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Locals welcome new, local beer

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Fat Mama’s Tamales employee Haley Meng was busy pouring up the restaurant’s newest beers on tap from Tin Roof Brewing Company, a Baton Rouge brewing company founded by Natchez natives William McGehee and Charles Caldwell. At right, chilled glasses with the beer brewing company’s logo were everywhere during the Tin Roof Tap Takeover party at the restaurant Thursday evening.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Fat Mama’s Tamales employee Haley Meng was busy pouring up the restaurant’s newest beers on tap from Tin Roof Brewing Company, a Baton Rouge brewing company founded by Natchez natives William McGehee and Charles Caldwell. At right, chilled glasses with the beer brewing company’s logo were everywhere during the Tin Roof Tap Takeover party at the restaurant Thursday evening.

NATCHEZ — There’s a new beer in town.

Natchez natives Charles Caldwell and William McGehee created Tin Roof Brewing Company in 2010 to fill what they saw as a lack of high-quality craft beers in the South.

“With all the fine cuisine, you would think good beer would have been here already, but it just never took off,” McGehee said. “It just always seems like it takes things forever to get to the South.”

Caldwell first dreamt up the idea of opening a brewery while living in Colorado and working on a ranch.

There, Caldwell said he found a variety of microbrewed beer that he immediately gravitated toward.

“I just always thought it would be great to bring a good, craft beer to the South,” he said. “Back then, there really wasn’t anything around here, so we just kept talking about it.”

After Caldwell returned to Natchez and while McGehee was in law school at Louisiana State University, the two men began realizing they might not be happy with where their lives were heading.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore, and I think we both weren’t too happy with where our lives or careers were going at the time,” McGehee said. “I just asked him, ‘Whatever happened to that brewery idea you had?’

“It just kind of took off from there.”

The men decided Baton Rouge was the best place to begin their venture — since McGehee was already living there and because of the close proximity to the university.

“Baton Rouge is really a prime area with a university the size of LSU and no brewery around,” Caldwell said. “Louisiana has been really big with the handcrafted beers in a variety of places, but we just felt like Baton Rouge was the best place for us.”

The two eventually made their first batches of beer for commercial consumption in November 2010.

Caldwell said the company has been growing ever since thanks to a push from the local community and their dedication to a quality product.

“The big local push that everyone has nowadays has really seemed to help us out,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll continue expanding our familiarity and keep growing as much as possible.”

And while the Natchezians’ company was expanding in Louisiana, the two weren’t able to sell their beer in Mississippi until last month, when they received the appropriate state licensing.

“We’ve been wanting to bring our beer to Natchez since day one, but we wanted to make sure we did it right,” McGehee said. “This just seems like perfect timing for us as we are starting to expand to bring our beer back to our hometown.”

Fat Mama’s Tamales hosted a party for the company Thursday evening to celebrate its expansion into Mississippi and to welcome locals to sip four of the company’s six types of beer.

As Caldwell and McGehee hope to grow and expand their company more, they both said keeping their focus on Mississippi and Louisiana is key.

“A lot of breweries will spread out so fast just to say that they’re in 10 states, but then they’re not taking care of their home markets,” McGehee said. “We always want to make sure that southwest Mississippi and Louisiana will be taken care of before we even think about going anywhere else.”