The city planner responsible for architecting modern-day Nashville and giving it shape must have been drinking on the job; the place is a hodgepodge, as if put together using jigsaw puzzle pieces procured from different sets. Up and coming residential zones abut commercial districts next to disused streets and weathered industrial areas that, in at least one instance, sit smack dab across the street from a cemetery. Getting around is its own challenge, too. Nashville is hostile to cars and foot traffic alike.
But, when the music is this good, and the beer this varied, who cares? Nashville hosts an array of breweries with distinct character, each slinging beers that range from classic to trendy—and they’re all really, really fantastic. Here are our five picks for the Music City’s 5 best breweries.
New Heights Brewing
928 5th Ave S | (615) 490-6901
A trip to New Heights Brewing means playing real-life Frogger, but the team behind this relatively young outfit rock a rich tap list, so the rewards of visiting outweigh the risks; IPAs provide the lineup’s bedrock, but the true standouts are its cream ales, including Coffee & Cream, and creative takes like S’wheat Tea, an easy-drinking wheat beer brewed in collaboration with Nashville’s High Garden Tea Shop. If you’ve already walked Broadway and had your fill of honky-tonks, head to New Heights, grab a table, order up a 312 Pizza (another local Nashville favorite), and play a few board games while you lose yourself in the brewery’s depth of selection.
Southern Grist Brewing
1201 Porter Rd | (629) 203-7159
Another new-ish brewery in Nashville’s hierarchy of beer, Southern Grist boasts not one but two locations: Their original spot in East Nashville, and the recently opened Nations taproom. Whether you go to one or the other depends on where you’re staying, whether you have a rental car (pro tip: you will want a rental car), and whether you’re more into intimate or wide-open spaces. For our money, the East taproom is preferable: Quieter, removed from the city’s bustle, and allows for personal time with the bartenders when you’re not busy with their own array of board games or one of their outrageously good dessert sours, a’la the Raspberry Hazelnut Truffle Hill.
Bearded Iris Brewing
101 Van Buren St | (615) 928-7988
East Germantown, one of Nashville’s budding neighborhoods, mixes and matches lofts and warehouses as befits the city’s urban transformation. Comfortably nestled amongst developments new and old is Bearded Iris Brewing, which is itself styled on division. On one side, the taproom, where a classic, speakeasy-style bar holds the center, and on the other, the brewery itself, with all of its equipment open for visitors to see. Rather than clash with the taproom atmosphere, the contrast facilitates it. Bearded Iris boasts a cool vibe maintained via a terrific soundtrack and top-notch beer, including DDH IPAs that demonstrate what a good DDH IPA should taste like, and Moon Dust, an imperial milk stout smoother than butter.
Jackalope Brewing Company
701 8th Ave S | (615) 873-4313
Like Southern Grist, Jackalope has two distinct venues. This, perhaps, is just the kind of beer city Nashville is: Small but spread out, which makes choice a valuable commodity. (Another valuable commodity for Jackalope’s Den on 8th Ave: ZolliKoffee, the coffee shop next door, which opens into the Den itself, the original Jackalope building.) This is a terrific stopping place for drinks; it’s a few doors down from Party Fowl, for anyone in the market for hot chicken, and right around the corner from Peg Leg Porker, for anyone in the market for barbecue. More importantly, Jackalope serves Diamond Lady, an IPA emphasizing clarity over maxed-out hop profiles. (Insider secret: Ask the bartender to mix Thunder Ann with Lovebird.)
Tennessee Brew Works
809 Ewing Ave | (615) 436-0050
Last but not least, there’s Tennessee Brew Works, where the sun shines bright on the roof deck, the kitchen puts out scrumptious food ranging from hummus plates to pulled pork to that Nashville delicacy, hot chicken, and the downstairs houses live music nearly every night of the week. The beer’s pretty good, too, focused around European styles and Southern American flavors. IPAs do appear on the menu, but they’re tokens; Tennessee Brew Works focuses more on farmhouse ales, brown ales, porters, ESBs, blond ales, and witbiers, and they’re all beautifully balanced. (They’re also one of the few breweries to name a beer in honor of the Ryman Auditorium: Basil Ryeman, a saison made with Thai basil and rye malt.)
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