Home to more than 80 craft breweries and dozens of distilleries – including approximately 30 destinations making up the Tennessee Whiskey Trail that stretches across the state – Tennessee is a top spot for those interested in spirits and craft beer.
In addition to bolstering the state’s tourism sector, Tennessee’s craft brewing and distilling industries are supporting local farmers and, in some cases, helping growers find new ways to market their crops.
For example, Nashville-based Tennessee Brew Works (TBW) is partnering with area growers to source the ingredients for many of its beers. The company’s Country Roots beer – a sweet potato stout – and their Farmer’s Beat variety, which is a beet farmhouse ale, both include vegetables from Delvin Farms in College Grove. Plus, TBW’s Basil Ryeman beer features sweet basil from Bloomsbury Farms in Smyrna, and its Wildwood Flower selection, a sophisticated blonde ale, includes wildflower and sourwood honey from Strange Honey Farm in Del Rio.
“At Tennessee Brew Works, we want to celebrate what our state’s farmers are producing and purchase ingredients from them as often as possible,” says Christian Spears, TBW’s founder and president.
To create its Southern Wit variety – a Belgian-style white ale that includes a combination of unmalted wheat and malted barley – TBW partners with Batey Farms, an eighth-generation family farm in Rutherford County that’s been in operation since 1807. Spears says the partnership came about after Brandon Whitt, who manages Batey Farms with his wife, Katherine, visited the brewery and realized he could easily supply all the barley the company might need. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Batey Farms’ unmalted wheat has been responsible for about 60 percent of our best-selling beer [Southern Wit] since late 2016, and we’ve never looked back,” Spears says. “Our State Park Blonde Ale, which is brewed in partnership with Tennessee State Parks and is very popular with our customers, also contains grain from Batey Farms. In fact, in both the Southern Wit and State Park Blonde Ale, TBW has committed to using only Tennessee-grown grains; we’ve gone all in with Batey Farms, and it’s been a great partnership so far.”
According to Whitt, his arrangement with TBW is just the beginning of his mission to bring barley back to Tennessee as a value-added crop. He hopes to continue building a platform for his Volunteer Mission Malt brand, leading malt businesses to work with farmers across the state who will purchase the grains and process them, eventually selling them to end users like TBW.
“Those of us involved in Tennessee production agriculture can be front-door grain providers for craft breweries, and that’s exciting for all of us,” Whitt says. “It’s a perfect opportunity to connect Tennessee farm products with end users. It benefits everyone.”