Saturday, April 6, 2013

Is Nashville the next Beervana?

My adopted hometown of Portland, OR lays claim to the nickname "Beervana" and rightfully so. We have over 50 breweries within the city limits, the most of any city in the world. Of course it's not just all about numbers; the high quality and huge variety of beer here is hard to beat!
there's nothing better than drinking local beer & cider outside on a sunny day in Portland
During my recent trip to Nashville, TN, I had the opportunity to visit many of the breweries that have opened in the city in the past year. Previously, if you wanted to drink a craft beer in Tennessee, your only options were a few well-established restaurant/breweries like Big River Grille, Blackstone and Bosco's, or beer-focused bars like Flying Saucer. There were just a handful of bottle shops with an emphasis on beer.
t-shirt at the Nashville Visitor Center
One of the biggest obstacles to producing craft beer in Tennessee is the beer tax. At 17%, it adds $37.00 to the cost of a 31-gallon barrel. By comparison, the Oregon tax on a 31-gallon barrel of beer is $2.60. It's impossible for a small business owner not to pass on some of that exorbitant cost to the consumer, who is only willing to pay so much for a pint or bottle of good beer!
posted by the entrance to Yazoo Brewery
Thankfully, an effort is underway to Fix the Beer Tax. But even with the current situation, new breweries are opening all over the state to meet the increased demand for high quality beer and the desire to support locally-owned businesses. There are now six breweries in Nashville (Blackstone, Big River Grille - recently rebranded as Rock Bottom, Bosco's, Yazoo, Jackalope, Fat Bottom) with more to open soon, as well as four breweries in Franklin (Cool Springs Brewery, Turtle Anarchy, Bosco's, Granite City), 20 miles south of the state capitol. In addition, you can attend one of several beer festivals throughout the year and get a growler filled at places like Frugal Macdoogal or Mount Juliet Beer Company.
Mt Juliet Beer Co has a great selection of craft beers
Of course, beer lover that I am, I planned one entire day of my Nashville visit around drinking beer! As I wrote about in my previous post, my grandmother & I stopped by Fat Bottom Brewery in East Nashville to cap off our "Playing Tourist in Your Hometown" excursion on Thursday. After relaxing for most of the day Friday, I was ready for Saturday's pub crawl. Sadly, Greg couldn't join me because he was still sick with the flu.
samples of Fat Bottom beers
The day started with a 12:30PM brewery tour at Yazoo. For $7.00, you get a taster glass and three 4oz samples of their flagship beers (Dos Perros, Pale Ale, Hefeweizen) to enjoy during the 45-minute tour. Even though I have been on too many brewery tours to count, I still think this is a fun way to go behind the scenes and meet people who love craft beer as much as I do! As it turned out, I started chatting with two ladies from Toronto, Canada, and after we enjoyed a few more samples (The Beacon, Sly Rye Porter, Onward Stout) in the brewery bar, we all headed to my next stop together.
Yazoo tasters
Jackalope Brewing Company is just a couple of blocks from Yazoo, making it super convenient for a pub crawl. They brew three standard beers: Thunder Ann American Pale Ale, Rompo Red Rye Ale, and Bearwalker Maple Brown. My new friends & I shared a sampler tray of all three beers as they had just run out of the fourth, a limited edition American Stout called Tannakin.
The Canadians were on the hunt for a local (not touristy) BBQ joint to try before their evening at the Grand Ole Opry. After some debate, I decided to take them to Hog Heaven, next to Centennial Park. After a brief driving tour of Music Row, I dropped them off and headed south to Franklin to meet up with my dad & step-mom at another new brewery.
my new friends from Toronto, Andrea & Lori
Granite City Food & Brewery is part of a Midwestern chain of restaurant/breweries with 27 locations in 12 states. The recently opened Franklin outpost adjacent to a new Drury Hotel is their first in Tennessee. They brew five regular beers (Northern Light Lager, Wag's American Wheat, Duke of Wellington IPA, Brother Benedict's Bock, Broad Axe Stout) plus one or two seasonals. Of course, I had to try them all, so I ordered a taster tray to enjoy with their delicious flatbread pizzas.
Not wanting to waste any time, we dropped off my car (actually my grandmother's car which I had borrowed for the day) at their apartment and continued to our next stop, Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company. We had all gotten to know the brewmaster, Mike Kraft, when he worked at Cool Springs Brewery and I was anxious to try his latest creations. Once again, I ordered samples of everything they had on tap (three year-round beers plus several seasonals): Another Way to Rye, Aurumglass, Portly Stout, Infidelis Helles Ale, Card A Mom, Down With The Coconut). These were by far the most interesting and flavorful beers I drank the entire week!
tasters at Turtle Anarchy
Although Turtle Anarchy was officially the last new brewery on my list, that didn't mean we had to stop drinking beer or call it a night. Thankfully, my dad & step-mom love good beer as much as I do (guess where I got the beer "genes" from?!) so we dropped in to one of the popular local hangouts, Mellow Mushroom.
more beer at Mellow Mushroom
One of the great things about Franklin is the historic downtown comprising 16 blocks of restaurants & bars, antique shops, art galleries, and beautifully restored homes. Mellow Mushroom is located on the Main Square and, while it is part of a southeastern chain, each location is unique. The Franklin "friendchise" has 30 taps, including the requisite mass-produced national brands but also plenty of craft brews. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sample more local beer, so Debbie & I shared a taster paddle of IPA's (including Yazoo Hop Project and Victory Hop Devil) while my dad went with the Brooklyn Brewery's Chocolate Stout.
music on the square
After enjoying some live music outside on the square by 64, a local Beatles tribute band, we walked a few blocks down Main Street to McCreary's. This tiny Irish pub is a great place to drink a pint of Guinness, munch on some fish & chips and listen to more live music, all of which we did before calling it a night!
Irish food & beer at McCreary's
After getting some much-needed sleep, the three of us had breakfast at a local coffeehouse then spent a few hours at a dog show (always fun for people-watching) before I said goodbye and headed back to Hermitage to spend my final evening of the trip with my grandmother. My mom, step-dad, sister and two nephews also drove down from Orlinda to visit with Greg & I one last time before we flew back to Portland.
my step-mom Debbie is greeted by a Shar-Pei at the dog show
Keeping in mind that I have previously visited (in months/years past) all of the other breweries mentioned in this post, as well as most if not all of the specialty beer bars, I can now say I have fully experienced beervana in Nashville. That this can realistically be done over the course of a weekend (with a designated driver) means Nashville still has a long way to go to catch up with the likes of Portland. Hopefully, the beer tax will get "fixed" and I can continue to look forward to trying new breweries every time I fly home, which is once or twice a year.
Andrea took this photo of me (dreaming of going to all of the beer bars on this map) at Jackalope
If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest Nashville beer news, I recommend following Nashville Beer Blog. Beer Me has a list of all the breweries in Tennessee.

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