BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 18, 2015 issue

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of a beer ordinance amendment that, if approved on the final reading, will allow customers to sample draft craft beers before purchasing from a convenience store or market.

The ordinance, Town Administrator Bob Browning said, will allow anyone selling draft craft beers the opportunity to obtain a permit.

The ordinance requires a $100 nonrefundable application fee for the off-premise retail sale beer permit, as well as an annual privilege tax of $100 to renew the permit.

According to the ordinance, the samples can be no more than 2 ounces in no more than a 5-ounce cup.

Only three 2-ounce samples can be provided during a 24-hour period from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The ordinance also states that every customer will have to provide a photo ID to ensure he or she is 21 years old.

The customer’s name, according to the ID, will then be entered into a sampling log that will show the day and time the sample was provided to that person.

All samples are to be consumed on premise and the server providing the samples must have an Alcoholic Beverage Commission server’s license.

The ordinance also states that the Jonesborough Police Department will review the sampling procedure before the convenience store or market begins offering samples.

Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said a few changes needed to be made before the second reading of the amendment.

He said the term “craft beer” needs to be defined, as well as “convenience store” and “market.”

Wheeler said the ordinance also needs to make clear that only three 2-ounce samples can be given to an individual within a 24-hour period.

He also said it must clearly state that it is mandatory that an ABC server must serve all the samples.

“We need to remember that any time we change a beer ordinance, we are asking our police department to enforce that,” Wheeler said.

“So, it has to be very specific and can’t leave it open to subject to interpretation.”

Mayor Kelly Wolfe said an amendment to the beer ordinance is under consideration because of a request that was brought forth by Roadrunner Markets.

“They have inside this structure a Chuggernaut where you can actually buy craft beers in a growler,” he said.

Growlers are large glass jugs traditionally used to transport beer.

“Quite honestly, I can see the value of that because it is hard to say I like something and why spend the money on it if you don’t know how it tastes and you never had it before,” Wolfe said.

Although the first reading passed with a 3-1 vote during the Monday, Feb. 9, meeting, areas of concern were voiced by the aldermen.

“I’ve been giving some thought about this,” Alderman Adam Dickson said.

“I think I feel fairly confident about my decision. I choose to vote against this.”

He said he has the utmost respect for Ryan Broyles, president and CEO of Mountain Empire Oil Company.

“I hope that my vote won’t be taken out of context,” Dickson said. “I really have some concerns in particular about the fact that this is a place where I frequent fairly regularly at the Roadrunner and I do see a lot of children coming in and out. I value the feelings of our chief and I know that the staff at Mountain Empire Oil and the Roadrunner store will do an excellent job and will abide by the rules. I just have some personal concerns.”

Wolfe told Dickson he understood where he was coming from, but right now Jonesborough’s liquor stores have the options of doing tastings.

“We have Depot Street Brewery (who) obviously has a license as a manufacturer in town and a license to allow them to have samples there. Currently, beer is sold in every convenience store just about in Jonesborough, if not all of them. Really, the only difference would be that sampling option,” Wolfe said. “Right now that beer at the Chuggernaut is on tap. They are actively filling those growlers right there. I have purchased a couple of them. It is a nice option and it is a matter of personal preference.”

He said if there is abuse, there are ramifications.

“I think we have a track record of mixed drinks being served in town now very successfully,” Wolfe said. “You are seeing people in Jonesborough take time in doing it right.”

Operations Manager Craig Ford said he can talk with the City of Greeneville’s Police Department and see if they have had any issues with beer samples since implementing their ordinance.

Browning said any of the restaurants that have liquor by the drink can provide samples to their customers if they choose. He said when Tennessee Hills Distillery becomes operational, you can have a family in there and have tastings.

“There is not an age limit to go into the distillery,” Browning said.

Alderman Terry Countermine said although he is a beer drinker, he is a little concerned about drawing 2 ounces of draft beer.

“The idea is that I am drinking it there to decide if I want to buy,” he asked. “I have concerns about the abuse of that.”

Wolfe said the idea is that an individual would be trying three different samples, rather than three of the same.

“One drink you should be able to say I like that one or not,” he said.

Discussion was also had about what the blood alcohol concentration would be after consumption.

Police Chief Matt Hawkins said although many factors, such as muscle mass and body weight, can sway the number drastically in either way, generally the blood alcohol level is at .05 after two 12-ounce beers.


“Embracing heritage”

Distillery ready to open in new year

Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 24, 2014 issue

As of last week, Tennessee Hills Distillery can officially manufacture and distribute alcohol in the state of Tennessee, bringing the Jonesborough business one step closer to opening the doors early next year.

“I can’t believe it still,” Stephen Callahan, owner of Tennessee Hills Distillery, said of making progress in following his dreams and his moonshine roots. “Now we have to get our labels approved and wait on our first shipment of bottles and get our souvenir line in order.”

He hopes to open the doors if not by the middle of January, definitely by Feb. 1.

“I want to get the doors open, but want to make sure we can operate in a safe and efficient manner,” Callahan said.

The process of opening the distillery, which began in early 2014, has been steadily moving along. Callahan and his brother, David, have been working side-by-side turning the Salt House into the new home for the Tennessee Hills Distillery applying the business’ motto “embracing heritage” every step of the way.

“We built the stills in house, did renovations in the building specific to our needs. My brother and I did the iron gates, the tasting bar, the glass walls,” Callahan said. “Every piece of equipment, my brother and I fabricated in there.”

All the equipment needed to operate the business is now in the building.

The 300-gallon and 150-gallon copper stills were designed by Callahan.

“We built those in the Salt House pretty much right where they are sitting. I think that speaks a lot for our craftsmanship. We want equipment that is a work of art rather than just serving its purpose to make liquor,” he said. “We are really passionate about what we do. We want to get people a product made with passion and very high quality too.”

The still gives Callahan a wide range in terms of the product that can be made at the Salt House. He said he can make corn liquor that has a lot of flavor to vodka that has no flavor.

“We have a lot of versatility in the Salt House as far as the product,” he said, adding that everything will be made in small batches and hand-bottled.

The tasting bar was pieced together with chestnut that came from an old family barn that was more than a 150 years old.

“It was in really good condition in the barn,” he said. “I figured it would be a perfect place to put it on display.”

Callahan said the distillery is going to be a nice place to stop in, take a tour, have some tastings and hopefully buy a bottle of whiskey.

The outside of the building has also been enhanced with shrubs and a crosswalk. The loading dock, weather permitting, should be installed early next week.

“Jonesborough has been behind us 100 percent from the time I came to town and pitched my idea,” he said. “They helped us put in the crosswalks and have a nice venue.”

In addition to getting the Salt House ready for business, Callahan said they have already harvested crops for the operation. Eighty-eight acres or about 10,000 bushels of corn, were harvested from Callahan’s family farm in November and stored in a silo at Shell Mill in Jonesborough.

“That should last us hopefully for three quarters of the year, maybe the first full year,” he said.

Callahan said everything they are doing will be ground in an antique 1940s model stone mill because it adds to their businesses story.

“That’s pretty special,” he said. “We gave him (Mark Shell) a whole new business aspect. We are going to be using a lot of corn.”

Callahan said when crops are stone ground, they tend to keep a lot of their flavor profile.

The grains that are leftover, will feed the livestock on Callahan’s 100-acre family farm. He said they are getting ready to buy some more cattle to consume the access grain.

“It’s all going to be pretty personal and full circle,” he said of the process. “Everything is pretty much in Jonesborough and that’s how I like to keep it.”

He said they are waiting on barley to be delivered, which should arrive at any time.

The business will have a quick turnaround for their product due to grains being delivered to the Salt House every seven to 10 days.

Callahan said hopefully by March or April, they will have all of the flavors produced that are going to be released and available at the Salt House.

Callahan said he believes his business will be very well received once the doors are open.

“Our story, being from the oldest town, and being in a 174 year old building, and kind of preserving a historical site, and making it a functional historical building, is special to me,” he said. “That is being a part of history.”

Other articles about the distillery I’ve written:

January 2014

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

Proposed distillery gets planning comission OK

February 2014

With one ‘no’ vote cast . . . Future downtown distillery clears next hurdle

March 2014

Board gives distillery final approval

‘Embracing Heritage’

I have been writing about Tennessee Hills Distillery since the beginning of the year for the Herald & Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It’s been fun following Stephen’s story and seeing the progress over the last few months.

Distillery slowly emerges on Fox Street

Published Herald & Tribune July 1, 2014

The home of Tennessee Hills Distillery is coming to life as renovations are completed and the installation of equipment will soon be under way.

Stephen Callahan, the sole owner of Tennessee Hills Distillery, said the business’ motto, “embracing heritage,” has been applied to everything that has been done since the beginning of the year.

Stephen Callahan operates the historic elevator in what will soon become Jonesborough’s new distillery. Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

Stephen Callahan operates the historic elevator in what will soon become Jonesborough’s new distillery.
Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

He said it is important to him to respect the building, the Salt House, and the history of moonshine and whiskey.

“It’s kind of our way to preserve history,” he explained.

History runs deep in Callahan’s family.

“My granddaddy was a preacher and he made whiskey,” he said. “My other granddaddy was a bootlegger.”

When Callahan made his dream job a reality, opening a distillery, he wanted to include the people closest to him — his brother David and best friend, Buddy Arrowood.

“Hopefully we are going to run a successful business,” he said.

Callahan said Doug Lowrie, the owner of the Salt House, has been very accommodating throughout the redesigning process. He said he’s been able to craft the building into the best facility for the distillery by maximizing the space.

The Salt House has gone through a transformation to prepare it for a tentative October opening.

The first thing Callahan tackled was the floors on the bottom level.

“There were no floors downstairs,” he said. “There were dirt floors.”

Concrete footers were poured under the floor that was installed so it could hold the weight of the equipment, which will include a 300-gallon still and three 600-gallon fermenters.

Instead of purchasing a still from Confederate Stills of Alabama, which was Callahan’s original plan, he decided to construct his own. This will allow him to have the exact type and shape of still that he wants.

“I really believe in doing things ourselves. Any old moonshiner should be able to build his own still,” he said, adding that by building his own still it can become a showpiece for the business.

The still should take no more than two weeks to build.

Once the equipment is installed, a 15-foot tasting bar will be constructed with copper details, as well as copper fume hoods over the equipment.

After the floors were finished, the interior walls were redone while keeping the old rustic feel of the Salt House. Callahan said they left the bare bricks on the walls to keep the original decor.

wpid-20140625_155610.jpgThe “coolest” part about renovating the Salt House was working on the elevator, he explained.

“The elevator was an essential asset in the building,” Callahan said.

The hand-operated elevator will be used for moving inventory from downstairs to the second floor.

“The alcohol will be taken upstairs on the elevator to the bottling stations,” he said. “The elevator will be able to move grains and materials that are packaged and ready to ship. It will be an all-purpose elevator.”

He said he and his brother renovated the elevator by replacing all the cables. The original gears were kept, as well as the carriage and original hand rope.

While working on the elevator, he learned from an elevator preservation group that it is probably the only one in the state of Tennessee like it and one of the few in the country.

“It’s one of the first actual elevators installed in the whole country,” Callahan said.

The second floor of the Salt House had a drop ceiling added. The ceiling went from 17 feet to 12 feet, he said because they wanted to save on the heat and air in the building.

Overall, Callahan made sure the building was structurally sound for his business.

The outside of the building also received a face-lift.

On June 26, a new brick sidewalk and granite curbs were scheduled to be installed outside of the Salt House. Callahan said an entrance ramp to the front door also will be installed.

“The city is going to put a walkway across the road to match the Town of Jonesborough,” he said. “It’s a safety improvement for people visiting the distillery.”

Shrubs and flowers and a front patio with rocking chairs also will grace the entrance of the business.

The loading dock and gravel driveway will be added toward the end of July.

“Once you see the loading dock, we are close to opening up,” Callahan said.

A flag pole will eventually be raised outside of the building. Callahan said he wants to have a Prisoner of War flag outside of his business because his uncle was captured in the Korean War and didn’t survive.

The flag, he said, will recognize his uncle and other veterans who never made it home.

“I’m working with the Rolling Thunder and the veteran’s organization to help us have a ceremony when the time comes to raise the flag,” Callahan said. “It will let people of Jonesborough know who we are and what kind of company we want to be. We want to enhance Jonesborough.”

On Saturday, Aug. 30, Tennessee Hills Distillery will host Wheels in the Hills event, which will entail a poker run and car cruising, as well as bands and a barbecue. The proceeds from the event will go toward Shop with a Cop, a Jonesborough-based charity.

Eventually, Callahan hopes to make some Irish whiskey at the distillery because his family migrated from Ireland and he wants to keep the tradition of making Irish whiskey alive.

“I want to make a unique product that is near and dear to our hearts,” he said.


Other articles about the distillery:

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?, Published Jan. 21, 2014

Proposed distillery gets planning comission OK, Published Jan. 28, 2014

With one ‘no’ vote cast . . . Future downtown distillery clears next hurdle, Published Feb. 18, 2014

Board gives distillery final approval, Published March 18, 2014