If you like beer and you live in Rock City, I’m sure you’ve asked or been asked the following: Can Little Rock support the growing beer scene? I’m sure you’ve heard a myriad of answers, but I feel like it’s always a good idea to see how your neighbors happen to be getting along – in this case – in Nashville.
Over the past year I’ve traveled to Nashvegas a handful of times. I tend to stay in the East Nashville area, a neighborhood known for its eclectic residential and mixed-use spaces overrun by artists and young families. For a local comparison, think Hillcrest, Argenta or the SOMA area.
When I visited last week, I noticed a fair few new breweries had sprung up since I had visited last fall. So naturally, I decided to get a little sudsy and went on a tour with my second opinion (beer tasting partner) in tow.
First off, I just want to point out that Nashville is no novice when it comes to craft breweries. They’ve got a few old timers to their name – I’m talking Blackstone Brewing Company (1994) and Yazoo Brewing (2003) among others. Plus, there was a bit of a boom in the 2010s with a slew of new breweries opening in various neighborhoods – The Jackalope Brewing Company, Little Harpeth Brewing and Tennessee Brew Works to name a few.
However, now seems to be the time for the East Nashville neighborhood to finally start hopping.
We stopped by Southern Grist Brewing Co. without realizing that the brewery had only just opened its doors in February. It was family friendly and felt like the perfect place to hang on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The brewery happened to be releasing a new brew that day – The BroCoNut IPA – named for a friend of the brewery. Although it sounds “out there” the beer was tropically delicious, especially when infused with pineapple or tangerine.
I had a chance to talk to one of the co-owners, Jamie Lee. He said, “We’re just trying to do things that are really unique.” And they are. Southern Grist has carved a niche as a place for funky flavor combinations, plus, their sours are a shining star on their resume. They do all this while being a family friendly, trendy spot – just look at their flight boards.
Next up we stopped by Fat Bottom Brewing, which opened three years ago, making it the oldest brewery in the area. The space was again, smallish, but equipped with a nice patio and a stage. The acoustics were actually on point, and the duo that serenaded us that evening were actually enjoyable.
Fat Bottom had a more simplified list – only offering six brews on tap, from a Berliner Weisse to a Double IPA. Their programming seemed to be their big hit along with a solid food menu. From the blackboard behind the taps, I could see they have a writer’s night planned every week alongside rolling musical performances, something I’d love to see more of here. (Unfortunately for East Nashville, Fat Bottom is about to expand and leave the neighborhood.)
Finally we stopped at Smith and Lentz Brewing. This brewery opened up last Halloween, and upon walking in we felt like we had just joined a happening party. There was a record player spinning vinyl, a board game corner, and a ping pong table. The interior was a little more industrial and open, plus you could see straight into the brewery where all the magic happens.
This place was all about the IPAs, and when we asked for a flight, we were told half pints were the way to go. From the Black Rye to the Mosaic and the Double IPA, I was in heaven. The beer was high quality, plus they had me at record player.
Ok, so there you have it. The breweries we visited, while not, of course, all inclusive of Nashville, are pretty representative of East Nashville. I think the take-away here is community involvement and finding a special niche, two things our local breweries already do a good job of.
But we could always use a little push. Nashville does a good job of tapping into its local art scene, something we could do more of. I’m talking about teaming up, special programming, moving the hub where the beer flows to the next level.
And while board games make for a fun time, sometimes it’s that other activity, like watching a movie, playing trivia, or hearing live music that makes a night of beer drinking all the more entertaining.
Also, if anyone wants help buying a record player … let me know.
In the meantime, Rock City will undoubtedly continue to support its growing scene