By JACK WEATHERLY
It’s like a bit of jolly old England coming to Oxford, after a detour to Florida, to establish the city’s first brew pub.
Tyler White, who is brew master at Grayton Beer Co. in Santa Rosa Beach on the western end of the Florida Panhandle, will move to Mississippi to oversee the making of craft beer at the pub that will be known as Heron and the Hare. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said White was a member of the founding team of Grayton.
But the idea is not to copy the success of Grayton Beer – and its celebrated 30A Beach Blonde Ale – to the north Mississippi hills, White said.
White, who studied at the World Brewing Academy in Chicago and in Munich, Germany, said only that “the goal of a brewery is [to appeal] to the palate of the local beer drinkers.”
To achieve that, he will cast a wide net of 12 to 15 varieties, he said.
“Oxford is primed and ready for craft beer,” White said.
The pub will become part of the Town Center of The Lamar, a 48-acre development featuring classic neo-Southern houses and a town center blocks from the courthouse square.
The Lamar will hold open houses this weekend for some of the residences that have been built since ground was broken on the development about a year ago.
It will have a block party Friday from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m. in conjunction with the Double Decker Arts Festival on the square, according to consultant Kimberly Sharp.
Tours of the homes will be held on Saturday and Sunday as well, Sharp said.
If the name of the pub, which is expected to open in the summer of 2020, sounds British, that’s no accident.
White and business partner Bryan Spillman give a tip of the hat to those institutions and two famed British writers, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who might not be associated with a public house.
But they met regularly at a pub in the town of Oxford, for which the home of the University of Mississippi was named, and which decidedly has its own literary traditions, starting with Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner, continued by Willie Morris and Barry Hannah and Larry Brown and others and continuing, as the town has become a writer’s colony.
In Heron and the Hare, there will be the Rabbit Room, so named for a room in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England, which Lewis, Tolkien and others frequented as members of the Inklings to quaff a pint or two and discuss their writing and philosophical matters.
Spillman said he and White and had long dreamed of opening such a pub.
“We’re really lucky to get a guy like Tyler. He’s an incredible brewer,” Spillman said.
To go with brews and talk, there will be wood-fired barbecue, overseen by pit master Brad Hayden, owner of Smokehouse Oxford.
Another venue will be the Biergarten, which will share space with heavy steel cylinders of the brewery and stacked hardwood for the smokehouse.
“There are a lot of breweries in the country now and if you’re not going to do something creative and new there’s not a whole lot of reason to step out and do it,” White said.
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