fast enough to satiate Nashville’s thirst for craft beer, and Bredesen and his team at Fat Bottom quickly grew out of their digs after just four years. Earlier this year, Fat Bottom underwent a major upgrade, going from 5,000 square feet to a huge 30,000-square-foot space in The Nations.
“We're shipping maybe 1,200 cases of beer in Nashville a month," Bredesen told Crain's Nashville. "As a company, we're going to do 5,000 barrels this year. That's not big by any means, and it's certainly not on the scale of a Sam Adams or even Yazoo, the granddaddy of beer in Nashville. But we’re growing.”
While both Jackalope and Fat Bottom have impressive selections (saisons, ales and porters, oh my!), Bredesen believes his brewery’s success stems from quality control.
“We really hang our hat on beer quality. I really feel like we have the highest-quality beer from a technical standpoint. We have a full-time microbiologist and all he does is quality control,” he said.
What’s next for Fat Bottom? With new digs comes more room to make more beer! Bredesen shared that the company will be launching six new beers in 2018.