What started out as a strategic plan to stretch his beer dollars in college turned into a home brewing hobby that eventually expanded into a successful business venture for Vicksburg native Linus Hall. This past October, Hall celebrated Yazoo Brewing Company’s 16th anniversary with a brand new taproom on six acres of land just north of downtown Nashville.

After graduating from the University of Virginia, Hall returned to his hometown where he worked at Rouse Rubber Industries, a rubber recycling plant, for about five years. When his high school sweetheart, Lila Buchanan, finished school, the two married and moved to Nashville in 1996. Linus took a corporate job with Bridgestone Americas, Inc., a tire manufacturer headquartered in the city’s downtown. Although he had secured a stable job, Linus continued to pursue his passion of brewing his own beer.

Photo by Adam Jones

Vicksburg native Linus Hall inside Yazoo Brewing Company, the beer brewery he and his wife, Lila, have owned and operated since 2003. Credit: Photo by Adam Jones

Linus immersed himself in Nashville’s already thriving home brew scene. He connected with other home brewers and spent time at some of the established brew pubs in town where he decided to learn the ropes.

“We were trying to meet people when we moved up here,” he said during an interview with Mississippi Today. “We would go to parties and I’d bring some of my home brew. It was funny… You could see people’s eyes kind of roll back in their head when they asked what I did. ‘Well, I’m a tire engineer, but that’s my home brew you’re drinking right there.’ And I realized that people were fascinated by it.”

Linus eventually quit his job at Bridgestone and began his two years of online study through the American Brewing Guild program. He then landed an internship at Brooklyn Brewery in New York in 2001. When he returned to Nashville, he and his wife began their search for equipment and a space to house their own brewing company.

Photo by Adam Jones

Yazoo Brewing Company is owned and operated by Mississippi natives, Linus and Lila Hall. Credit: Photo by Adam Jones

In 2003, Yazoo Brewing began operations in an old car factory that was built in the 1800s, located in north Nashville. When they outgrew the first location, Linus and Lila bought a building in what was once a more industrial part of Nashville — the Gulch. The area ultimately saw rapid revitalization. New, chic hotels, high rises and upscale businesses surrounding Yazoo Brewing’s building in the Gulch made distribution more difficult. So, the Halls built a new 6,000 square foot building from scratch — this time, north of town and with a large patio overlooking the Cumberland River.

“The new space is a change from where we were downtown because we were actually right in the middle of the honky tonk and bachelorette party central,” Linus said. “It was a lot like trying to run a brewery on Bourbon Street. Here, even though we’re kind of right off an industrial drive, we’ve got a lot of nature and views of the river. It’s a lot more relaxing to sit on our patio and have a few pints.”

Tapping into Mississippi’s craft breweries

For the past 16 years, Lila has been Linus’ sole partner in the beer brewing business. Through running a taproom, changing business locations three times and simultaneously caring for their two daughters — Lilli and Lucia — the two Mississippians have found relief by literally dividing and conquering.

“We’re both definitely involved in the day to day,” he said. “It’s challenging at times. We started a family about the same time we started the brewery. So, juggling two girls in diapers while you’re running a taproom and brewing beer was hard for both of us. We found pretty early on that we had to have areas that we did ourselves and not a lot of overlap, and that’s worked out well.”

Linus and his wife drew inspiration from the rich food culture of their home state during the first phases of Yazoo Brewing Company. Their goal was to create flavorful beer recipes that paired well with Southern food.

“I believe the way to get people interested and liking craft beer was to try to pair it with food,” Linus said. “When we got started, we did a lot of beer dinners. We did a lot of pairings with our different beers and food. We tried to design recipes that had a flavor, were really drinkable and would go well with barbecue, with fried food, with everything you get in the South. I would say that was our philosophy.”

Courtesy Yazoo Brewing Company

Dos Perros Credit: Courtesy Yazoo Brewing Company

With a dynamic range of flavor and styles of beer, Yazoo Brewing’s best-sellers are Pale Ale, Dos Perros and Gerst. The craft beer is available throughout Tennessee and most markets in Mississippi. The company sells about 25,000 barrels, which makes it the largest brewery in Nashville.

Courtesy Yazoo Brewing Company

Yazoo Brewing Company’s Gerst Credit: Courtesy Yazoo Brewing Company

Before his beer became available in Kroger supermarkets, Linus would load a separate vehicle with beer to deliver to his family each time he would make a trip to Vicksburg. Although he established his taproom in Nashville, it was important to Linus that Yazoo Brewing had a strong presence in his native Mississippi. It’s the place where he says he acquired the work ethic he has today.

“Growing up in rural Mississippi, you learn the values of hard work and being able to take care of yourself and do things on your own,” he said. You’re used to making things work and making things last. I think that was very valuable when I moved up here because I had the confidence to just kind of tackle any part of the job that needed to get done.”

Photo by Adam Jones

Vicksburg native Linus Hall, owner of Yazoo Brewing Company in Nashville Credit: Photo by Adam Jones

Linus’ hometown values and years of determination and hard work earned him the title of Nashville Post’s 2019 CEO of the Year. Regarded as a leader in the Southern craft beer industry, Linus will be opening his taproom to Mississippi ExPats of Nashville for Mississippi Today’s ExPats Project event Thursday, Nov. 21. Guests will hear from Mississippi Today sports columnist Rick Cleveland and will be able to enjoy their first beer free. Learn more here.

This story is part of Mississippi Today’s Mississippi ExPats Project, an effort to connect with Mississippians living outside the state through live events and expat profiles. Sign up below for The ExPat, our newsletter curated especially for our expat community.

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Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.