First Draft: Nick Tanner (1)
Cherry Street Brewing Co-Op's founder on fighting the good fight and more
Nick Tanner's beer experience belies his 28 years. He's been homebrewing for seven, has lived with the New Belgium family in Colorado, and has tried thousands of beers in his relatively young life. While Nick was planning to start a homebrewing group in Colorado, his father, Rick, who has owned more than a dozen restaurants in the Atlanta area over the past few decades, opened a place that needed his help. It was there, at Rick Tanner's Grille & Bar in Cumming, that he started building out his brewpub, Cherry Street Co-Op. After "fighting with Forsyth County" to serve his beer, he was finally approved and started doing just that on Dec. 21, 2012. Creative Loafing caught up with Tanner to talk about his brewing past, present, and future.
Describe your first beer experience.
When I moved to Colorado for college at Colorado State University, I quickly learned that beer was not about quantity but about quality, and not how many beers can you drink in a night, but how many beers you can have in a lifetime. Every liquor store in Colorado had an amazing selection of craft beers. In college, I started collecting beer bottles. Currently, this collection is about 1,200 bottles, half of which are displayed in our restaurant.
How did you end up in Colorado with the New Belgium folks?
When I moved to Fort Collins, I started working in the dining halls on campus and meet a good friend who grew up with the son of New Belgium founders Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, Zack. We started hanging out at house parties, and eventually we started homebrewing together. He has worked at the brewery most his life, doing all sorts of things. Early in 2007, he went to brew school in Germany, and when he came back, he bought a house and asked me to be his roommate. This house is off Cherry Street in downtown Fort Collins.
What's your favorite beer style, along with a specific example? A pairing for that style?
First and foremost, my favorite beer style is IPA. Single-hop varieties and the big, bad West Coast IPAs, like Torpedo, Ranger, Two Hearted. Also, I have a very fond attraction to Belgian dubbels, saisons, and sours. I grew up on chicken. IPAs and chicken wings, hell yeah.
You described "fighting" with Forsyth County to get Cherry Street up and running. What were the major issues?
Federal paperwork was quick and easy. I researched the hell out of it before sending in, and it took about two months. County had no idea what to do. Since we were already a restaurant, they didn't know how to handle changing the license, and it took a while. Once we got in touch with the board of commissioners for our issues, we got it resolved. That took five months. It was very new to them, and they had no idea what to do. Since then, we have had great things happen for us in Forsyth County. We changed the local ordinance to allow brewpubs to distribute, and growler shops to sample soon, and we've also been working on us being able to give away free samples. Right now, it is illegal in Forsyth to give away a free sample of beer in our brewpub. We are working on distribution right now. We will be at Classic City Brew Fest on April 7. We are really looking forward to getting in the local growler shops in Forsyth and then into the different beer festivals this year.
With all the breweries coming this year, how do you plan to stand out from the pack?
Our Irish Red Eye Jedi is a robust red that is brewed with Scottish yeast and is only 4.8 percent ABV, dark, but really light in flavor. We brew a Cream Ale in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness, Called Ta Ta. This is a prohibition-style ale brewed with lager yeast and fermented slightly warm. We brew a Belgian Abbey style Dubbel called Dylan's Dubbel. We use Belgian candi sugar and dried currants giving it a nice plum-y, caramel-y finish. This is a really good beer. Other beers we brew seasonally are Chief Sawnee's Stash Coconut Porter, brewed with toasted coconut flakes, caramelized dates, and vanilla bean, as well as Summer Fling Watermelon Blonde Ale, Friend of the Farmer Pumpkin Porter, and many more. Since we are a brewpub, we have many things going all the time.