Our Story

1992 CBC

In the summer of 1992 James decided that he would strike out on his own in the beer business and opened his own beer distributorship, Community Beverage Company, Inc. He needed a business address for licensing purposes so Kent allowed him to use his office address. James’ company brought some of the first craft beer to Tennessee. The pair spent many hours talking about beer in Kent’s conference room which had become James’ office. Unfortunately, James was a bit ahead of his time in Middle Tennessee and he could not convince any of the then big craft players that Nashville was a viable market so his company failed. However, in a turn of fate, the corporation and licenses were later purchased by a local liquor and wine distributor who has since grown to be a dominant player in the Middle Tennessee craft beer scene. In our opinion, James is one of the unsung craft beer heroes in this area of the country.

James still helps out at the brewpub with payroll, sales and liquor taxes. To this day, most every Thursday night, James can be found at the Blackstone bar.

1993 SAW

Stephanie Ann Weins, Co-Founder – A no-nonsense, hard nosed business woman with a passion and pallet for great beer. Stephanie graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Restaurant and Hotel Management. Stephanie and Kent met in 1991 when Stephanie was the general manager of a local restaurant in downtown Nashville which had become a new client of Kent’s. Stephanie and Kent soon became fast friends and shared a passion for this new class of beers that would someday be known as Craft Beer. Most of Kent’s homebrewing was done at Stephanie’s house; he did not trust the water at his apartment but the refrigerator there made for a great fermentation cellar. One day James Callahan walked into Kent’s office with a copy of the recently passed Tennessee law allowing brewpubs. It took one phone call and Stephanie was in; but that was the easy part. If they were going to do this, it would take hundreds of hours of research and study. There was a business plan to write, restaurant designs, menu items, beer styles and hundreds of other things. They went to every brewpub within driving distance of Nashville. They flew to Chicago, St. Louis, New York and San Fransico; all to visit brewpubs. In total they visited over 50 brewpubs doing research for their project.

1994 Dr. Dave

Dave Miller, Brewmaster - An award winning homebrewer, author of five (soon to be six) homebrewing books and professional brewer. Dave taught Kent to brew through his homebrew books and his regular column in Brewing Techniques magazine. When the new issue arrived, Kent would turn to Dave’s column and read it start to finish. Dave was definitely high on the pedestal! On a trip to St. Louis, Kent unknowingly walked into The St. Louis Brewery and Taproom and saw Dave’s book prominently displayed. It took two seconds to put two and two together so he bought a second copy of Dave’s book on the spot, introduced himself to Dave, spent over an hour chatting with Dave, looked over the brewery and got Dave’s autograph. The autographed book is still in Kent’s collection and he wouldn’t take any amount of money for it.

The money was raised, the building was under construction, the brewing equipment was order but Blackstone had no brewmaster. Out of desperation, Kent wrote a letter to Dave outlining the new project in Nashville with the hope that Dave might know someone that would be interested in relocating. That very evening, Dave called Kent. He remembered the visit and chat with Kent from over a year previously… Dave was interested in the position! They talked for over an hour and Dave was still interested. He talked it over with his wife Dianna (her sister lives in Nashville) and they decided to move themselves and their 5 children to Nashville. After fifteen years as brewmaster at the brewpub and winning numerous medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and at the World Beer Cup, Dave retired. Soon after, all of the pieces came together for the production brewery and Dave was pulled out of retirement and now heads up the new facility.
 

1994 So You Want To Open a Brewpub

The project started with the notion that there were more people in Nashville that wanted good beer than Kent’s bathtub would allow. Both Stephanie and Kent had the required professional training and Kent was an award winning homebrewer but to build a successful brewpub, research was required and a lot if it. They read everything that they could get here hands on about opening a brewpub. The pair packed Stephanie’s son Chase into his car seat went to every brewpub within driving distance of Nashville.

They flew to Chicago, St. Louis, New York and San Fransico; all to visit brewpubs. In total they visited over 50 brewpubs doing research for their project. This was back when there were less than 500 brewpubs nationally. The research was done, the business plan was written so it was now time to raise the investment capital. Easier said than done; the pair worked months without raising a dime. “So are we going to do this or what”… if so, then it is all in and a location must be found. After several tries, they found a vacant lot where the brewpub not resides but it would take earnest money to tie the property up. They borrowed on credit cards and from friends to put up the required $20,000.

The pair now had 90 days to raise the capital or they would lose the $20,000. It was an all out assault on Nashville. Family, friends, referral on referral and sixty days gone with nothing to show for it. Then it happened, the big break. A local interested investor with a referral and a trip to Kansas City, with another referral and they went from zero to 80% sold inside of a week. Kent’s brother Todd had expressed an interest and now was the time. He said yes and the deal was done. Todd continues to be involved in both the brewpub and the production brewery to this day. 

2005 Bottles, Bottles Everywhere

Having a separate production facility was a goal from almost the beginning. Recessions, airplane attacks and economy related factors always seemed to get in the way. In the summer of 2004 a local craft beer distributor approached Blackstone wanting bottled beer. Bottling was not an option at the brewpub but a brewery on the East coast was found with excess capacity that would let the Blackstone brewers be on site for quality control. In January 2005, the first Blackstone bottled beer hit the shelves. Every three to five weeks, one or both of the Blackstone brewers would fly to the contract brewer’s facility and oversee the production. In late 2006, the contract brewery was sold and the new owners cancelled the contract. Over the ensuing months an earnest search was done to find a replacement but no brewery was found that would allow the Blackstone brewers to be on site for quality control.

2008 The Production Brewery

Kent and Stephanie decided that the only way to produce and assure quality beer was to build their own facility. So, once again there was research, business plan, brewery design, equipment design and equipment sourcing to be done. Instead of raising private equity, they decided to apply to the SBA 504 loan program which was granted in July, 2008. The 504 loan program requires a participating bank and their local bank of 15 years had approved the funding, set to take place in the middle of September, 2008. Fate was not on their side and the Federal Government failed to bailout Lehman Brothers and the financial and banking industry collapsed. The local bank pulled the funding and the project was put in serious doubt. 

2011 Finally

It took a year of contacting every bank on the planet and finally First Advantage Bank in Clarksville Tennessee saw Kent and Stephanie’s vision and picked up the SBA loan funding. Kent had been watching a used bottling line from the Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington Vermont that had been setting, unsold, for almost a year. The day he received the commitment letter he called and made an offer and it was accepted. Kent’s brother Todd stepped forward with the capital and in one fell swoop, most of the packaging equipment was cornered. After much research and angst, the pair decided to purchase a complete brewing system from the German firm ROLEC Prozess- und Brautechnik GmbH. The first keg beer rolled out of the new plant May 31, 2011 and the first bottled beer was rolled out July 25, 2011.

1988 The Alpha

In the late 1980’s, Founder Kent Taylor (who is still a practicing CPA) was meeting with a client, Hank Williams (no relation to the singer) when Hank said, “In twenty years we will sell our businesses, move to Seattle and open a brewpub.” Kent thought… “a brew what”. Unknowingly, Hank had planted a seed that would someday blossom into Blackstone. Hank was also a homebrewer and he introduced Kent to the world of homebrewing. Hank is the beginning, “The Alpha”, and is still one of Kent’s valued clients and a dear friend. To this day, Hank can be seen eating lunch at the Blackstone bar on a regular basis.

1989 The James Factor

James Callahan and Kent Taylor forged a friendship when they were both fresh out of college in the business world during the late 70’s. By the late 80’s James was the controller (bean counter) of a local beer distributor and he was responsible for bringing Anchor Steam beer to that distributor and to Tennessee. James remembered his old buddy, Kent, when there was some accounting work to be done at the distributor. He also shared his love of the “new style of beer” with Kent at a distributor function. Love at first sip… not really; Kent could not finish this “very bitter” beer. Kent soon began to appreciate beer with flavor and to this day Anchor Steam(1) remains one of his favorites.