Nashville has been experiencing a bit of a brewery boom over the past decade, growing from a handful of craft beer makers to more than twenty options to purchase homegrown suds. While many of the newer options are creating some fantastic beers, it’s important to recognize the ones who went before and paved the path to sudsy success. Here are six of the OG breweries that set the standard in Music City.
Blackstone Brewing Company started out as a small brewpub on West End, introducing a generation of drinkers to their first beers that were made locally instead of in some huge brewery owned by the big boys from Bud, Miller or Coors. Kent Taylor brewed batches in the small tanks tucked into the corner of the restaurant and served the majority of his products to thirsty patrons sitting at the cozy bar. His beers won national awards in brewing competitions and earned him legions of fans. In 2011, Taylor opened a much larger new production brewery in an industrial neighborhood of West Nashville so he could expand his offering of bottled beers sold at retail in beer stores and groceries all around the region. Although the brewpub closed in 2016, you can now visit the production facility to taste through Blackstone’s roster of fine beers where they are made. You can’t get fresher than that!
One to try: St. Charles Porter
Linus Hall started up Yazoo Brewing Company in a dark corner of Marathon Village north of The Gulch in 2003. As his company grew, be moved his operations to a new location in The Gulch proper where even more beer lovers could while away hours in his taproom enjoying his beers and take tours of the facility to learn more about the brewing process. Yazoo was the first Nashville brewery to offer high-gravity beers with their delicious Sue, a smoky and malty beer that packs a real punch. This “Brew Named Sue” has actually been used to make a specialty flavor at the equally-popular Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Yazoo also leads the local brewery community with their experimental sour beer program released under the “Embrace the Funk” label.
One to try: Dos Perros
Jackalope Brewing Company became the state’s first female-owned brewery when Bailey Spaulding opened up operations in The Gulch in 2011. Like the brewery’s namesake rabbit/antelope character, most of Jackalope’s beers are named after mythical creatures. While the original taproom is still open, Jackalope recently added a new expanded brewery and tasting room in the hip Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, creating lots more space for beer lovers to sample their seasonal specialties and flagship brews.
One to try: Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale
The Black Abbey Brewing Company doesn’t have the advantage of a lot of walk-up traffic thanks to their location in an industrial neighborhood behind 100 Oaks, but plenty of craft aficionados find their way to the warehouse district to spend time in their cozy taproom they call “Fellowship Hall.” Fans of the Belgian style of brewing, Black Abbey creates beers whose recipes are steeped in history, but also with a little bit of their characteristic sense of humor injected into the mix. From “Beer and Hymns” singing events to a popular “Beer and Cookies” pairing that is timed to the release of Girl Scout cookies each year, Black Abbey believes that drinking beer should be fun.
One to try: The Rose Belgian Blonde Ale
Tennessee Brew Works is a staple in Nashville’s Pietown neighborhood, an area that was once home to the Gerst Brewery, one of the largest production facilities in the country at the turn of the 20th century. Utilizing an innovative modern brewing system, Tennessee Brew Works prides themselves on using less water and energy than any other brewery in town to create their roster of remarkably food-friendly beers. Thanks to this philosophy of pairing food and beer, TBW also offers some of the best dining options in their taproom that you’ll find anywhere in town. Their exemplary Five Beer Burger features ingredients made using several (ok, five) of their beers ranging from Basil Ryeman in the ketchup to onions braised in Pietown Porter.
One to try: Extra Easy English Pub Ale
People wondered why Fat Bottom Brewing owner/brewer Ben Bredesen would relocate from his popular East Nashville location where he had earned a reputation for serving great food and beer in a comfortable family-friendly environment, but the opportunity to be at the front edge of the wave of development in The Nations neighborhood on the west side of town convinced him to make the move. As the neighborhood grew around him, Bredesen acquired a host of new fans for the food in his taproom he calls The Hopyard and for his line of easy-drinking beers released on draft and in cans. With a laser focus on quality and consistency, Fat Bottom is well on its way to the top.
One to try: Ruby American Red Ale
Located in the shadow of LP Field just across the Cumberland River from downtown, Little Harpeth Brewing is unique among Nashville breweries in a couple of ways. First, they focus on lager beers instead of the more traditional ales. These beers aren’t as popular to new breweries because they take longer to produce, taking up valuable room in the huge steel tanks while they wait to finish fermenting. They’re definitely worth the wait, though. Another differentiating factor is Little Harpeth’s fanatical dedication to sustainable practices and looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and protecting the environment, all the way down to straightening the nails they pulled out of the walls as they remodeled their facility so that they could be reused. Finally, Little Harpeth places a large emphasis on live music performances at their taproom, offering full concerts to accompany pints of their fine brews.
One to try: Chicken Scratch American Pilsner