by Tony Giannasi

“Great beer doesn’t specifically taste like a man or a woman made it.  It’s just great.”

I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Melanie Krautstrunk, leading lady and owner of Hutton & Smith Brewing Company in Chattanooga, TN. They are leading the charge for putting Chattanooga on the map for craft beer, with crowd favorites like Rope Gun Rye (my personal favorite) and Igneous IPA. Being a part female owned business (her husband Joel is the other part) in Chattanooga is nothing new, but Melanie is the only woman in Chattanooga who owns part of a brewery. And she’s cool as hell.

Tennessee Craft Beer: So how many years have you been open?

Hutton & Smith: 3 years this June!

TCB: How are the new Riverside expansion and canning lines paying off for you?

HS: Fantastic, we actually purchased the Jazzanooga space right next door to start doing 16 ounce cans and debuting a sour facility.

TCB: More expansion? You’re insane. Also, can we call it the Jazzatorium?

HS: We’ve needed more space for a while, so it’s been a lot of work, but it will help us out a lot.

TCB: That’s huge though. You guys have not delved into sours on any measurable level, how is that going to work out?

HS: We recently hired Matt Warren of Barley Mob and Dynamic Ale Artisans fame to develop our sour program, so we are pretty excited.

TCB: Best. News. Ever. Love Matt. You are the luckiest brewery in the world.

HS: We know. The sours are going to be tap room only for the foreseeable future, so come visit more often. Your Christmas Card is still in your mug.

TCB: *gets christmas card* Thanks. Let’s put some beer in this thing. So what kind of barrels are you sourcing for the sours?

HS: We are using Chattanooga Whiskey barrels and just got word that we will be getting some Chardonnay barrels from Napa Valley for Matt to play with.

TCB: Sounds delicious. Will you ever do 750mL’s of the sours?

HS: Probably use the 22 ounce bombers we use for our anniversary beers, but again, probably draft only to start.

TCB: Awesome. Super excited for that. Sounds like Chattanooga has really embraced you guys.

HS: It hasn’t really been an issue with us coming from Vegas, everyone has been pretty great.

TCB: Well, you make great beer, so no one is going to kick you out. Have you encountered any issues in town from being a female in this beard dominated industry?

HS: Actually, no. Things have been perfectly cool for me. 50% of Hutton & Smith are females, and no one has had an issue with that at all.

TCB: Do you think you get more female customers due to having more females working here?

HS: Nope, mostly dudes. Pretty standard craft beer ratio, I would assume.

TCB: I hate asking questions like this, because I feel like it’s taking something perfectly normal and pointing at it and saying “Look at how weird this is!” But it’s not. There’s tons of female-owned businesses in Chattanooga. We are #2 for women-owned businesses. So how do we focus on what awesome things you are doing without treating it as an anomaly? How do we celebrate it without demeaning it?

HS: Well, if you don’t want to be excluded, don’t act like you belong in an exclusive group. I don’t put up with a lot of shenanigans. I act like a business person, and I’m treated like a business person. If I acted like a victim, I’d probably be treated like a victim.

TCB: You would really get along with my wife.

HS: You really have to act like we are people in brewing, not women or men. You can’t tell from a beer who made it, so why does it matter?  

TCB: Do you want to run for President?

HS: No.

TCB: Do you see any prejudices elsewhere in the industry?

HS: I feel like female sales reps get tested more by accounts, especially attractive ones. People assume if they are attractive, then they have no substance.

TCB: I can see how that would happen. How do you combat that?

HS: We actually have our very attractive staff teach classes to Joel and I (owners) and sell to us. If you can sell to us, you can sell to everyone.

TCB: That’s smart, and good for growth. I imagine it helps with employee retention as well.

HS: We will see. So far so good.

TCB: Do you feel like Hutton & Smith is in rehearsals, first act or final act?

HS: Oooo, still a startup. Rehearsal for sure. We have big plans to add more structure, sensory analysis programs, as well as developing our quality control programs.

TCB: Plans for Craft Brewers Conference?

HS: We recently signed with BountyBev in Nashville for distribution, and will have some events set up.  Check us out of facebook for specifics!

TCB: Shameless plug.

HS: ….

TCB: So, you already have a GABF Gold for your Altbier, any plans to send more up in 2018?

HS: Yup, we are sending our Altbier again, as well as our Black IPA. The Black IPA is a brewery favorite.

TCB: IPA is a tough category, good luck! How are you working with the MLK Community (Martin Luther King) in Chattanooga?

HS: Working with other breweries and restaurants. We have collaboration brews in planning with Heaven and Ale and Oddstory, and Bitter Alibi has always been awesome to us.

TCB: Keep it up, Chattanooga loves cool stories about people keeping it local and working together!  

HS: That’s the plan.

TCB: How do you feel the MLK area is growing? Good for Hutton & Smith?

HS: They are actually really selective. Not everyone with cash gets a spot, they really consider whether a business is good for our neighborhood. Community first before dollars.

TCB: I imagine that’s what’s keeping that area growing. How can other towns and states work together better?

HS: Treat everyone equally, male and female, and all the stigmas fall away. Again, focus on the community.

TCB: Excellent advice. Your community involves the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga campus, do you get a lot of college kids in here?

HS: Actually no, we do get a lot of the faculty though. And lots of geologists.

TCB: We have geologists in Chattanooga?

HS: Yup. Lots of them.  

TCB: I would imagine you get a lot of climbing people in here? A lot of your beers are climber themed.

HS: We thought so too, but not so much. We love climbing and geology, so the beers are named about half and half.

TCB: I’ve always wondered about why you don’t have a climbing wall up in here.

HS: My insurance agent would stab me in the face.

TCB: Yeah, I can’t think of a solution that doesn’t end up in a YouTube #FAIL stream. So what’s the future look like for Hutton & Smith?

HS: Bright! We have a ton of runway, lots of state to expand into, and lots of styles to explore. Keep coming back!