Bootleg Team


Our Team spends every day growing, dreaming about, brewing with, and cleaning up loads of yeast and bacteria that will one day brew you an excellent beer. Take a moment and get to know our team of brewers and yeast wranglers.

  • Name: Jeff Mello
  • Title: Founder/Chief Yeast Wrangler
  • Background: Starting homebrewing in 2010. Caught first Local Yeast in 2013. Politics and history junky. 
  • Favorite Beer Styles: English cask ale, Lambics.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: The next culture we release, because that one is gonna be PHENOMENAL.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: A&R Rep for a record label.
  • Favorite band in High School: Deftones.
  • Name: Sam Wineka
  • Title: Partner/Bioprospector
  • Background: Homebrewing since 2008. Former president of the DC Homebrewers. Recovering journalist/flack.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Well made IPAs and Negra Modelo Fanboi.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: S. Arlingtonesis. It’s a super versatile strain, able to ferment at both ale and lager temps. It’s become my go-to strain for anything clean.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Playing guitar before hoards of adoring fans by now.
  • Favorite band in High School: DMB….yeah, I know.
  • Name: Don Graves
  • Title: Partner/Production Manager
  • Background: Homebrewing since 2005.  Former finance desk jockey.
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Farmhouse ales (I love local ingredients and yeasts!), Lambics and IPAs.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Sour Weapon L. Its clean acidity can be used in so many beer styles. Huge upgrade over my old sour mashing technique. I’m also a frequent Local Yeast Project contributor, I love experimenting with those as well.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: Rambo… I swore into the Marines, then joined ROTC… but it didn’t take.
  • Favorite band in High School: Weezer, I had to pretend to cry to the doorman to get into my first concert.
  • Name: Leslie Piper
  • Title: Lab Manager/Lab Womanger
  • Background: Early member of SUDSY (Scientists Using a Diversity of Sugars and Yeasts) homebrew club while in graduate school for environmental science at Montana State University. Been hunting down the perfect beer ever since!
  • Favorite Beer Styles: Gotta start off with a good funky mixed culture sour! Then follow it up with lagers allllll day.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Whoever the next FerMentor is! I love working with new strains in the lab and seeing where they take us.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: A member of NASA’s mission control.
  • Favorite band in High School: Outkast (ATlien for life!)
  • Name: Rachael Payton
  • Title: Beer Tech/Flamingo Wrangler
  • Background: Received a degree in Marine Biology at Auburn University, with a background in birds of prey training/rehabilitation.  After accepting a position at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, I found the Bootleg Team!
  • Favorite Beer Styles: It really depends on the occasion, as I like almost all beers, but my default would have to be IPAs.
  • Favorite Bootleg Strain: Whatever the team is willing to cook up in the lab…I never hesitate to be a taste tester.
  • In high school I was sure I’d be: A veterinarian.  Until I learned that job is more people-oriented than animal..
  • Favorite band in High School: Was and still is – Aerosmith.  But like…Kings and Queens not the overplayed favorites..