Forward Beat Presents: A Nashville Digital Pub Crawl
By Justin Stokes
In Nashville, the term “notes” is instantly associated with music, and projects the image of pleasures to the ear. But notes made for the tongue into the masterful arrangement that is beer has made each sitting at the bar-top a personal concert of a liquid variety.
As Forward Beat has shared previously, Nashvillians are getting pretty serious about their food, which in turn has led to an increased interest for coffee and beer. This is more than just a brief crush; it’s a long-term passion that may be here for good.
Here’s the the craft-beer craze scorecard: According to a December 1 article from Music City’s daily paper The Tennessean,“There are about 15 craft breweries in Middle Tennessee with more than half a dozen on the way.”
This means that these beer factories popping up left and right aren’t rangebound to the city itself. Breweries spanning out past the downtown area in neighborhoods like East Nashville have set up shop in surrounding cities like Franklin, Hendersonville, Tullahoma, and Murfreesboro, with many having their own bars that serve offerings from the region.
Located in the ‘Boro, the Green Dragon Public House is a Lord of the Rings-themed bar and eatery located just outside of Nashville in Murfreesboro. Just behind the medieval-looking bar, one can peer through the glass and into the back space that will see next year as the launch for their own beer.
“When we opened in March of 2014, we only had one of our taps dedicated to local beer. Now, half of our tap handles come from the Middle Tennessee region,”says owner Joe Minter, noting eight of the 16 tap handles with local designs.
“I’m not going to compromise quality because it’s local. I think that all of those beer are outstanding. These beers have to be within the stylistic guidelines of the [Beer Judge Certification Program]. They have to be a good example of the style, and the best best I can find.
For those planning a trip to Nash Vegas, Minter recommends Yazoo as the first stop on the beer tour, because of both the quality of beer and its’ relevance to the local scene. He also recommends Black Abbey Brewing Co. as being “totally unique,” just for having their Belgian styles, and Tailgate Brewing for their Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which just won a gold award by the BJCP.
According to Minter, local water determines what beers one can make, and cites the quality of water in Nashville for being ideal for making classic English IPAs.
“You can control it with minerals or water salts, but… why? You want to make a beer that’s unique to the area.”
Better bars are certainly a product of the area’s hobbyhorse, but aren’t the only place where beer snobs may get their hookup. Bottle shops and ”craft beer bars” can trace their lineage back to a DIY approach that’s created groups of home-brewers who’ve banded together to experiment in their own “libation laboratories” that let fans reinvent the beverage. These groups are the embassies of “beer culture,” working in introduce others to new taste.
Also located in Murfreesboro, one such group is the Mid-State Brew Crew. It’s ”Minister of Propaganda,” Art Whitaker, has traveled the South extensively, and describes the region’s beer scene as ”one of the hottest in the Southeast.” Friendly with most of Middle Tennessee’s brewers and each brewery as having something he likes,
”It rivals most areas in the South,” shares Whitaker. ”The Asheville area leads the way, but cities like Nashville, Charlotte, Tampa and Huntsville are exploding… Some other parts of the country who have had a head start and a bigger scene, but the South is craft brewing’s last horizon in the U.S. and as the laws change, you will see incredible growth all over the south. The first Southern Brewers Conference will take place in next August with brewers from all over the south congregating in Nashville for education, fellowship and sampling.”
According to Whitaker, the area has received national recognition as it hosts the southern regional competition for the National Homebrew competition. Bringing the conversation full circle, the doyens of most craft breweries got their start batching beer in their own domiciles.
Adds Whitaker: “Brandon Jones of Yazoo’s “Embrace the Funk” program has greatly influenced the regions homebrewers with his wild and sour beers and an internationally known Facebook group “Milk the Funk” was started here in Middle Tennessee. It now has almost 5,000 members with well over 500 of its members being pro brewers and brewery owners. The group has influenced and advanced the techniques and science behind the making of these types of beers.
In the game of beer, those who are not in direct competition are the trophy for those rolling the dice. But if more people are making better beer, how do breweries separate themselves from the rest of school?
Forward Beat will be examining these Nashville breweries and uncovering what makes their beers such tasty concoctions, and how such alchemy is changing the way people in the area drink.
Check back in soon for our first stop on the digital pub crawl: Tennessee Brew Works to discuss pairing food with beer, and finding balance between hints and hops.