Nashville boasts a rich craft beer history, thanks to a large population of German settlers who made their homes in the area during the 19th century. In fact, records indicate large-scale brewing operations date back to as early as 1815, when Thomas M. Burland opened the Nashville Porter and Ale Brewery. Sadly, the United States’ temperance movement of the 1920s put a serious damper on the growth of Nashville breweries, and the industry didn’t see a full recovery until the start of the craft beer revival of the 1960s.
Nowadays, there are about 25 breweries located in and around the city. Like other large metropolitan areas across the nation, Nashville experienced a few setbacks in 2020 including a devastating tornado, but the local beer industry weathered through the literal (and figurative) storm.
Known as a bachelor(ette) destination, with twentysomethings spilling out of honky tonks onto 2nd Avenue and Broadway every day of the week, there are plenty of breweries slinging stout lagers or eyebrow-raising IPAs. Next time you’re in town, check out one of these seven taprooms—or embark on a Nashville brewery tour—for a truly one-of-a-kind pint.
Southern Grist Brewing
East Nashville and the Nations
Southern Grist, around since 2016, is a local favorite best known for its hearty barrel-aged stouts, New England-style IPAs, and fruited sours. It features a constantly rotating menu of small-batch beers (that means there are less than five gallons of each fresh brew) and doesn’t have a single flagship beer, rather choosing to constantly experiment with flavors. Southern Grist started out of its East Nashville location—a warm, cozy environment that offers plush couches as well as traditional bar-stool seating—then expanded to another taproom this year, located directly in front of its production facility.
Smith & Lentz
In Nashville’s lively Fivepoints neighborhood, known for its busy bars and trendy restaurants, Smith & Lentz serves up pizza and great beer, making this one of our favorite carb fests in town. Though known for its lagers and hoppy IPAs, Smith & Lentz offers non-beer options like hard cider and kombucha to pair with sourdough-leavened pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven or homemade pastries made with artisan grains. They also host brewery tours but those have been suspended due to the pandemic—a comeback date has yet to be announced.
New Heights Brewing Company
Award-winning Nashville brewery New Heights Brewing Company is holding it down in the heart of Nashville on Rep. John Lewis Way with its IPAs and rich stouts. The brewery is led by head brewer Jeff Fountain, who entered the Nashville craft-beer business after years of working at San Diego’s award-winning Mission Brewery and experimenting with beers at home. Though it opened just five years ago, New Heights Brewery has already amassed a solid crowd of die-hard fans. Before COVID-19, New Heights used to host brewery tours, but have since put them on pause.
Blackstone Brewing Company
Launched by Kent Taylor and Stephanie Weins in 1994, Blackstone Brewing Company claims to be Nashville’s oldest and most award-winning craft brewery (it has brought home medals from the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup). Blackstone Brewery has a fully automated, 30-barrel brewhouse, as well as a fully automated bottling assembly system. In addition to mind-blowing ales, Blackstone also serves burgers, pizzas, and even Southern classics like shrimp and grits. Blackstone Brewing Company has three kinds of tours—a guided tour through its brewing and bottling facility, a historical tour which highlights the beer history of Nashville from the early 1800s through the 1950s, and a private tour with co-founder, Kent Taylor, intended for anyone who would like to geek out about homebrewing. Availability is limited due to the pandemic, so it’s recommended to book in advance.
Bearded Iris Brewing
Germantown and Sylvan Heights
In terms of variety, Bearded Iris doesn’t have much, with a menu that heavily favors IPAs, DIPAs, and pale ales—but that’s because this brewery knows what it does best. Though the business originally began at its Germantown location, Bearded Iris has become so popular that it recently opened the doors to a second taproom in Nashville’s upscale Sylvan Heights neighborhood. Some menu highlights include the Mood Ring brew (with berry overtones), the pilsner Pep Talk, and the tried-and-true, oated IPA Homestyle. Though Bearded Iris doesn’t have a kitchen, guests are welcome to bring their own food.
Yazoo Brewing Company
Yazoo Brewing Company is technically sited on the outskirts of Nashville in the suburb of Madison, but any brewery round-up would be remiss not to mention it. Owner Linus Hall opened Yazoo in 2003 in the historic Marathon Motor Works building on the banks of the Cumberland River. The brewery has a gorgeous outdoor patio area, as well as a sizable indoor tap room. Best known for their fruity and funky sours, Yazoo’s menu changes daily and offers seasonal selections such as the autumn-inspired pumpkin ale. Brewery tours are offered on Saturdays and are currently limited to 12 guests.
Tennessee Brew Works
Neighborhood: Pie Town
Tennessee Brew Works operates with a lofty, yet admirable vision in mind: to brew high-quality beer that pays homage to the land, traditions, and culture of Tennessee. The brewery uses grains and other ingredients from local farmers, and the spent grains are later repurposed by Southwinds Cattle Company to feed their Wagyu cattle. In addition, Tennessee Brew Works has a 25-barrel system that is highly efficient and requires less water, raw materials, and energy than a traditional system. Some highlights from the menu include their Belgian-style white ale, Southern wit, and India pale ale Hippies & Cowboys.