Feb 22, 2017

Tapping into Nashville’s brewery scene

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I still have an abundance of blog post ideas to share from my work stint in Nashville.  How far behind am I?  Well, one of the taprooms I’m about to spotlight has moved locations since I visited it in East Nashville.  It appears to be a good sign for business though … hopefully they won’t grow out of their status of a cool place to go.    

As I mentioned in a previous post from my time in Cleveland, my co-workers and I have made a habit of finding the local breweries and visiting their taprooms to quite literally get a taste of the local craft beer scene.  One in particular has amassed quite a selection of glasses from places he’s visited and was eager to add to his collection.  So, one weeknight we decided to see how many we could visit in and around downtown Nashville.

We started southwest of downtown Nashville in the popular and revitalized Gulch neighborhood at the Jackalope Brewing Company.  

Jackalope’s taproom is connected to its brewery, so it has that industrial warehouse look and feel you’d expect to fine throughout the complex.  There are a variety of seating areas -- from comfy and cozy to more formal, depending on your crowd -- where you can share conversations and beer observations.   

But the center of the action is, of course, the main bar, a large wooden angled one with taps on both sides.  

Here, the bartender educates as much as her entertains.  Being able to order a sampler of four of their beers also helps.  

I have to confess that I struggled initially to pick four samples, since i tend to avoid pale ales, and a majority of the Jackalope products on tap seemed to have at least a P and an A in their title.  But the bartender set me up with what was supposed to be a tasting from most hoppy to least.

The cleverly named Spruce Beersteen (back of photo) was actually a fine representation of a black IPA, a little stout-like in taste and a hoppy finish that always reminds me of drinking a tree.  

Next, the Rompo won me over with the words “red rye.”  I love Irish red ales, and Jackalope does an excellent job at adding the rye notes into the flavor of this beer.  Think red farmhouse ale with a spicier than usual finish.  

My third sample was the Leghorn Rye IPA.  It seemed to me like they tried the same rye trick with an IPA as they did with the Irish red.  I’m really not an IPA fan, so this didn’t win me over.  If you like your hops, though, this may be a great beer for you.

The fourth sample, the Amarillo APA up front, was probably my favorite.  It was certainly the most refreshing and easy drinking of the bunch.  As an American pale ale, it wasn’t nearly as hoppy as its IPA cousins, and its citrus notes were evident even to a craft beer novice like me.  As of this writing, however, I do not see the Amarillo APA available on the Jackalope’s website, although the Thunder Ann APA sounds a lot like it.  Name change or slight alteration, perhaps?

At any rate, we left Jackalope Brewing Company very satisfied with our sampling.  We ambled just a block or two onward to the Yazoo Brewing Company and its taproom.  Unfortunately, they were closing just as we entered.  My co-worker didn’t even to get his much sought after glass.  This stumped us, since it made little sense for a tasting room to close at 8 p.m., even on a weeknight (according to Yazoo’s website, the current closing time during the week is 9 p.m.).  Oh, well.  On to East Nashville.

With several prior adventures in East Nashville under my belt, I was eager to try the taproom I had frequently noticed on Main Street, just east of Interstate 24 -- the Fat Bottom Brewing Co.  Since our visit, Fat Bottom has closed its doors at its Main Street location and is relocating to what appears to be a much larger facility far out on Nashville’s west side as of Feb. 25, 2017.  Based on what we experienced at its previous location, I can see why they needed to grow.

Frankly, entering the old Fat Bottom Brewing Co. was kind of a quirky experience.  You followed the signs through the actual brewery until you discovered a lively and expansive taproom in the back.  It almost felt like finding the entrance to a speakeasy.  

As it turned out, the place was packed.  Live music was playing, waitresses were milling about delivering appetizers and beers to full tables.  And in a great stroke of luck, my co-worker and I found the only two seats left at the main bar that ran the length of the right side of the room.  

Once again, the bartender went to work educating us, and convincing us a sampler flight of every available beer was the only way to go.  We were easily persuaded.  

This time, we sampled five beers -- from lightest to darkest in taste.  And I loved them all.  OK, I loved the Knockout IPA the least of them all, but I found the Ida golden ale to be as good as any pilsner I can recall, and the Ruby American red ale -- Fat Bottom’s standard bearer -- is a perfect balance of “full-bodied” and easy drinking.  

So, you’d think after nine powerful and tasty beer samples that we’d be ready to wrap up the night.  Not when one more tasting room awaited directly across the street.

Compared to our previous stops, Smith & Lentz Brewing Company appeared to be a somewhat smaller and more simple operation.  The taproom has a very no-frills warehouse feel, but it also had a lively crowd of devotees.    

Fortunately for us, we were not offered an extensive beer sampler; instead, we each chose a final pint for the night.  Mine, a nitro stout, was exceptional -- smooth, creamy and filling.   

In the end, we packed in three (almost four) taprooms, each with good reasons to visit and try a pint.  In a part of the country where whiskey is king, Nashville’s brewery scene is worth fitting into any trip to Music City.

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