Like any other North American city on the come-up these days, Nashville has ridden the wave of the craft beer revolution and, much to the delight of locals and visitors alike, seen a proliferation of breweries and brewpubs across the city in recent years. Between some exciting newcomers on the scene and other proprietors that have been around for awhile, there’s an eclectic mix of beers and atmospheres to be found around town, and a crawl of Nashville’s rather spread-out breweries is a great way to get to know the city. It’s not huge, but the different neighborhoods and hangs all have their own unique vibes. Without further ado, let’s tap into music city’s brew scene.
Seeing all of Tennessee during your trip? Make some time (and some room in your stomach) for Memphis, best experienced with our guide to their very best food.
Note: as Nashville and the surrounding area undergoes a phased reopening in the pandemic’s wake, some of these breweries continue to offer a curbside pick-up service for both beer and food. Others are reopening patio and outdoor areas. As it is up to each business how to proceed, we encourage you to continually reference every brewery’s website for updates.
Jackalope Brewing Company
This company’s slogan “drink legendary” embodies their staying power and importance for the Nashville beerscape, boasting some of the most recognizable can designs around that complement their downright delicious pours. Such is their sway and popularity that Jackalope actually owns two taprooms, both slightly southeast of downtown in some really trendy areas. “The Den” is smaller, more centrally located, and a no-nonsense kind of drinking house that’s a perfect stepping-off point for exploring the surrounding area or for catching a few brews before a Predators hockey game downtown (and if you’re wearing any Preds swag, you’ll get a dollar off your beer).
In walking distance of legendary beers at The Den, you can find some legendary Nashville institutions of food, music, and… more beer! For down home Southern cooking that’s all flavor and no fuss, get in line at Arthur’s Country Kitchen and feast your eyes on the buffet before, well, feasting. Anyone with respect for a beautiful instrument should stop at Carter Vintage Guitars on the way, a showroom with some serious clout amongst their famous clientele but full of Southern hospitality for musicians of all levels. Finally, caddy-cornered and up the hill from The Den, you’ll find Frugal MacDoogal, a bonafide emporium with the largest beer selection in town. Take home some local brews or explore the nationwide scene on their shelves.
Otherwise, head to Jackalope’s other location at “The Ranch” in Wedgewood-Houston to stay awhile, trying one of their delicious brews after another as you relax on their open rooftop patio or in the colorful taproom. They have small bites and there’s often one of Nashville’s beloved food trucks outside, too. But let’s talk about beer! Jackalope’s five year-round brews include their famous maple-brown ale Bearwalker, the mighty fine Sarka pilsner, and rambunctious American pale ale Thunder Ann. They’re all amongst the best local beers in Nashville, and Jackalope consistently try to outdo themselves with their seasonals. Lovebird is the perfect summer brew and a personal favorite, a tart and crisp strawberry raspberry wheat. In the colder months, the Dark Knight porter is sure to keep you warm (and inside… at the bar!)
Tennessee Brew Works
Just a stone’s throw from Jackalope’s The Den and down the road from Frugal MacDoogal, Tennessee Brew Works is in the business of crafting distinctly local brews that honor the state’s heritage and, in many cases, source ingredients from farms in the area. What’s more, they have a full food menu of delicious grub from fish tacos to the Impossible burger. From the ingredients in the beer to the use of their brews in their food recipes and all the events they put on, this is meant to be a space by locals, for locals, and you’ll get the sense that this is a place with a regular crowd, more like a traditional bar. But that’s exactly why it’s such a great spot for visitors to tune in to a more tried and true Nashville vibe, not the pre-packaged “country” on display downtown.
For instance, daily live music and drink specials make TBW stand out from the crowd. There’s a happy hour every day from 3-6pm with $1 off drafts, $4 well drinks and a revolving selection of discounted small plates. On top of that, Mondays serve up $15 pitchers from 5pm-10pm, complemented nicely by the open mic night that runs from 6-9. Who knows, you might just catch some tunes from Nashville’s greatest undiscovered talent! Otherwise, see some more established acts take the stage to the tune of 2-for-1 craft beers on Wednesdays from 6pm, artist in residence performances on Thursday evenings, and a lineup of several groups on Fridays.
Finally, the beer itself! Coming from someone who doesn’t love IPAs, the TBW Hippies and Cowboys still steals the show — it’s just that good. It’s not the hoppiest you’ll ever drink, and unlike a lot of other pales, still goes down nicely after having a few of them. They’ve got two sweet blondes to choose from as well, between the slightly bolder State Park and the smooth honey taste of the aptly-named Wildwood Flower. Throw their more offbeat brews into the mix, including the sweet potato stout and Tennessee Whiskey-barrel aged imperial porter, and you’ve got a fine lineup of crafts.
New Heights Brewing Company
If the name doesn’t give it away, this is a bold band of newcomers to the Nashville brewing scene who are looking to shake things up a little bit, purists about beer making as they are. After honing their skills in some California breweries, the team joined the wave of people moving to music city in the mid-2010s to open up New Heights, and they’ve cemented their place as a high-quality purveyor of local drafts in that relatively short span of time.
From the crafts to the events they put on, it helps that this bunch is truly one of a kind: there’s no other brewery in Nashville (and most likely, not one in the country) serving up a Cinnamon Toast Crunch brown ale while the Inebriated Shakespeare Company performs Hamlet in their taproom. That dynamic sums up their penchant for pushing the envelope while retaining a very high attention to detail in their brews, getting creative while using local ingredients like East Nashville tea house High Garden’s Tennessee Honeysuckle blend in the craft process for their small batch Belgian blonde.
Bearded Iris Brewing
If I had to describe this company’s beers in one word, it might be “hopsessed,” which I just made up but nonetheless tells you everything you need to know. This is the brewery to spend your time and money at if you like IPAs, double IPAs, hazy IPAs, imperial IPAs — noticing a theme here? — or if you know what the term “DDH” means (apparently, “double dry hopped”). Bearded Iris has discovered what they like to do, and decided to do it well. Like my grandfather always used to say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The all-IPA lineup is also more versatile than it might appear, starting with their signature singularly-brewed oated IPA, Homestyle. Brewed “intensely” using only Mosaic hops, Homestyle has a tart, citrusy taste at the beginning that mellows out quickly towards an incredibly smooth finish more reminiscent of a Pilsner. There will be no doubt in your taste buds that you’re enjoying a pale ale, but the easy-drinking factor on this is so high that even those less thrilled by the concept of IPAs will enjoy this in practice. The widespread availability in Nashville bars and restaurants speaks to Homestyle’s quality as one of the city’s best, and now you can get it delivered straight to your doorstep or with taproom pickup until July 31st.
Fat Bottom Brewery
Another of Nashville’s flagship breweries, Fat Bottom beer is brewed with character and playfulness that spills over into everything they do, from creating “Pitch Invasion Lager” to celebrate the inaugural season of the MLS’s Nashville Soccer Club or delivering beer and groceries to homes in Davidson County every day during the pandemic. With lovely people on staff, a sprawling space at their location in northwest Nashville, and a range of delicious, easy-drinking beers to boot, Fat Bottom round out this list in style.
They might be most famous for Ruby Red, one of their four mainstay brews that is best enjoyed in their sunny beer garden (open with limited capacity on the weekends during Nashville’s phased reopening) or on the closest porch, patio, or stoop you can find. Their Ida Golden Ale and Teddy Loves Pilsner are my two personal favorites, not complicated brews by any means but awesome for their simplicity and reliability. Fat Bottom prides themselves on brewing the perfect beer for every occasion, and their pint-sized tall boy cans are instantly recognizable in stores around the state. Get your hands around one of those, sit back, and relax.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means! There are plenty of other great breweries in Nashville, so give a shout-out in the comments or on Twitter.