LIVING ON LOOKOUT
OddStory Brewing Gives Chattanooga Something to Talk About
It’s a typical night at OddStory Brewing. The garage-door windows are rolled open, mixing the din of conversation and clinking glasses with the street sounds of MLK Boulevard. There are no TVs – just long tables set up biergarten style.
Beer and conversation go together, and we wanted OddStory to be a place where you can tell your story to the person across from you,” explains Co-Owner Bryan Boyd. “It’s a bit counter-culture these days with iPhones and iPads, but we intentionally wanted to make this a place for conversation.
The name was inspired by the odd level under the streets of Chattanooga, a result of raising the city to escape flooding from the Tennessee River. But it also refers to the odd stories that can only come from sharing pints with friends and sometimes strangers.
Bryan recalls a story of a rather surly guy from Texas who ordered a flight one early evening. He ended up meeting the people next to him and enjoyed a night on the town with new-found friends.
“He came back later that night overjoyed, telling us how impressed he was with the place,” recalls Bryan.
The idea to open OddStory also began with a conversation over beers. It was on Bryan’s back porch, when he asked his son, Jay what he wanted to do with his life. He had just graduated college and was living at home. His answer: open a brewery.
So Bryan did what any good dad would do – sell his successful business of 12 years, move to a different town and become his son’s business partner.
Ok, so it wasn’t that simple.
After that initial conversation, Jay dedicated the next three years learning how to make craft beer. He worked for three different small craft breweries and also attended brewing school in the summer of 2014, which concluded with an internship at Vermont’s Harpoon Brewery. With a PhD in finance and experience running a small business, Bryan began researching the market and drafting a business plan.
As things progressed, both men saw the opportunities in craft beer, which is currently exploding in popularity across the country. They knew they were onto something, but they also knew their long-time Decatur, Ala., home might not be the ideal location. They researched 30 different cities across the US.
When it was decision time, the entire Boyd family rated where they wanted to live. Chattanooga won over Boise, Idaho by a tight margin, with Lookout Mountain likely being the tipping point.
The Boyds were familiar with Lookout because Jay had played soccer at Covenant College. Bryan’s wife, Denise fell in love with it years ago when they would come up to watch their son’s games. Bryan and Denise moved to the Mountain this January, while Jay and his wife, Emily moved to Main Street.
Lookout is such a unique place – we love it,” says Bryan. “We live two blocks from Rock City and I’m always surprised by how many people you see on the street walking, biking, skateboarding. You don’t really see that in most places in the US.
Today Bryan handles everything with the business while Jay focuses on brewing the perfect pint. Their recipe is working well, with sales moving faster than expected. In addition to the 16 taps they offer at the brewery, OddStory sells to approximately 30 establishments around town including The Flying Squirrel, Champy’s, Easy Bistro and FEED Co.
While the Boyds have lived here less than a year, they’ve quickly integrated into the local scene. SORBA, the Southeast Climbers Coalition, Young Professionals of Chattanooga and Lula Lake Land Trust have all partnered with the brewery for events. One evening they even hosted a church event.
Three churches got together and brought in a keyboard, sang hymns and drank beer,” Bryan smiles. “This is unlike any business I’ve ever been in. There’s always something going on. OddStory’s flagship beers include the Belgian Blonde, American Pale Ale and Vienna Lager. But Jay is always brewing something new, such as an apricot rosemary Saison for summer or his coconut milk stout – which sells out every time he makes it.
One of the biggest surprises for the new business is how all ages have embraced it. Their initial business model was built for the 25- to 40-year-old demographic, mostly urbanites starting out in their careers.
We see 25 year olds to 85 year olds and everything in between,” he says. “I’ve been proud of my generation, who are a curious bunch. We were raised on Budweiser and Miller, and I love surprising them with the taste and quality of craft beer.
And with his next oldest employee being 30, Bryan appreciates whenever the age gap is evened out.
“It’s nice to see someone in here my age,” he adds with a laugh.
Odd Story’s Tap Room Hours
Tuesday – Thursday: 4 pm until 10 pm
Friday: 2 pm until midnight
Saturday: noon until midnight