Nine years ago today, Yazoo opened our doors for the first time. Working in the taproom that night were Lila (7 months pregnant), my mother-in-law Vicky, Zach (our first brewer), and me. Twitter and Facebook didn't exist, so we just emailed all our friends and asked them to spread the word that we were (finally) open. I think we had about 40-50 people come out, and we thought we were slammed! Our bright idea on samplers was to give everyone a paper ticket for each 5 oz pour, and you could come back up to the bar for your next pour. Man, how naive we were! Trying to figure out how to work the cash register, how much change should we have? Where did all our glassware go? Oh, it's being used and we are out? We thought we would have time to hand-wash all our glassware, and didn't need a dishwasher. Ha! Thanks to the patience of all our friends, we made it through the first weekend.
Those first few months, I wondered if it was even worth it to be open on Saturday afternoons. I worked the taproom by myself, because we were almost always dead except for a few people coming in for growler refills. One Saturday, the Titans had a playoff game and I doubted we would get anyone coming in, so I brought in a TV and put it on the end of the bar to watch the game. I did actually have one customer the entire day, who enjoyed a few pints with me while watching the game.
Things certainly have changed! We have met some amazing, wonderful, generous, funny people over the last nine years. We've had some great times, and laughed a lot more often than not. Our little brewery has grown and grown - new tanks, new equipment, new great employees, to a move into a new location in the Gulch.
And we aren't planning on slowing down anytime soon. We have two new tanks arriving in late November, that should boost our capacity by about 30%. The two new 200 bbl fermenters are being manufactured in Wisconsin right now, and are so large that we will have to cut a hole in the roof for the crane to get them in. We thought that the two new 120 bbl fermenters we installed in March would keep us from hitting a capacity wall for a while, but with the growth we've seen, they weren't enough. We are having to rearrange our tank layout in the brewery a little to make room for the new tanks, and adding another chiller out back to handle the new cooling load. The new capacity should help us keep up with the growth of our Yazoo brands, plus Gerst, Hap and Harry's (the beer we make for our mid-TN distributor, RS Lipman), and - something I am really excited about - more high-gravity Yazoo beers and seasonal releases.
Also, I can't announce it definitively right now, but I'll throw out a teaser - we're working on some collaboration projects with a couple of fellow Tennessee brewers, with some of the first beers being ready towards the end of the year. They are sure to warm up your winter...
2012 is shaping up to be a great year for us, but I am really excited about what 2013 holds. Stay tuned!