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Pouring Himself into His Career Passion

Executive MBA helps engineer Linus Hall build a brewery and a brand

Linus Hall
Owner, Yazoo Brewing Co.

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2000

Running a craft brewery requires a personal touch, but few pour themselves into the job like Linus Hall. His Nashville-based Yazoo Brewing Co., which has expanded its reach across the Southeast since opening in 2003, is as much a testament to his handcrafted approach to beer making as it is to the larger aesthetic and philosophy that guide his decisions as a business owner.

“You go down the beer aisle of any grocery store, and it’s mostly run-of-the-mill brands in boring metallic blue cans,” he says. “We try to go in the opposite direction with our brewery by being offbeat and memorable.”

Named for the river that winds its way past Hall’s hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Yazoo produces 13 different types of beer, including four rotating seasonal varieties. Several of them have labels featuring paintings by his wife, Lila. “Even though we ended up in Nashville, we wanted to reflect our Mississippi roots in our name and image,” he says. “It’s about capturing that Delta folk-art feel.”

Distinctive as it is, the branding explains only part of Yazoo’s growing popularity. From the outset Hall knew that success hinged not only on the quality of his beer, for which he turned to the American Brewer’s Guild for a craft-brewing course, but also on the quality of his business plan. For the latter he enrolled in the Vanderbilt Executive MBA program, which he says gave him a strong foundation in strategy and operations, as well as a better understanding of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And it gave the ability to transition from his career as a process engineer responsible for tire uniformity at Bridgestone’s Nashville area manufacturing operation.

More than 15 years into it, Hall still gets a heady feeling from being in charge of the business he’s built from the ground up. It’s not unlike the warm sense of satisfaction that his patrons feel after sampling one of Yazoo’s fresh drafts.

“If you don’t get a thrill from what you’re doing, you’re not going to make it,” he says. “For me that thrill is walking into the taproom on a busy night and seeing customers enjoying our beer and having great conversations.

“Beer brings people together, but good beer makes them happier.”

“If you don’t get a thrill from what you’re doing, you’re not going to make it.”