I had the good fortune over the weekend to visit Mayday Brewery in Murfreesboro, about 45 minutes Southeast of Nashville. It was an easy drive down I-24 and just a five-minute drive once you exit. It’s tucked away in an industrial park, but we had no trouble finding it using Google Maps.
I didn’t know anything about Mayday before going. I’d expected to be greeted by bearded hipsters who were too cool for school and maybe had just a teensy inferiority complex to Nashville. I’d expected a small-ish operation, just getting off the ground. I’d expected shabby chic decor with Edison bulbs and exposed brick, the decor du jour, it seems, for all new restaurants and bars.
Boy was I surprised. It was more like walking into Willy Wonka’s beer factory. Mayday is a virtual funhouse with a Black Sabbath obsession and a tour guide named Ozzy. He’s raunchy, crass, and super proud of his beer – a unique character, to say the least! He was also on his way to inebriation and we were on the 3 p.m. tour. When we jokingly commented on this fact, he laughed and said, “just wait for the 5 p.m. tour!”
Before I get going, let’s start at the beginning. The brewery is housed in an old woolen factory that made blankets and seat belts during WWII. It’s enormous, and has a lot of character. To get to the brewing area and tasting room, we had to walk through a labyrinth of hallways.
One hallway is lined with photographs of friends and family including Ozzy’s dad, Bobarino, who also looks like a character.
At the end of this long hallway are strobe lights, indicating you’ve arrived at the brewing area. Also along this corridor is the ladies room. Make sure you go in and pose for a picture. I can’t describe what’s in there – you’ll have to see for yourself. And before we go any further, let me warn you that there are some vulgarities at this brewery. It’s nothing you can’t handle; just be aware if you’re taking Grandma.
Case in point. The above hanging is one of a series of “velvet nudes” in the brewing area. Ozzy is quite proud of them, and kept mentioning them throughout the tour. I probably heard the term “velvet nude” mentioned 15 times!
There are also album covers everywhere and a couple of drum kits. When Ozzy isn’t running the brewery (or working full time in the audit department at HCA) he’s rocking out as a member of, in his words, “the premier Black Sabbath cover band in Rutherford County.” They play live music at the brewery regularly. Don’t worry, that’s not a real person way up there on top of the wall, it’s just one of Ozzy’s mannequins.
Once we got our $6 tour tickets, which also get you a Mayday pint glass and four samples of beer, we got started. Ozzy introduced himself and his helpers and explained how his beer is made. He’s been home-brewing since the 90’s and decided to open the brewery in 2009. Doors opened at Mayday in 2012. He also said he opened Mayday in part to show his HCA boss he, and I quote, “wasn’t a one-trick pony.” Quite a gesture considering he and his wife invested $1.2 million to get the brewery started!
Along the tour he showed us some of the grains that go into the beer. He encouraged us to take one, which I did, and then immediately popped it into my mouth before being told to do so. It was at that moment I thought I was going to morph into a piece of grain myself, a la “you’re turning violet, Violet!” from Willy Wonka.
We got to peek into the enormous tanks and learned how they separate the beer from the spent grain. See that tattoo on the back of Ozzy’s leg? It’s a bearded skull. Yep.
Another one of the drum kits set up for band practice at the brewery.
Here’s our crew, snapping photos and laughing our way through it. One guy kept wandering off and getting berated by Ozzy – I assumed he’d eventually fall into a tank of beer and get sucked through the tubes just like German kid Augustus in Willy Wonka.
According to the Tennessee’s alcohol regulatory agency, each tank in a brewery must be named. Ozzy said instead of 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C, he decided to name his after the original members of Black Sabbath. Obviously.
Turns out Ozzy’s dad, Bobarino, was an electrician. Whenever anything went wrong, he called it a “mayday.” Ozzy named the brewery after his Dad and even had the letters in the logo designed to look electrical.
Somehow his two daughters came up and then he promptly showed us his full-back tattoo featuring his two girls slaying an evil octopus, which is the name of his India black ale. I have a feeling he shows this tattoo on every tour.
In spite of his irreverence, Ozzy is crazy about beer. He enthusiastically taught us a lot about his brews and processes, and seemed quite knowledgeable. He encourages everyone to start homebrewing and suggested we all snap a photo of one of his beer recipes, which are hanging in front of each tank. He says there’s software that will convert the ingredients into homebrewing proportions for easy replication.
And the beer is good. All his quirkiness and irreverence wouldn’t have been so funny if the beer was no good but that wasn’t the case at all. We sampled the first four listed above on the tour (the first one is called the ‘Boro Blonde,” named for Murfreesboro). The Velvet Hustle pale ale was probably my favorite. They were all smooth, balanced and really good. His wife is a redhead, and the fact that he has an Angry Redhead brew is a coincidence. Read the hilarious descriptions of all the beer on the website, here. There’s also a huge list of establishments that sell his beer around town.
The tap room was packed by the time were were leaving. We saw people coming in for the first time for a tour, others sidling up to the bar for an afternoon pint, and still others coming in to refill their growlers. It was a great scene, and a perfect place to hang out on a Saturday.
They also have a large patio and a food truck stationed outside so you can nosh while you sip.
This room was off the tasting room bar area and is used for private events. In fact, the whole brewery can be rented out for events. We learned they hosted a wedding a few weeks back.
On the way out, we learned you can pick up a “Jug of Fun,” a.k.a. a growler, to go.
Overall it was a total blast. The beer is great, the host’s droll humor is weird yet welcoming, and the atmosphere is quirky and relaxed. I will absolutely be back to Mayday. I’m so glad to know more about this place. Grounded by its legitimately delicious beers, Mayday’s flourish of absurdity adds color to this town’s growing beer community. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about Mayday in the future.
Don’t mind these mannequin legs on the way out. It’s all part of Ozzy’s vision.
Have you been to Mayday? What’d you think?