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Artisan beers on the rise in Middle Tennessee

Mark Kamp, president of Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company, was bitten by the craft beer bug during his junior year at Belmont.
Mark Kamp, president of Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company, was bitten by the craft beer bug during his junior year at Belmont.

Middle Tennessee is known for many things: country music, football, barbecue, sweet tea, rolling hills, and GooGoo Clusters. Soon you can add craft beer to that list. Craft beer breweries are on the threshold of a golden age in Middle Tennessee. Over the last five years, the Nashville area has seen an explosive increase in beer-related activities, including festivals, clubs, bars, and blogs. The area now boasts seven microbreweries that whet the appetites of a crowd increasingly thirsty for quality ingredients and artisan brewing the way it was meant to be done. Beer is a part of the fall season, just like the changing leaves, jack-o-lanterns and football. And with the growing number of beer connoisseurs in the area, Middle Tennessee is the place to be for the fall brewing season. So, pull up a bar stool and have an ice-cold pint while we introduce you to a couple of the area’s newest microbreweries that are already making a splash on the local beer scene. Jackalope Brewing Company

It all started with a belief in jackalopes. For the uninitiated, a jackalope is a mythological creature found in the pages of American folklore and is the subject of many campfire tales. The animal is generally described as a jackrabbit with deer antlers and hind legs. There are some who don’t believe such creatures exist, but don’t tell that to Bailey Spaulding, co-owner of Nashville’s Jackalope Brewing Company. “The name came from my active belief in jackalopes,” she asserted. “A family friend of mine had taxidermied jackalopes when I was growing up, and she used to tell me a lot about them, so I just went with it.” When Spaulding learned the creatures were supposedly a mythical concoction, she scoffed at the notion. It’s all about the power of faith and belief. “A friend of mine gave me a T-shirt with a jackalope on it that reads ‘Believe in yourself,’” she said. “So when we were starting the brewery, it became something of an unofficial motto.”

Located at 701 8th Avenue South in Nashville, the Jackalope Brewing Company has been a labor of love for founders Spaulding and Robyn Virball, and their new partner, Steve Wright. “I love making beer,” Spaulding said. “I really like that it’s just like a science experiment, and there’s beer at the end of it. It’s a very creative process as well. You get to experiment with a lot of different recipes and ingredients and work with a lot of interesting materials.”

Spaulding, a 2009 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, was inspired to leave the legal world behind in order to pursue her passion for brewing quality beer. She enlisted the help of Virball, whom she first met in 2002 while studying abroad in Scotland, and the dynamic duo set out open a brewery that not only distributes quality beer but is an active member of the community as well.

The endeavor wasn’t easy for the young microbrewers, but their motto of believing in yourself only spurred their ardor and enthusiasm.

“There were a lot of challenges,” Spaulding recalled. “I’d say the biggest challenge was being able to roll with the punches of starting a business. There are equipment delays, there are hoops you have to jump through (especially with the alcoholic beverage industry), and there’s the fear of failure. Every now and then you stop and wonder if you’re completely crazy to be doing what you are, but you press on and it’s ultimately totally worth it. You become a much stronger person for having gone through the experiences that we’ve had in the past couple of years.” Spaulding joked that she “wooed” her business partner from the Boston corporate grind to Middle Tennessee by the promise of a warmer climate and unicorns. Although there may be no unicorns in Nashville, apparently there are jackalopes. The brewery, which opened its doors in 2011 and commenced its distribution in January, is ensconced in a 6,700 square-foot warehouse. This includes a 1,500-square-foot tap room and 5,200 square feet to accommodate a 15-barrel brew house, four fermenters and three conditioning tanks. The Jackalope Brewery prides itself not only for its craft beers but for its warm, inviting ambiance.

“We make our tap room a really fun place,” Virball said. “We feature lots of live music, games, and trivia.”

Jackalope has brewed an array of eclectic artisan beers including Rompo Red Rye, a caramel malt concoction, an unfiltered American pale ale called Thunder Ann, and Bearwalker, which is flavored with 100 percent pure Vermont maple syrup.

In addition, the brewery offers 10-12 rotating beers a year to keep its selection fresh and vibrant.

Jackalope’s tap room is open 4-8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and from noon till 4 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit

Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company

The craft beer revolution in Middle Tennessee has been a slow, steady progression. This is the driving force that inspired the name and logo of the Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company.

“We translate ‘Turtle Anarchy’ to ‘slow revolution,’” explained the company’s president, Mark Kamp. “Anarchy is along the same vein as the craft beer revolution, and being a slow animal, the turtle signifies a slow progression. It’s all about winning people over to local beer one pint at a time.” Located at 216 Noah Drive, Suite 140 in Franklin, The Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company is one of the area’s newest microbreweries that produce flavorful, dynamic, and unique brews artfully concocted for the discerning beer connoisseur.

Kamp, a 2010 Belmont University graduate, was bit by the craft beer bug during his junior year in college when he discovered the wonders that home brewing could do for his taste buds. “When I got into craft beer in college I found I really liked the variety,” he said. “I’m intrigued by the history and tradition behind it and being able to take that tradition and morph it into what we do, which is staying true to the style but still being able to do our own thing.”

Turtle Anarchy opened its tap room on July 5 of this year, and the fledgling young brewery began distributing its products a couple of weeks later. Kamp likens brewing a good craft beer to a culinary art.

“Like cooking it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be,” he explained. “At a certain point brewing isn’t brewing anymore. It becomes a food science. When you get down to the nitty-gritty of water or malt analysis, you leave the realm of what I think is the fun stuff. Our brewmaster, Mike Kraft, has over 12 years of professional brewing experience, and he keeps it fun.”

The biggest pleasure in the brewing process for Kamp is conceptualizing potential new recipes like a filmmaker storyboarding an idea for a movie. “For the first four beers we came up with, we sat down and discussed what we wanted those beers to be,” he said. “And that’s really the fun stuff – being able to sit down and brainstorm ideas and paint pictures of what we want our beers to become. Every brewer does it a little differently. It all comes down to the recipes and brewing integrity.”

Since Turtle Anarchy began brewing this summer, the community has embraced it with open arms (and mouths). The company currently distributes its products to more than 25 locations throughout the Middle Tennessee area. Kamp attributes the brewery’s success to the area’s nascent craft beer culture.

“There are a lot of people getting into it,” he acknowledged. “People are developing a taste for craft beer, and they’re discovering that they can get quality beer that’s locally made. I think Tennessee is going through what California experienced back in the 1980s.”

Some popular products you can find on tap at the Turtle Anarchy Brewery include Another Way To Rye (a bold rye India pale ale with an added spiciness from a healthy addition of rye malt); Aurumglass (brewed in the golden aye style with a strong malt backbone and Gambrinus honey malt and bitter orange peel); Portly Stout (brewed with three different dark malts for a creamy, smooth mouth feel); and a selection of rotating beers. Kamp vows to stay true to the quality of his products. “We just don’t brew something that we hate,” he said. “We will never compromise the integrity of our beers with cheap additives or artificial ingredients. We always stay true to what we want to brew, and we’re happy we can brew beer that we ourselves enjoy. We hope that everyone else does as well.”

But don’t take their word for it.

You can visit the Turtle Anarchy tap room and taste its beer for yourself from 5-10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 4-10 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit To find other area breweries, check out

Photography by Angie Mayes and submitted.