Garr Schwartz’s eureka moment came while backpacking Europe after college in 1992.
“I was amazed to find out what real beer could taste like,” he remembers, “versus the industrialized lager forced upon us by the U.S. beeroligopoly.”
After spending the next 10 years in New York, he moved back to Nashville — only to become distressed with the local beer scene. This led him to get into home brewing simply so he could drink the kinds of beer he was used to in Europe and New York.
Brewing grew from a kitchen hobby to an obsession and finally led him to co-found Tennessee Brew Works, which opens in Nashville this May.
Schwartz took time out of his busy pre-launch schedule to discuss Nashville’s new Brewer’s Row, team “Thinking, Drinking & Stinking” and his go-to shower beer.
What is your running background?
I started running as a kid during the ‘70s when running became popular. For me, running is a lifestyle. Running solves all problems, physical and mental. I grew up running heel to toe. By the time I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I worried that I was going to have to give up running due to recurring injuries. Knee problems, shin splints, back pain, etc… Fortunately, in 2003 I was introduced to minimalist style running. I followed the Pose Tech method, but I agree with other proponents for running on the balls of your feet such as Chi Running. Ever since Chris McDougal wrote “Born to Run,” I encourage any runner struggling with injuries to give that book a read. Minor exceptions aside, I’ve beenrunning injury free for over 10 years. Because of minimalist running, I believe I will keep running until they put me in a box.
What’s is the beer scene like in Tennessee?
The beer scene was terrible in 2003, but has improved substantially since. We don’t have microbreweries on every corner, but there are several new breweries in planning. We’re especially excited about our downtown Nashville location. There are already 2 other local breweries within half a mile, and another scheduled to open. People are beginning to call our area “Brewer’s Row” as a nod to the Nashville music industry’s “Music Row”. I anticipate Brewer’s Row in SoBro (South of Broadway) will become a popular destination for Tennessee beer lovers. We also just happen to be around the corner from Third Man Records, Jack White’s eccentric specialty record shop!
How about the running scene?
Nashville hosts the Country Music Marathon. It’s managed by the same people of the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series. I’ve run the marathon once, and the ½ marathon twice. This past running, we had around 10 family members participating. I ran a respectable 1:33. It’s a great destination race for people looking to have a good time after the race, especially if you like great music with your beer. Fortunately, the quality locations recognize the benefits of carrying local craft beer.
What’s your biggest running-related accomplishment to date?
I’m not going to impress anybody with my PRs or that I won a Merrell Oyster Race on team “Thinking, Drinking & Stinking.” As I said, running is a lifestyle for me. Not nearly as eccentric and cool as Caballo Blanco, but running is something I need to do. My most important accomplishment is staying fit and injury free so I can continue to compete.
What are your future running goals?
These are personal goals that I may or may not ever achieve, but they are always on my mind:
• Run a sub 3 hour marathon
• Run an ultra marathon
• Complete a full triathlon (Iron Man)
• Do more trail running with my son (he’s 5 now)
Do you have a favorite go-to post-run beer?
There’s probably nothing better than the post-run, in-the-shower beer. I’m fickle when it comes to beer so my answer will certainly change. Currently the Tennessee Brew Works Cutaway IPA is my go-to post-run, in-the-shower-beer.
What is your favorite race overall?
I’ve run marathons in New York, Washington DC, Dayton, Big Sur, Dublin, and Nashville. They all have pretty good drinking stories, but surprisingly the best story was probably in Dayton. The race was in late September, and it was an unusually sunny and warm day in the 80s. I bonked around mile 19-20. After resting and hydrating, I managed to jog it in and finish in about 4:15. I drank so much water; I threw up at the hotel. I remember it was pink because I had taken pepto! After a nice nap, we checked into a hotel in Cincinnati that was celebrating Oktoberfest. I rebounded. We met up with local friends and partied all night in Cincinnati. We slept a few hours, scalped tickets to the Bengals – Pack game, and then flew home. In spite of my lousy race, I had a great time!
Who do you look up to in the beer and/or running world?
I have tremendous respect for Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada and his commitment to quality and consistency. I admire Sweetwater’s ability to penetrate their local market like nobody else. There are so many people to admire in the running world, but Steve Prefontaine provides the most inspiration. Maybe it helps to have movies made about you! I don’t have the same talent, but I feel like I run with the same mindset. I leave it all out on the course well before the end of the race, and I rely on my heart to finish. It will be the greatest compliment for anything I do to be compared to Pre’s running, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Tell me more about your role at Tennessee Brew Works. What’s your vision?
I founded Tennessee Brew Works with my business partner and long time friend, Christian Spears. My most important role is brewing. As a startup, I also do everything that Christian doesn’t do and vice versa! As somebody told me: “The great thing about owning your own business is that you only work half days. Unfortunately, there are 24 hours in a day and 7 days per week”! The vision for the brewery is simple: We will produce and sell exceptional craft beer. We’ve worked hard to capitalize our business so we will not be forced to take shortcuts in quality.
We will likely be the first craft brewer our size to utilize the Meura Micro Mash Filter. While the mash filter is made in Belgium, Aegir Brewing System manufactures the brewhouse in Milwaukee with high quality Centec components, Kieselmann valves and components, and Keofitt sampling equipment. While most beer in the United States is produced on traditional lauter tuns, 25% of the global beer volume is produced using Meura equipment. 90% of the beer volume produced in Belgium is produced with Meura technology. We may use up to 50% less water, 20% less raw materials, and 20% less energy.
Any other advice?
For the new craft beer drinker it’s simple: don’t drink what is advertised on TV. It probably means they are spending more money on advertising than on making good beer. My favorite advice is to drink what you like! Sounds so simple, but I feel people don’t always follow that rule. Everybody’s palate evolves. Have fun with it. As you stated it’s a lifestyle, but it does require balance. Always run before you drink! (You can quote me on that).