What to drink in Nashville: An insider’s recommendations

Nashville is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination for music scene groupies, artsy folk, and bachelorette parties looking for a last weekend of debauchery before monogamy, otherwise known as “Marital Bliss.” In this regard, there are times in which this fair city feels not unlike Las Vegas, especially if you venture down to the veritable shit show that is Broadway. To be clear, when I say “there are times” I mean pretty much anytime from May to November.

Also, not unlike Vegas, there is plenty of booze to be had here. Good booze, made by people who care, in places that make you feel like you want another drink, with people who will assure you that you do, in fact, want another drink.

Living here provides me the opportunity to share my insight and experiences with people who are less familiar with Nashville, and I am normally all too happy to point out a favorite local spot. However, after nearly 2 years, I have come to realize that these tourists rarely heed my advice, and in fact do basically the opposite of what I suggest. Now, don’t get me wrong, you are certainly free and encouraged to do whatever you want because this is America dammit…but all too often it seems like those who ask me for recommendations are really just looking for affirmation that they should go to Broadway…again…for the 3rd night in a row.

That being said, I have compiled a list of my favorite spots in Nashville to imbibe so that if any of you find yourselves in Nashville, you’ll have some solid recommendations from someone who has spent way too much time and money figuring it all out. For this go-around, I’ll share my favorite spots for getting beer.

Nashville has a blossoming beer scene that is trying desperately to catch up to other beer destination cities like Asheville, Grand Rapids, and San Diego. Though it has not yet reached those levels of notoriety, and there are some lackluster breweries, there are a few gems that a beer lover would do well to seek out.

  • Smith & Lentz, 903 Main St, Nashville, TN 37206: S&L is my number 1 recommendation for great craft beer in Nashville and my favorite brewery in the city. Don’t get me wrong, there are other great breweries here, but Smith & Lentz consistently keeps me swooning. Every style they make is executed masterfully. Traditional lagers are clean, nuanced, and crushable. The stouts are rich, robust, and pleasantly boozy. IPA lovers rejoice, because these guys are certainly hop savants, crafting a myriad of experimental ales showcasing all varieties of hop flavor profiles. Then there is the El Cuarto: the best IPA in Nashville, hands down. Also, they have ping-pong tables, which is dope.
  • New Heights Brewing Company, 928 5th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203: New Heights is exactly as it’s name would suggest: new. Despite the fact that they are a smaller set up, somewhat removed from the action in an industrial park, they are making great beer in their first year, something that can be challenging for a new brewery to do. They produce a more eclectic line-up of brews but manage to find the sweet spot between interesting and drinkable, which can so often be at odds. The trend of creating beer that tastes like food rather than beer that makes your food taste better is something I am not entirely on-board with yet. (Yes, I am talking to you Chili-Infused-Butternut-Foie-Gras-Gelato Ale) Luckily, New Heights does not commit this offense and instead make beers that make you think. They have a cozy space with plenty of board games to occupy your conversation while working your way through a huge flight of great beer.
  • Jackalope Brewing Company, 701 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203: Festooned with bizarre art selections and a whimsical vibe, Jackalope is certainly one of my favorite places to kick-back and drink. Add to the fact that they produce some really solid beer and you’ve pretty much eliminated any possible reason for not stopping in. The brewery is run by a talented duo of ladies that stick it to the man in an industry where bearded Anglo-Saxon men are the norm and to me, it’s a breath of fresh air. Some of their beers are misses, though never far off the mark, while their hits are entirely fantastic, (Bearwalker and Snowman are some of my regular favorites). They do a great job of keeping seasonal, special release beers on rotation and hosting fun events to pack people in for a pint or 4.
  • The Hop Stop, 2909 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216: This small east Nashville gem is not a brewery, but a stellar craft beer bar. Their list is relatively small, compared to other craft beer driven bars I have visited, but they prove that bigger is not always better. Without fail, The Hop Stop maintains a tastefully curated selection of brews from Belgian sours, west coast IPA’s, authentic old world Pilsners, burly experimental stouts, and everything in between. Service is always stellar and highly knowledgeable; a crucial part of a quality beer drinking experience that is so often missing. In addition, they offer smaller pours on almost all of their beers, which allows you to get a taste of all those beers catching your eye without sending you into a coma. The Hop Stop is easily my favorite bar for discerning beer drinkers in Nashville.
  • Craft Brewed, 2502 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37204:Craft Brewed is a revered Nashville institution, a place that comes to the top of every “Best beer bars in Nashville” Google search, and for good reason. If you are looking for depth and options, this is the place to go. On one side of the establishment is a great bottle shop with beer, wine, and spirits galore. On the other side is a small tap-room with an impressive selection of brews that you don’t see very often at other places. Though this spot is a tad more expensive than The Hop Stop, its another great place to visit if you want to get lost for an hour or so. As with The Hop Stop, the staff at Craft Brewed knows their shit and will steer you in the right direction which is nice when you are unfamiliar with the offerings on the menu. In the case of Craft Brewed though, this can be a double edged sword as beer neophytes are often subjected the baleful look of a bartender that expects you to know what “brett” is, and damn you to hell if you don’t. This hasn’t always been the case, but I have noticed it enough to feel its worth mentioning. Don’t let it get to you…just get another awesome beer.

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