Atlanta/Nashville Brewery of the Week: Tennessee Style

What fuels the grizzled beer veteran? New discoveries. After feeling like you have your city “down” when it comes to breweries and what to expect, it’s time to take the show on the road.

On the way up to Nashville, I almost always stop at Beverage World, just over the state border from Chattanooga. It’s not a huge shop but for a while they had a giant stash of Boulevard Bombers. I sold them out of the Tart Cherry Stout (rest in peace). They still have a few of the Bourbon-Aged Quad and Whiskey-Aged Stout, but now that those are available in more economical four-packs, I can pass.

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On this trip I picked up a Burnt Hickory Killdozer, a bourbon-barrel aged barleywine. I have a stash of barleywines and will need to organize a tasting. I got a Stone 2014 Russian Stout. I’ve been moving away from “BAU” stouts since they often have an annoying licorice taste but the older ones always catch my eye. There was a Gravitation from Smuttynose (2011 version) and I have trouble passing on beers from before Obama was re-elected. Damn,should have put a trigger warning on this.

The main event was Nashville. I had specific instructions from two friends on breweries to hit. The first one is Bearded Iris, which has developed a reputation for IPAs. I like IPAs as much as my wife likes football, so the hope was to pick up some at a liquor store. I arrived at Frugal MacDougals near downtown at 9 in the morning. I don’t know why I like to buy beer so early in the day but let’s just say the lines aren’t long. The problem with going to a store in a foreign state is not knowing the local lineup so well. I dug through the local offerings and found a couple of Bearded Iris ones, flipped a coin and picked a winner. After my Backwoods Bastard obsession, I had to get a beer that isn’t local to Nashville but I can’t get in Georgia, Scotty Karate, bourbon-barrel aged Scottish Ale, for comparison. I noticed something else up front.

I don’t know if it’s a trend, but this is the second time I’ve seen a situatoin like this so why not share. A local beer store, Greens, did a collaboration with Cherry Street Brewing. I assume Greens got the bourbon barrels and Cherry Street offered their tasty Coconut Porter. This resulting beer was great, I only drank three, traded one and cellared two. Frugal McDougals had a few cases of bombers that advertised a Wee Heavy aged in bourbon barrels, in collaboration with a local brewery, Cool Springs Brewery. I had to buy one and was tempted to buy multiple.

Brewery of the Week

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I had a first in Nashville: first brewery I entered but did not have a beer. Jason Dominy is a beer maestro and asked me to stop by Southern Grist Brewery to pick up a beer called Strawberry Upside Down Cake IPA. It’s sounding so good until those last three initials. I drove to the east side of town, and this brewery was like a lot I’ve seen, kind of out of the way, in the corner of what seemed to be hipster heaven. Parking was a pain and the place was packed. They were also out of the beer in question, half of the people were taking out crowlers which are cans filled with draft beer and sealed. I didn’t see anything on the menu that I really wanted, plus I was driving alone, so I decided to get something I liked.

My style of the season is stout, so I looked up Nashville stouts and came up with the Black Belle Imperial Stout from Blackstone. I tracked down the brewery which was near Vanderbilt and the Titans stadium.

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Most breweries I’ve encountered look like abandoned warehouses and this was no different. The huge water tank, or hopefully beer tank in front left no doubt of the location. It was a small place, basically a bar up front with choices of a dozen of the brewery’s offerings, a bottling room that you could see through glass, and a backyard area that featured a painted old school bus inside which is a food truck. It was Saturday afternoon so there were maybe ten people inside.

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I wanted to sample the Belle, but I was sidetracked since they have a coconut variety on tap. I ordered a small pour of that dark glorious beer. The coconut was quite pronounced, probably moreso than in any other barrel-aged coconut stout I’ve tried recently. I picked up two bottles of the 2016 bottles (pre-aged!) plus a bottle of Stephanie’s Dubbel, a beer bottled in 2014 in honor of Stephanie Weins, who co-founded Blackstone and died of lung cancer on Valentine’s Day, 2014. The bottles helped raise money for cancer research. It’s a good cause and I can pair this with my 2014 Allagash Dubbel that’s been aging for almost four years.

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Ah, here’s the full Black Belle description from the site. Note the “farm to table” style of having a local distillery offer the bourbon barrels that’s used for this brew:

Black Belle™ is a limited special release Imperial Stout; it’s collaboration between Blackstone Brewing Company® and Nelson’s Green Brier™ Distillery, makers of Belle Meade Bourbon™. Infused with cacao nibs and aged for more than seven months in bourbon barrels, the beer is smooth and sweet, with definite notes of bourbon, oak, and dark chocolate.

I toured the grounds which took me about the time it takes to have a sip of beer. The base beers from this brewery are fine but it’s the barrel-aged stuff that’s my pajamas of a cat at the moment. I’ll have to open one of the stouts soon to give an official review.

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