Teddy Roosevelt may have been talking about Nashville’s locally-produced Maxwell House Coffee when he coined that phrase almost a century ago, but it is as relevant as ever today in describing Music City’s up-and-coming craft beer scene. Despite the nations most oppressive beer sales tax (17%) and a smattering of other less than friendly state laws, there are some good things literally brewing in Tennessee. So I loaded up my laptop and packed a bag for a short but sweet flight east, one that I definitely don’t regret.
First up was Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company in Franklin, on the southern fringes of Nashville. Mark Kamp and the gang are approaching their first anniversary this summer and have already carved out a major niche among beer enthusiasts. As their name indicates, Turtle Anarchy’s style is a “slow revolution,” converting the thirsty masses to craft beer one customer at a time. They even keep up with pop culture phenomena, such as their rotating “Fifty Shades of Black” brew series, adding a variety of ingredients to their outstanding Portly Stout every week or so to offer up taproom-only variety that has been a huge success. If you’re looking for a laid back taproom for great beer, then you’ve found your spot.
Soon to be unleashed on Downtown Nashville in a couple months, Tennessee Brew Works stands to dramatically alter the Nashville beer landscape. Despite being Notre Dame and North Carolina grads, owners Garr Schwartz and Christian Spears are all around great guys and couldn’t be better suited for the undertaking. Construction is underway on their brewery and its soon-to-be-popular “Tennessee Taproom,” which is slated for a May opening. The duo seem to be plugged into the Nashville beer market and local mindset, making no compromises or cutting corners for this start up brewery. I can’t comment on their beer yet, but they did introduce me to the burger and beer selection at ML Rose, a must-stop if you’re in the area and hungry or thirsty, so I can definitely vouch for their taste. Nashville (and all beer enthusiasts)–time to get excited!
Another start up we’re looking forward to is Black Abbey Brewing, which has officially received the construction permit for their 11,000 square foot brewery space opening late this summer in Nashville. Black Abbey, a Belgian-themed brewery and taproom inspired by all things Martin Luther (the German theologian who became a monk in the 1500’s and advocated fellowship, community, and to a lesser known extent, drinking for joy), will focus on “creative, accessible, and unique” ales. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a little community fellowship over a few solid beers created from 600 years of brewing tradition?
Recently-opened Fat Bottom Brewing northeast of downtown is a “production brewery with a tap room and kitchen, not a restaurant that brews beer.” Emphasizing reclamation of discarded materials, the taproom featuring paneled walls made from old pallets and a bar and tabletops from the same downed tree is beautiful. The huge beer garden was almost inviting enough for me to find a sunny spot to relax despite the 40-degree weather. I can imagine it’s the place to be on a nice Spring day however, complete with a live band and a busy grill.
If you happen to find yourself east of Nashville in the small town of Sparta, congratulations are in order; you are just down the road from one of the hidden gems in the U.S. brewing industry, Calfkiller Brewing. Named for the beautiful nearby Calfkiller River, this brewery epitomizes Tennessee hospitality and eccentric charm. If you’re looking to be thoroughly entertained and talk with some folks who built their brewery with their own two hands, then a Calfkiller visit isn’t to be missed. Turns out they make some amazing beers as well, which garnered them the top award at the 2012 Tennessee Winter Beer Fest. You can find Calfkiller beers in over 60 establishments across the state, but for the full experience you have to make the drive to Sparta and meet Jason Henry, Don Sergio, and Dave Sergio in person–you won’t regret it.
Another great thing about Nashville has been the appearance of growler filling stations, most notably The Filling Station (soon to have a second location) and Craft Brewed. The Filling Station carries an impressive 24 rotating beers on tap with two different sizes of growlers and occupies an old bicycle shop. Craft Brewed offers an outstanding retail selection of craft beer, a full tap system, and tasting room complete with numerous sizes of growler-to-go options. Drinking a beer while you shop for a beer: it doesn’t get much better than that.
Thirty Six hours in Nashville is by no means enough time to get to all of the great spots in the city and surrounding areas (I haven’t even mentioned local powerhouse Yazoo Brewing or Knoxville’s Saw Works Brewing Company), but it’s a good start and I’m already itching for a return trip. As local breweries band together to bring some muscle to the legislation and outdated laws, I see nothing but good things ahead for craft beer drinkers in Tennessee.
Matt Williams-Regional Sales Manager- Mid America