Breweries be boomin’ recently here in Nashville. We might not be known as “beer city USA” like our similar-sounding neighbor to the east (Asheville), but the people (and the tourists) here sure do like their beer. After the success of independent breweries like Yazoo, Tennessee Brew Works, Jackalope, and Bearded Iris (Germantown), it was only a matter of time before others bought their ticket for the land of barley and hops.
So, with the seasons of outdoor sipping upon us, I thought I’d round some highlights up for ya, so you can saddle up with confidence for wherever you’re headed.
Though I’m focusing on newer breweries here, I couldn’t pass up mentioning Jackalope. This was some of the first beer I ever had in Nashville (I’m especially partial to the Thunder Ann Pale Ale) and besides the fact that I’ve yet to come across a dud in their flavors, the story of how brewing badass Bailey Spaulding turned her homebrewing passion into the first Nashville craft brewery to can its own beer makes this place all the more special.
Fait la Force
All Belgian, all the time. Their name even comes from L’Union Fait la Force, the motto of Belgium, meaning Strength in Unity. I sampled multiple selections at their stylish, open, and airy space ranging from a light, citrusy saison infused with Colorado blue spruce tips to a dark strong ale teeming with chocolate and plums. And loved each and every one. But then again, I’m a big Belgian beer fan. Like wine from France, there’s just something about letting the people who have been doing something literal millennia (in this case, since 805 AD), do what they do best.
Living Waters Brewing
Living Waters is a shockingly fantastic space. And I don’t mean shocking as in, “I didn’t think they would have such a great space,” but as in, “this is far beyond my expectation.” What an East Nashville find.
It’s a coffee shop with carefully selected beans, built-in-bar espresso machines, pour-overs, and everything precisely measured. It’s a brewery that opens at 8 am and serves beer all day. It’s a communal working space, game-playing space, catching up space.
I first became interested in Living Waters because of their Gose – their sour selection. I’m a sucker for a sour, and their tattoo-esque looking cans didn’t hurt. Order a flight of 5-ounce pours (crazy affordable at a mere 3.50 per), their Gose ice cream aka cranberry marshmallow beer ice cream (fucking incredible), or go all-in on a Kolsch wheel with some pals.
Heavily raved about by the guys at Southern Collective (see: Distilleries article), Southern Grist is known for its unique flavors and timely releases. Tasters go for just $2.50 a pour, so enjoy everything from their crisp lagers to their darks – try the Chop It Up, a brown ale conditioned on toasted coconut, hazelnuts, and cacao nibs. Their ever-rotating impressive list of sours is right up my alley, and with the addition of Lauter, a playful food flavor-bomb, at their East Nashville taproom location, Southern Grist has gone from great to spectacular.
Monday Night Brewing
I’d be lying if I said I had any way of knowing how to get in this place. You’d think it was brand spanking new, what with the construction surrounding the building and the outdoor spaces placed seemingly amongst rubble. But this Atlanta-born brewing company has been sitting in its space since 2021. Both the indoor and outdoor areas are prime for hanging out and the menu has something for everyone. From standard cocktails like margaritas and gin fizzes to alcoholic slushy versions of dark and stormys and Aperol spritzes, Monday Night is a shoo in for summer fun. And the beer? Also excellent. My favorites are Dr. Robot (berry lemon sour), Silent Sounds (farmhouse ale-saison), Bourbon Barrel Drafty Kilt (bourbon barrel-aged scotch ale), and Prague Fog (Czech dark lager).
East Nashville Beer Works
Though not new by any means (it opened in 2015), East Nashville Beer Works is its own little community, with affordable pours and a phenomenal space for the outdoor months, complete with a playground, picnic tables, yoga classes, party space, even a window to order from outside.
Tennfold Brewing was primed to open in March 2020, when their plan to employ 50-75 locals suddenly turned into fancy curbside service. But their excellent brews, tasty food, and family-friendly space prevailed through the pandemic and now runs at full steam.
I once had a cucumber ale from their partnership with the Nashville food project and holy moly was it good - crisp, refreshing, with a lively cucumber undertone. Now that the weather is warming up, I have every hope they’ll bring it back. (As a side note, I know this isn’t a food column, but the wings are incredible – their house sauce is an entirely unique BBQ. Also – the celery Caesar. Don’t miss out.)
You may notice that the offerings by Bearded Iris, located in Germantown and Sylvan Supply, are typically IPAs and Pale Ales. This is no accident. The folks behind the brews believe in sticking to what they’re passionate about and doing it well. So ,if building a tasting of a wide range of styles is your thing (typically, that’s how I roll), this might not be the place for you. But what Bearded Iris lacks in diversity, they more than make up for in quality and nuance.
I love a good pale ale, but IPAs don’t tend to be my go-to. I still enjoy greatly what Bearded Iris brings to the table and it does a great job washing down the ramen by Black Dynasty, a bowl so perfect you’d think the doors you walked through were those to heaven, rather than a pub.
Barrique Brewing and Blending
I think I’m obsessed. I sat in the freezing cold taproom completely inattentive to that fact because the liquid in my glass was a still wild ale made from chambourcin grapes poured out of cardboard ala Bota Box. All I kept thinking over and over was, “what is going on??”
I also had something called “Oud Bruin”, a cask sour brown ale, and it’s like a medieval palate bomb. You know those era movies where the pompous fighters are all drinking something out of gigantic mugs? I imagine it’s this. Complex, sour, almost wrongly sweet – the way you KNOW something has turned, in this case fermented, in all the best ways. This beer screams “I’m fermented and I’m proud of it.” Damn straight.
In truth, Oud Bruin reminds me of the great Duchesse de Bourgogne, a sour Belgian reddish-brown ale, which in my opinion might be the greatest beer of all time.
Barrique is the “fanciest”, most nuanced brewery on this list, so it may not be for everyone, with many of the selections a bit “out there”. But if you’re looking for a unique experience, they’re one to try for sure.
Smith & Lentz
I dig the space – super chill with lots of room to spread out with your friends and play a game or two with an excellent cabana-like beer garden out back. The beer has yet to knock me off my bench, but it’s the best damn pizza in the city – you can fight me on this, but you won’t win.