Employees demonstrate how beer is made Oct. 11, 2012, inside the Mayday Brewery in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Hudgins)
Once your lips touch a Mayday Brewery pint glass, and ice-cold locally brewed goodness washes over your taste buds, you’ll be hooked. Think of it as infatuation. Or love; it could be love.
With names like Angry Redhead, Velvet Hustle, Evil Octopus and ‘Boro Blonde, it is quite obvious Mayday Brewery aims to set itself apart. Each beer features an accompanying tongue-in-cheek description guaranteed to pique your interest and make your palate water with each approaching word.
Husband-and-wife duo Lee “Ozzy” and Pamela Nelson launched Mayday Brewery from its humble beginnings as a home brewery in their garage to its current 12,500-square-foot space inside the Park Place Event Center building near Old Salem Highway.
The brewery is actually located in the rear of the building, but visitors will need to park on the front side, enter through the glass double doors, and then immediately turn left to enter Mayday. This is due to parking regulations set forth by the city of Murfreesboro.
Once inside, beer drinkers will be greeted with aromas of fermenting hops and barley similar to that of freshly baked bread. Mayday patrons can see the brewery in all of its glory through oversized viewing windows as they proceed down a corridor on their way to the taproom.
With its Mayday-red walls and wrap around bar, the space is inviting and cozy. An adjoining room houses a family style table in the center, while antique church pews line the walls to provide additional seating – a uniqueness surpassed only by the original solid wood beams that comprise the brewery’s ceiling.
Upon its grand opening, Mayday will provide a deck with seating options for those wishing to enjoy a craft beer with Mother Nature.
Visitors to the brewery are encouraged to bring a picnic or some edible goodies, as the taproom is not a restaurant.
Mayday wouldn’t be a brewery without the awesome equipment that mills, ferments and brews the craft beers – all of which came directly from Prince Edward Island, Canada.
The mill room is set back behind the scenes because of the dust from grinding various grains – dark and roasty for Evil Octopus, caramel-y for Angry Redhead. Once ground, they’re piped into a grist case before entering one of two 30-barrel mash tuns, or brew kettles. There, the wort is boiled, and hops are added to create distinctive aromas and flavors.
Once cooled, the wort settles into any of four 30-barrel fermentors where it stays for three weeks until it’s ready to be carbonated and put into kegs via Brite beer tanks. Just to be clear, 30 barrels equals 930 gallons of deliciousness.
Because Mayday Brewery houses four fermentors, it is able to make four different brews at any given time. In addition to its own original and seasonal beers, the Murfreesboro brewery has partnered with Nashville-based Jubilee Craft Beer Company LLC, which donates 50 percent of its profits to The Oasis Center, a youth-serving organization.
Jubilee currently has a nut brown ale served only in bottles that are brewed at BBC in Kentucky, but Mayday will brew an IPA for Jubilee that will be distributed in kegs so that it may be on-tap at local bars and restaurants.
“We met (owner) Mark Dunkerley at the Taste of Music City a in 2010, and we immediately hit it off,” Ozzy recalled. “He already had an established brand, he has a great story with giving profits away to charity. He was looking to have his beer brewed closer to home, so it was a great fit.”
Initially, Mayday will offer its beer in draft form – bars and restaurants may order it by the keg, while individuals can purchase it by the glass or growler. To expedite the growler refill process, Mayday will pre-fill growlers and swap them out with patrons’ empty ones.
The brewery also plans to can its own beer, but not any time soon.
“The more beer people buy, the faster we’ll get the canning line,” Pamela said, adding the brewery also has room for four additional fermentors.
Meet the brewers
The Nelsons brought Nick “Wiz” Wisniewski all the way from The Windy City to head the brewery. As with most brewers, Wiz got his start with home brewing before attending The Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy near downtown Chicago.
In fact, that’s where he met Ozzy, and together they have grown Mayday from business plan to (nearly) full-fledged brewery.
While the Nelsons worked tirelessly to find Mayday a home in Murfreesboro, obtain necessary permits, and create a buzz for the brewery, Wiz grew his résumé at several Chicago-based breweries.
He landed a position at Metropolitan Brewing, which was just getting its start as a microbrewery at the time, before moving onto Goose Island, which has become one of the largest regional breweries in America.
Two Brothers Brewing Company, a family owned microbrewery and brewpub in Chicago’s west suburbs, provided another opportunity for Wiz, as it was a younger company than Goose Island, but growing quickly.
Wiz traveled back to Murfreesboro to meet with investors, discuss building plans, and perfect Mayday’s recipes.
“A lot of them Ozzy already had in place, but we tweak them together; it was a collaboration,” he said.
Taking the knowledge and experiences gained from working at those Chicago-based breweries, Wiz says he’s confident “our product can stand up with any craft beer out there.”
“And starting out with a 30-barrel brew house and two 30-barrel Brite tanks puts us one step ahead because we will be able to have more finished product from the start,” he said.
Mayday Brewery acquired John Overby, an audio engineer-turned-brewer, rather recently. He, too, got his start as a home brewer (once you start home brewing, it’s like you get a bug and never quit, he says) before completing his coursework at Siebel.
Overby spent some time trying his hand at Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey in downtown Nashville, but met Ozzy for the first time while working at Rebel Brewer, a home brewing supply store in Goodlettsville.
He reintroduced himself to Ozzy one evening at 12 South Taproom and the rest, as they say, is history.
Is Murfreesboro ready?
Rutherford County residents have become more familiar with local fermentation with nearby Arrington Vineyards, a winery located just off of State Route 840, and Short Mountain Distillery, newly launched makers of Tennessee Moonshine, bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey in Cannon County.
And Nashville has acquired a laundry list of breweries over the past couple of years, including Yazoo Brewing Company, which quickly became a household name since opening in 2003.
Murfreesboro has been home to a slew of factories, from luggage to cedar buckets, but Mayday will be its first brewery. And that’s half the fun.
“I think it’s great,” Wiz said. “Nashville has breweries popping up everywhere, but it’s nice to be here and be the home brewery for Murfreesboro.”
He noted that some craft beers like Sierra Nevada can be found in supermarkets across the country, but “there’s something to be said about being able to go to the brewery itself and know it is made right here in your town.”