Nashville is a vibrant, thriving city. From the lively music scene to the passionate sports fans, there is plenty witness. Tennessee in general may not be known as a craft beer destination, but if you step away from the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame, you can discover that breweries are making some serious headway. A few have deep roots in the city, but overall it’s a new interest. Just south of Downtown, there is a cluster of breweries that are within walking distance, but solid beer can be found throughout the city. As I’m writing this article, I have had the pleasure of visiting fourteen breweries in Nashville and have selected my four favorites below to feature.
- Tailgate Brewery
- The Black Abbey Brewing Co.
- Southern Grist Brewing Co.
- Tennessee Brew Works
Tailgate has a location in downtown Nashville, but I visited the main spot located west of the city. Besides the brewery and taproom, there is also a café that offers a nice array of pizza, sandwiches, and appetizers. Vivid colors abound, and I was a huge fan of the canvas art depicting the Nashville skyline. Founded in 2014 with a 3 barrel system, they recently put in a new 50 barrel system, and have an additional 8 barrel system for experimental beers. They do not shy away from variety either. Twenty-seven beers were on tap when I visited, and they normally have 29 or 30 according to the bartender. These numbers are also present at the downtown taproom. On their website, it says they aim to release two new beers for the taprooms each week.
The beer here is phenomenal, and is certainly one of the tops in the city. This may seem bias on my part, as the sours here spoke to me, but each of the four beers I had scored well. Raspberry Berliner is a lip-smacking sour that allows the raspberry flavors to shine. And the Blood Orange Gose takes an ordinary Gose and spikes it up with some orange notes on the backend. Fire Emoji (yes, spelled out, not the actual emoji), is a Northeast-style IPA. Saying it’s Northeast-style may be a bit liberal, as it does not quite have the hazy appearance. It does have a nice citrus nose, with grapefruit and orange rising off the glass. The taste is fairly juicy as well, but also has a bitter bite. Peanut Butter Milk Stout was a fabulous beer that shouldn’t need too much description. Peanut butter and graham cracker dominate, but there’s enough chocolate to keep you on your toes.
Tailgate provides variation without sacrificing quality. I do need to check out the downtown location on Music Row, as I’ve heard all positive things. Make this a stop if you are visiting Nashville.
My father is a Lutheran pastor, so I felt right at home walking into Black Abbey Brewing. Their taproom, which is known as the “Fellowship Hall”, is designed to represent a chapter house at a monastery according to their website. To me, it feels somewhat like a sanctuary. The farm-style tables act as pews, with the bar serving as the alter. Hymnal boards behind the bar provide additional information for patrons. Martin Luther’s 95 theses are also framed up on the wall, adding to the theme. In fact, they specify on their website that the idea and inspiration for the brewery is Martin Luther himself. The brewery itself is open to the taproom, with cans stacked high next to the equipment.
Thankfully this was my sole stop for the day, as the flights here cover eight beers. They have a variety of choices, but in my opinion they excel at the Belgian styles. The Special was one of my favorite beers in all of Nashville. This Belgian Dubbel had notes of orange and chocolate, and was a sweet delight to drink. Not to be outdone, the Belgian-style Blonde The Rose is their best seller. Clean, light, and quaffable, this is an excellent choice if you need an everyday beer. A few other highlights? The Forty Four, a smooth coffee-infused Porter, 5 Points IPA, a dank, west-coast inspired offering, and Guy Fawkes, a well-balanced brown ale. While the mainstays are certainly delicious, they keep enough seasonals and occasionals on tap to keep you interested!
With the unique theme and well-executed beers, this is a great stop in Nashville. This is especially true for fans of Belgian-style ales.
In the brewing world, grist is a term for the assortment of milled grain used in a beer recipe. In my personal world, Southern Grist will be memorable, as it was the 200th brewery that I visited. Located in the East Nashville neighborhood, they were founded back in 2015, and already have plans for a 2nd location. This new spot will include an additional taproom and production space in the Nations neighborhood, located on the western side of the city. This move will allow them to expand to a 15-barrel system. The current taproom is not overly large, but has a relaxed environment, complete with a nice selection of board games. Large, lit up ‘SGB’ letters are a fun touch. I was also loved their flight boards, which are shaped like the state of Tennessee.
IPAs and sours are the main focus, but they do have a solid mix. For instance, Blue Velour Jumpsuit is a vanilla, chocolate, and blueberry Porter. There is a hint of blueberry in the middle, but overall, this robust brew is dominated by chocolate. I had an IPA from their ‘Mixed Greens’ series, called Cover Page. This group of rotating beers all feature different hops, and Cover Page is the original. It looks and smells like a Northeast IPA with a hazy, juicy character, but is more dank and bitter on the tongue, similar to a West Coast IPA. I treated myself to two sours, and while both were well-done, my favorite was the passion fruit and blood orange PFM Hill. The tartness level on this one was more jacked up, which I enjoyed. Nashville Mule is a sour with lime and ginger. The lime is present at the beginning, before leading into a stronger ginger kick; an interesting beer.
As I mentioned, Southern Grist is expanding, and is certainly a brewery Nashville folks should keep an eye on. Having locations on both sides of the city should expedite their growth.
Tennessee Brew Works has one of the best taprooms in the city. Walking up, you are greeted by a ginormous two-level patio, with an upper deck providing shade for a portion of the lower level. Inside also sports two floors. There are bars on both levels, but upstairs is where a majority of the seating is. A small stage is kitty-corner to the main bar downstairs, but there are fewer tables. Both levels have windows looking into the 30-hectoliter brew system, and you can get to the upper level outdoor space from the 2nd floor. As you can tell by the logo, music is the theme behind this brewery, which makes sense for a Nashville spot, and they call their flagship beers ‘Headliners’. There is a decent food menu, and when I visited, several groups of people were there playing a variety of games.
Country Roads is the aptly named Sweet Potato Stout, and this silky, roasty beer was my personal favorite. This seasonal may have held a slight edge, as it went will with the cold weather. Another seasonal I enjoyed was Basil Ryeman, a Saison brewed with thai basil from Bloomsbury Farm, located down the road in Smyrna, TN. I’m not sure how much basil they use, but it was strong. The ‘headliner’ I preferred was the Southern Wit. It was slightly more complex than what I expect from the style, with the addition of tangerine and pear notes. Wildflower Honey is a nice Belgian-style honey Blonde, which uses honey from Strange Honey Farms. Even though this farm in Del Rio, which is about as far west as you can get in Tennessee, it shows they are dedicated to using local (or at least Tennessee) products.
Tennessee Brew Works is part of the brewery neighborhood located south of downtown Nashville. With FIVE breweries within less than a mile of each other, there are plenty of choices. I recommend putting these guys on your list.
I’ve enjoyed living in Nashville thus far, and the live music scene lives up to the hype. As I mentioned at the start, you may not think of Tennessee as a craft beer powerhouse, but Nashville is certainly starting to come into its own. This trendy city is gaining popularity as a vacation spot, and a place to live. I would not be surprise if the craft scene continues to expand and improve.
We head further southeast to the Peach State and visit its capital. Atlanta is a booming city, and I will explore many of the breweries that call it home. Should be a great time!
Current Brewery Count
202 breweries across 108 cities in 23 states. These numbers are current as of 1/16/18. For up-to-date numbers, and to follow my beer adventures, follow me on Twitter: @brewerytravels.