Nashville Beerventures Part 2


Honky Tonks

Now that you’re in Nashville, the one thing you should partake in is a Honky Tonk.  The entire Broadway strip downtown is full of them. What a Honky Tonk boils down to for us is loud, crowded bars with country music and neon signs; no unlike north east dive bars.  However, for aspiring singers and bands, playing in a Honky Tonk on the right night and in front of the right person can land you stardom. 

Neither of us are country music fans, but there’s just something about live music in crowded bars that’s worth the experience even if the drinks are overpriced and there’s no room to move.  The three recommended to us, and the three in turn we would recommend to you are Tootsies, Whiskey Bent and Honky Tonk Central.

Mill Creek Brewing Co.

Located in one of the most popular hipster districts of Nashville, and just down the street from The Filling Station (a bottleshop with taps, and a highly recommended stop) is a small hole in the wall brewpub outpost.  It’s our first brewery of the day after a quick tour of The Parthenon.  Yes, Nashville has a Parthenon just 2 miles outside of downtown.  If you’re a fan of history or museums, we recommend the stop here in the morning.

Our flight of five Mill Creek beers were delicious; rating 3.5 – 4.25 on Untappd.  Our favorite two of the flight were the Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout and the Lil Darlin wheat beer.  The Barrel Aged Imperial Stout was a robust 9.5% coffee stout that was aged in Buffalo Trace, Blanton and Eagle Rare barrels.  The description of the beer included vanilla, caramel, cocoa, butterscotch and toffee – but the whisky flavor was overpowering in our opinion; which was a good thing for people like me.  The Lil Darlin was practically the opposite of the Imp Stout. The sweet orange and floral flavor was dry and soft. The smooth drinker was refreshing with no bite and no bitter.

Mill Creek Brewing served up 24 taps and the 5 beers we had were delicious.  There are several great burgers making it a lunch and dinner hotspot. Mill Creek Brewing earns itself 4.25 out of 5.     

Tennessee Brew Works

The two-story brewpub is a self-proclaimed homage to the land, traditions and culture of Tennessee.  While we can’t call ourselves experts on Tennessee tradition and culture, we can certainly tell you that the hot chicken here was on par with Hattie B’s; except cooked with a bit more care and showmanship.  Also grab a side of the shoestring fries with basil ketchup, those are clutch. 

The Brew Works has two large bars, live music, 12 taps and flights of 5.  Out of our 5 brews, two really stuck out to us. The Basil Ryeman and the Country Roots were the best in show.  Basil Ryeman is a creamy farmhouse with essentially the right amount of basil. We’ve had many basil beers over the years, and most of the entries we’ve had always lean too hard on basil.  Tennessee Brew Works hit the right balance between basil and funky farmhouse; wish we could have gotten a growler for the road.

Country Roots is a sweet potato stout with heavy chocolate notes.  We’ve had lots of stouts this trip thus far, but like the Basil Ryeman, Country Roots struck all the right notes of a traditional stout.  And it was only 5.5%, meaning we could drink this lovely brew all night.

Tennessee Brew Works – come for the hot chicken, stay for the beer and live music; 4 out of 5 Country Music Stars in our book. 

Corsair Brewstillery

The Corsair Brewstillery outpost location we visited was in an old historic manufacturing facility on Clinton street.  Inside this facility are several little shops, including another distillery and a winery. The building is extremely well kept and it’s a fascinating reminder from an industrial area long gone.

The Brewstillery only had two beers on tap – the Viking Ale and the Kitchen Sink #1 Blood Orange IPA.  While both beers were good by their own style definition, we can’t really recommend them for their beer as there were only two and they were average.  I’d imagine the flagship location has more offerings, but I’m not sure we would drastically alter our opinion.      

Corsair Brewstillery, like other brewstilleries we’ve visited, usually tries to be the jack-of-all-trades but usually provide a weaker offering of beer.  With that said, the liquor here was topnotch and practically every patron in the place was drinking the hard stuff and skipping the beer. The Privateers at Corsair can fix up fancy cocktails but fall short in the beer department; 3 out of 5.  

Little Harpeth Brewing

This large, active production/taproom brewery is home to the friendly brewhound Dottie; who promptly greeted us on the way to the bar.  While deciding what to drink, we had some small banter with the bartender and learned that the brewery name is actually the name of a river that the owner used to rope swing into; thus the little logo of a stick figure holding rope swinging over a body of water.  

Our flight consisted of four at Little Harpeth; Mosaic IPK, Deer X-ing, Chicken Scratch and Stax.  Out of the four, there were two that stuck out to us. The Mosaic IPK is a mosaic laced Kolsch style beer.  Can’t say we were the biggest fans of the beverage, but we awarded slightly above average marks on this attempt at adding a citrus zing to a German classic.  Stax was the best in show beer. The Black Lager was clean and roasty and a welcomed change of pace to the rest of the breweries so far on the trip. While we don’t go out of our way to hit Black Lagers, we most certainly enjoy them when we do come across this seemingly lost beer style.

Little Harpeth Brewing has a wonderful little brewhound, a massive production facility and from what we gather throws a hell of a party after hours on their full sized stage in the back of the building.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to get some live music in this trip. Little Harpeth swings into our hearts, but the water is just a tad too shallow; 3.25 out of 5. 

Southern Hospitality 

One of the many things we enjoyed on our TN adventure was that everyone is genuinely friendlier.  Brewery patrons and brewery owners are usually friendly, but down south it seems that everyone else, unrelated to alcohol sales, was friendlier than our normal state of daily interactions in NJ.  Bouncers, waitresses, gas station attendants, cashiers – and everyone in between.  

People just have a different mentality down here; there is less rush and a more active dialogue with strangers than a standard, boilerplate pleasantry of ‘it’s a nice day out’, or ‘Welcome to X, do you know what you want to order?’.  The first order of business on our trip, and literally always the first thing I do when I travel, was to locate a Waffle House – and let me tell you that the Waffle houses of Nashville are home to the most friendly staff I’ve ever encountered.  It was also probably the first time I’ve ever been called ‘Sugar.’   

Smith & Lentz Brewing

What has 20 taps, a great patio and pingpong? If you guessed Smith & Lentz not only would you be right but you would be having a grand time and potentially one of the top 5 beers from our trip to Tennessee.

Our flight consisted of five beers, and only one of them scoring under a 3.75 on Untappd.  The average beer on our flight was the Imperial Rye. While not a bad beer, it was merely average in comparison to the remaining four beers; Make Ready, The King Stay the King, Renard Rogue and Liquid Truffle.

Make Ready is a dark honey, black tea and ginger beer with a dash of lemon and lime juice.  Now I know what you’re thinking – thats a lot of flavors in one pour and you wouldn’t be wrong.  However, the brewmasters at Smith & Lentz carefully crafted these exquisite flavors together coming exactly as advertised.  The King Stay the King is an 8% DIPA with hearty Chinook notes; bringing me back to the good old days of resin style beers. It is a hop head must try.

The two gems from Smith & Lentz are the Renard Rogue and Liquid Truffle.  Renard Rogue is a 7%, bourbon barrel aged strong ale that fermented on a bed of cherry puree producing a rich and fruity bourbon ale.  Liquid Truffle is a 5.3%, thick, roasted chocolate stout with raspberry flavoring. The creamy, deliciousness of Liquid Truffle edged out the Renard Rogue in Melissa’s opinion, but I will stick with the bourbon barrel aged cherry ale.

Smith & Lentz has a lot of good things going on behind the scenes, and we highly recommend the stop here by scoring it a 4.8 out of 5. 

East Nashville Beer Works

Up next is another pizza based brewpub; with better pizza than Tailgate in our Northeastern opinion.  The East Nashville Beer Works micro brewery has 12 drafts on tap, a fair amount of inside seating and plenty of outside seating with a fire pit and heaters for those colder nights.

Our flight consisted of 6 beers, 4 of which averaged 3/5 on untappd.  The two outstanding offerings were the East Meets Weisse and the Coconut Cream Pie.  East Meets Weisse was an unusual Oolong Tea based beer with bursts of tea and a dash of creaminess.  This was one of the more refreshing beers on the trip and highly worth a try.  

Our runner up beer from ENBW was their Brut IPA.  While not being the best Brut of the trip, we did rather enjoy the punny name; Brut Willis.  Yes, we realize it’s been done before, but who doesn’t love Bruce Willis puns?       

East Nashville Beer Works has a great range of styles, good pizza and has clearly demonstrated that they can concoct some unusual flavors.  We can certainly recommend East Nashville Beer Works for both a bite and a flight with a 3.5 out of 5. Or you can grab a flight and then hit up Prince’s Hot Chicken just 4 minutes down the road.     

Honky Tonk Brewing Co.

Have you ever heard of the game “Stump”?  If you haven’t the setup is simple: Take 1 giant tree stump, pre-hammer a few nails into the stump just to get them up right.  Then to play all you do is flip a hammer, and when you catch it on it’s way down you immediately swing for your nail. Repeat until someone successfully drives a nail in.  Is it dangerous? Yes. Is it fun? Absolutely. Ands it’s even more dangerous and more fun when it’s turned into a drinking game or the CT variant – Flaming Stump; which is exactly how it sounds. 

Why is Stump relevant? Because this is the first time we’ve visited a brewery with Stump; right in the tap room.  A dangerously enjoyable game when drinking.

Speaking of drinking, the beers at Honky Tonk Brewing Co. were easily some of the best beers we had on the trip.  Starting with my personal favorite, the West Coast IPA was a flawless execution of a resin beer. Based on the Untappd reviews this is probably a controversial opinion, most likely because we live in a world of NEIPA’s, but if you’re a fan of bitter and pine you will love this version.

Melissa’s favorites were 2 of the best sours we had on the trip.  Blueberry Lemonade and Cherry Berliner Weisse. They were both the perfect amount of sour and fruit blended.  Not overly face puckering, and certainly not weak on either the blueberry or cherry notes.

Honky Tonk Brewing Co. produces a great line of unique beer and is home to some of the best sours in Nashville.  Honky Tonk hit 4.25 nails square into Stump before dropping the hammer on their 5 toes. Disclaimer: Always wear closed toed shoes when playing Stump.

 

The Gulch is one of the many hipster districts of Nashville.  Nashville is not unlike several cities currently seeing a revitalization through expensive gentrification of bars and restaurants and high priced apartments.  Love or hate gentrification, there is no sense arguing that the efforts do pay off from time to time in the form of beer and food. Biscuit Love (Gulch location) is one of those treasured Bachelorette destinations which serves up delicious (and pricy) breakfasts.  Bonuts (donut biscuits), biscuits, sausage gravy and eggs galor is just what the doctor ordered for any hangover – or really just person looking for primer comfort foods.  Go early though, because this place gets packed quickly after opening.     

 

Cool Spring Brewery

Since we were up so early to enjoy the bliss that was Biscuit Love, we had time to kill before most breweries opened in Nashville so we journeyed far south for our next two breweries.

Down in Franklin, TN is Cool Spring Brewery.  Right off the bat, the feel is more brewpub than brewery; this was also our first brewpub that featured a lunch buffet.  Lunch buffet aside, let’s talk beer. Our flight consisted of 8, tiny beers – somewhere around the 3oz mark we think. All of these beers scored at least a 2.5/5 from us, but there were two beers that hit a 4/5 in our opinion.  

The Schwarzbier, a traditional German dark lager hit all the right notes for us.  Schwarzbier’s are very love/hate judging by the Untappd community perception of the style, but a good one is hard to hate and we felt that Cool Springs certainly nailed this style.  The winner of the flight was Nice Rack (Mango IPA). This is one of those beers that comes as described; a mango explosion off the tongue. Most of the Untappd locals that try this beer have comments such as “very fruity. Reminds me of something, but not beer.” or “it’s ok, if you like mangos, I guess.”  We’re here to tell you that you will not be disappointed by the Mango + resin blend IPA. Not a complete juice bomb though – think more pine.     

Cool Springs is certainly more brewpub than brewery, and that’s OK because they seem to be doing just fine.  Cool Springs earns a 2.75 out of 5.           

Mantra Artisan Ales

Only a few minutes away from Cool Springs Brewing, also in Franklin, TN is one of our Top 3 breweries of the trip; if not the best brewery.  Mantra Artisan Ales brings the heat both metaphorically and literally. This brewery has 28 taps which includes guest beers, craft soda’s and even a local nitro coffee line.

Out of the seven beers we had, six of them scored at least a 4.25/5 on Untappd.  The only one that scored less than a 4.25 was the Saffron IPA – which was made with Saffron.  Saffron is literally the world’s MOST expensive spice as far as we’re aware. Did it taste like Saffron? We’re not entirely sure as this was our first ever Saffron IPA.  The only other beer with Saffron we could think of was Dogfish Heads Midas Touch, but there are so many more additives in that beer that it’s not a true Saffron beer – in our humble opinion.  The beer itself was good, but failed to live up to the other six on the flight.

  • Plum Quatuor: A sour American Wild Ale, heavy on the plum.  A bit tart for my tastebuds, but Melissa was a huge fan.
  • Cassis: Flanders red ale – seldom experienced style that was aged for one year in oak barrels on cherries and black currants.  Smooth, tart, but not overly mouth puckering.  
  • Mantra Beoir Deataithe: A habanero smoked porter.  At first we anticipated a lot of heat because of the nose, but instead it was just a pleasantly smoked porter with pepper flavor.   
  • Japa: We’ve experienced several Milk Chai Stouts (most notably New Holland and Left Hand), but this stout was so heavy on the milk and Chai you may forget you’re actually drinking a beer.   
  • RIP: If you have the pleasure (or misfortune) of trying this beer, you best save it for last.  This pallet wrecker of a beer is so freakin spicy you will lose all sense of taste after a few sips.  This was our first beer made with Reaper Chilies; the world’s hottest peppers.
  • Guru Gish: All of the beers before this were amazing, and Guru Gish was the most amazing from Mantra.  The milk stout, peanut butter, chocolate, caramel and vanilla candy bar beer was frankly the best on flight.  I would love to match up this beer against other of the same category from Fate Brewing and Barrage Brewing; it would be a hell of a show.

We don’t often say that a brewery churns out a perfect beer and it is even less often that we say a brewery churns out all perfect beers and yet here we are.  Mantra Artisan Ales has everything a beerventurer and beersnob would want. Sweet, spicy, thick stouts, unusual IPAs and tantalizing sours.

If you travel to Nashville, keep repeating the word Mantra and then make sure you go.  We’re certain that Mantra Artisan Ales is worth the 30 minute detour south. Mantra earns a coveted 5 vedic hymns out of 5.

Fat Bottom Brewing Co.

The massive 33,000 square foot East Nashville brewery can hardly be called a micro-brewery from an infrastructure standpoint.  Crazy large production aside – this behemoth brewpub certainly serves up delicious micro-brews. The brewpub has seating for at least one hundred and standing room for at least a couple hundred more and it even boasts a private events hall and beer garden (actual seating may vary – we have no idea but the place is huge).

After getting over the size of Fat Bottom, you will now be tempted with 20 different taps; we had 8 of the currently available drafts.  Of the 8, there were really only 2 that stood out to us. Granddad’s Pajamas Nitro and Obsidian. The remaining 6 all fell within the average/good range but didn’t have any unique properties.

Granddad’s Pajamas Nitro was one of the more delicious porters we had down in TN.  Smooth and spicy and frankly thicker than you would expect – must be the nitro pour.  Obsidian was a unique dark beer; a saison noir. There was a bit of funk and a bit of cherry and very malty; certainly a unique brew to be sure.  

Fat Bottom Brewing seems like a great hangout spot after work or really any time and day.  There are some solid beers and even some great beers; Fat Bottom Brewing makes our drinking world go round at a 3.5 out of 5.

Harding House Brewing Co.

Nashville is a great little city that seamlessly blends in commercial and residential real estate.  Depending how you feel about that it may or may not be a good thing but the fact of the matter is that it’s really nice to see little neighborhood breweries; something we would love to have in Morristown, NJ.  Up next is Harding House Brewing Co. – one such neighborhood brewing company.  

Harding House does not offer traditional flights so we snagged 4 half-pours: a grisette, a rye pale, a honey beer and a traditional IPA.  While all beers were good, there wasn’t anything too exceptional. We’re assuming the staples here keep the locals happy, and the business chugging along.  Our two favorites were the grisette and the rye pale. Grissette beers are often funky and Belgiany – automatically a winning combination for Melissa. Naturally, I sided with the rye pale.

At the time of our adventure: Harding House is certainly a locals brewery so if you’re a Beersnob or Beerventurer you probably will not find anything too curious coming out of the taps.  However, at the time of writing this: Their Untappd beer list has most certainly evolved with several fruit based saisons.  If you’re a local, let us know what’s brewing at Harding!

Harding is in our books as a 2.75 out of 5 – good beer, but nothing with any dramatic flair which our ranking scale calls for.  However this is certainly subject to change if a local fills us in on the interesting beers listed on Untappd.  

Blackstone Brewing Company

Our last brewery of the night was Blackstone Brewing Company.  This brewery was established in 1994; making it one of the oldest breweries on our trip (maybe the oldest?).  Either way, the craft beer boom took flight well after the unofficial start of the craft beer boom.

Our flight of 8 consisted of some above average to stellar beers.  Specifically we would like to highlight the Fancy Boy and the 2018 Black Belle Barrel Aged with Coconut.  Fancy Boy is an extremely well done NEIPA. It was so well done in fact that you might think that the NEIPA was actually from the North East.  For the 2018 Black Belle – well you probably won’t get to lay your hands on this vintage but you must definitely try to get your hands on this imperial stout with cacao nibs and Belle Meade Bourbon barrels packed to the brim with coconut.

Blackstone Brewing is a great, down and dirty facility with their own “food bus” and plenty of seating to chill for happy hour.  Our representative flight of 8 hit all the styles and all scored above a 3.5/5 on Untappd. Black Belle and Fancy Boy scoring a 4.5/5 each.  This earns Blackstone Brewing a solid 3.75 out of 5.   

 

Scooters, Boots & ID that Grandma

Here in Nashville and springing up in several cities across the US (and possibly elsewhere) is this weird phenomenon – a rideshare app but with little motorized scooters parked all over a city.  That’s right Razor Scooter fans, your wildest dreams are coming true. You can now ride a little motorized scooter to the bar and then smash your phone and face on the way home after eating absolute sh*t in the middle of a busy street because you have no idea how to ride one of them down hill.

Cowboy Boots, cowboy boots everywhere.  In downtown Nashville you cannot walk a block without running into a boot store.  Now this may be a slight exaggeration, but the question we really need to be asking ourselves is “are they worth it?” We answered no, no they are not.  But throw a dozen drunk bachelorettes in a boot store and someone’s credit card will be well over the limit by the time they fly out the next morning.

Czanns Brewing Company

It’s not often we beat an owner into work but today the owner and brewer of Czanns was 5 minutes late! The nerve of this small business owner!  5-minute late start aside, Czann is a cozy little brewery that is unfortunately moving to a new location really soon. The owner of the building had sold out to a large real estate firm whose developing new luxury apartments (did we mention that Nashville is booming?).

Another unfortunate is that Czann doesn’t offer flights, but half-pints.  So we told him to select his two favorites and we received the Oatmeal Stout and Dunkelweizen.  Both were excellent representations of their styles, but nothing unique here. Being the only two in the room, he took an interest in our Untapping, and then put out two more glasses – a Pecan Porter, and the same base Pecan Porter but barrel aged in a whisky barrel.

Now we’re talking.  The Toasted Pecan Porter was extremely smooth, roasty and full of pecan flavor.  The barrel aged counterpart was even more enjoyable for me, but less so for Melissa – naturally.  It was a boozy pour though, so tread lightly with Czanns barreled assets.  Czann has a good thing going on here so we wish them the best in their move – where and whenever that may be.  If you get the chance to swing by we recommend both Pecan Porter versions, and apparently he makes the city’s best Pilsner once a year – and it’s gone within a couple of days. Czann earns a solid 3.75 out of 5. 

New Heights Brewing Company

Rarely do we see the same person twice in any of our adventurers – unless we stumble across another beerventuring couple.  Even more rare is meeting the same bartender twice – in this case our New Heights bartender also works at Honky Tonk Brewing.  Even crazier is the fact she remember our faces and names! Thats a hell of a memory.

New Heights had 17 drafts on tap, and thanks to our awesome bartender we sampled 12 of her favorites.  We’re not going to bore you with a breakdown of all 12, but certainly our top 3 must tries are the following:

2019 Coffee B.A.N.G. – Chances are you won’t be able to obtain this years Imperial stout aged in Tennessee Whisky casks, but if 2019 B.A.N.G. is anything like 2020 or future versions you will be in for a treat.  Not incredibly boozy, but the rich coffee and vanilla flavors seamlessly blend with the whisky and oak notes.

Blackberry Cobbler Navel Gazer – Another imperial stout, but mixed with spices and blackberry puree.  Based on other untappd reviews, this is a drink immediate beer or you will lose out on the blackberry flavor.

Hello, My Name is Earl Grey – We’ve finally encountered another Earl Grey tea beer.  This variant is a Belgian blonde hearty in black tea notes. If Earl Grey tea isn’t your thing, this beer will hardly get your attention.  But you tea drinkers out there certainly need to grab one of these. 

New Heights makes a lot of good beer and a handful of stellar brews.  Combine that with shuffleboard and lots of outdoor seating and you will have a hell of a great time here.  New Heights Brewing Company earns 4.25 out of 5.   

Honeytree Meadery

While not officially open at the time of our visit; we got to visit Nashville’s first meadery and try out a few of their first batches of mead!  Honeytree will eventually offer a wide variety of mead blends using locally sourced honey from their own apiary. We received a tour from Matt, the chemical engineer and a co-owner of Honeytree.  He told us that their meadery’s primary goal was to inform the public about the importance of bees, and to promote bee health.

Aside from bee health, we asked about their 5 year plan, and how they are going to try and bring mead into a market heavily dominated by whisky and beer.  His response was that “We’re completely winging this.” Neither owners have owned or operated a business before, but their convinced that if they’re first to market, they can establish a strong foothold in the region for mead-curious folks.

Certainly give Honeytree a try and let us know how their doing.  Our two Ginger Mead to-go bottles were unfortunately drank a long time ago so feel free to send us another bottle or two. 

Diskin Cider

Easily one of the largest facilities on our trip, and probably one of the largest craft cider operations we’ve seen, Diskin Cider is another must-stop alcohol adventure that isn’t beer.  Based on untappd, they make roughly 32 variants of cider and we were only able to try 8 of them – all of which were above average to nearly perfect. The downside was the price tag as this was one of our most expensive flights of the trip – $15 for 4, 5oz pours.  You pay for what you get though. We highly recommend the Bourbon Tart Cherry, WeHo and Lil’ Blondie      

Just watch out for those crazy, drunk, bachelorettes – this place is a magnet for them. 

The Black Abbey Brewing Company

The last stop of our trip on the way to the airport was a go big and go home moment at Black Abbey.  This is a high quality craft brewery that had a distinct gothic feel, long communal tables and an aptly named “Ultimate Flight.”  Whats on the Ultimate Flight? 16, 2oz pours of everything they had on tap.

Our absolute favorites of the flight were the TNIPA, Forty Four, Five Points and the River Running Hibiscus.  TNIPA is the Abbey’s take on a blend of Westcoast and New England IPA. There was an appropriate amount of resin to balance the sweet juice-bomb flavors – a take that I appreciated.  Forty Four is a low abv (4.8%) porter that was still rich in coffee and had the faintest bit of smoke.

Five Points IPA was my favorite of the flight – just an extremely well made Westcoast styled IPA.  There was a small addition of Citra to give it some juice flavor, but not nearly as juicy as the TNIPA.  Melissa’s best of flight was the River Running Hibiscus which is a gose; naturally. A little bit of tart, and a fair amount of floral notes drove this pink, unfiltered soured pilsner to success.

Black Abbey Brewing Company was a great last stop for us, and we’re confident they will be for you as well.  Skip the prayers, ignore the pews and head straight for the bar at Black Abbey; 4 out of 5.

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