The Cost of Being Authentic for Southern Grist

When it came to creating some adjunct-heavy favorites, Nashville’s Southern Grist doesn’t mess around.

Fruit additions? They have to be aseptic puree or hand peeled. Lucky Charms marshmallows? They have to be the real deal. 

It must be a logistical and cost burden? Yup, sometimes, admits CEO Kevin Antoon, but it’s worth it.

“One of the biggest things we struggle with, and a lot of feedback we get is that our beer is expensive,” he told Brewer during the brewery’s cover story interview (look for the physical print product in your mailbox now if you are a brewery owner, if not, make sure to get it sent to you for free). “So it’s more of an educational process. We’re not just being jerks, we don’t go home with a pile of cash. 

“If you guys want this kind of beer, this is how much it costs. We have the same margins as every other brewery even a Pilsner-only brewery.” 

READ MORE: The 5 Values Southern Grist Employs

Before the pandemic, the brewery routinely was selling $22 4-packs with ease.

“Once the cost crunch came from the pandemic, and the Lagers started coming out … now we’re down to $14 or $15,” Antoon said. “We’re hearing much less about the cost of our beers now. But yes, it does translate directly over especially if there’s fruit. 

“Raspberry went up 4x in like one month. Vanilla has gone up 15x since we opened. When (Brewer and co-founder) Jared (Lee) puts vanilla into beer he has gloves on with a knife scraping Tahitian vanilla beans. We almost always either use Madagascar or Tahitian vanilla beans. We slit them open ourselves. Sometimes if we’re really busy, we’ll buy vanilla caviar — which is pre-scraped into a bucket. A five-gallon bucket of that is like $5,000 but it’s just scooping it instead of scraping.

“When we do lime zest, we are zesting the lines. If it’s a key lime pie beer, there’s key lime pie in the fucking beer.”

Antoon said for the most part they plan about six weeks out for keeping things fresh and in stock.

“We bring in all the fruit he needs for the six weeks …so he knows what fruits he wants instead of guessing,” Antoon said. “Back in the day, we’d just buy a ton of it and then Jared would make the beer based on what comes in. Now he decides so he orders exactly what he needs for what beer he wants to do.”

For other adjuncts, the brewery relies on its No. 2 vendor: 

“If we need Ice Cream Sandwich flavored wafers, 700 pounds of rainbow candy, marshmallows, we get it all from them,” Antoon said. “It’s funny because our sales guy sometimes… when Jared orders, he will email him back and go, ‘I have to know what the hell you’re making.’ 

“He’s not mad he’s just so curious.”

Photo courtesy Southern Grist

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