Friday, October 11, 2013

Beer Scene: Nashville, Tennessee

Some may have noticed that the JABlog has been suspiciously quiet over the past week or two.  This is due to a prolonged trip for my cousin Susan's wedding in Nashville, Tennessee.  Sj and I decided to drive down from Minnesota, staying with my dad in Illinois on the way down and back up.  We also took a detour down to Alabama, of which I will post more details in a future blog entry.

I'll admit, I've never been to Nashville before, only driving hell-bent to get past it on my way to and from Georgia or Alabama.  I think that Nashville may have the worst drivers I've ever seen in my life (and I spent years in Chicago!)  Once we entered the city limits, cars and trucks started passing on the right shoulder and multiple accidents slowed our progress into the suburb of Hendersonville.  White-knuckle, brown-trouser time!  The rehearsal dinner was on the evening that we arrived, at an old plantation mansion near the hotel.  My uncle Rog's bluegrass band was playing music during the event and he did a great job picking local beers for us to happily consume!  Of course no one told us that the dress code was boots and big belt buckles!  I totally could have brought mine! Between those things and a very nice buffet including great pulled pork was a pleasant welcome to The South.

The next morning we risked life and limb by driving the half-hour downtown for breakfast at Puckett's.  There we had an amazing breakfast of sweet potato pancakes topped with fried apples and pulled pork, smothered in BBQ sauce and maple syrup.  Wow!  They also had a pretty good tap list, and I tried a respectable brown ale from Jackalope Brewing.  Unfortunately that brewery was only open weekends so I wasn't able to visit them.  From my brief foray into the city I took away some quick impressions:  This is one of the only places (other than Santa Fe) where one can wear cowboy boots and hats un-ironically.  Half of the people here are toting around battered guitar cases--likely down-on-their-luck musicians in Nashville to make it big in country music.  Fanciful Old South brick buildings lie sandwiched between shiny new skyscrapers and soulless industrial piles.

Fantastical urban artwork near Yazoo

After our infinitely filling breakfast of champions, I dragged my wife and my cousin Brian to Yazoo Brewing Company.  The place is in a bit of a shady neighborhood, so I'm not sure I'd head out there after dark...  The brewery was started in 2003 by Linus Hall (who was there to greet us upon our arrival) and was actually celebrating their 10th anniversary on the day we visited!  They were gearing up for a fairly large event that afternoon, but not much was going on when we arrived.  We got our hands stamped and grabbed a table in the small tasting room.  Unfortunately, due to upcoming festivities they were not doing samplers so I only got to try a few of the beers that we passed around.  My Sly Fox Porter and Sj's Stout were very good and perfectly balanced.  I had tried the Yazoo Pale Ale the night before and it was also very good.  The place had a nice comfortable feel to it and friendly southern volunteers working the various stations.

Local Yokels!

I was denied a tin tacker for my wall, but was able to purchase their special release wet hop beer to take home with me.  I would highly recommend trying this place out if you head to Nashville.  Strangely, via Facebook, we discovered that my friend Brett had been there the day before!  Small world anyone?  We left before the live music and food trucks arrived, but I bet it was a great party!

Fancy light effect courtesy of too-bright sun!

Since we had already spent the energy and sanity points to get downtown, I made my little group head over to Blackstone Brewpub.  They don't have much on the website, so I don't know much about the place, but I believe that homebrew author Dave Miller is involved somehow.  Located in an old brick building, it is fairly unassuming from the outside.  As we pulled up a whole busload of Japanese tourists was decamping.  Upon entering from the bright southern sun outdoors, it is shockingly dark and almost cave-like.  Brewing equipment lies to the left of the entrance, roped off.  A bar is straight ahead, with restaurant seating scattered in a few different areas from there.  This is a surprisingly large space, and even has what looks like an old library or den area past the bar.  There is a large bottle collection up high along the walls of much of the brewpub space, but located almost too high to really see details of.

As usual, I ordered the sampler and shared it with Sj and Brian.  The beers ranged from a less-than-stellar Octoberfest to a pretty well balanced IPA and a smooth porter.  We managed to share the crispy and fresh-made soft pretzels so soak up some of the beer, but were all still bloated from our enormous breakfast.  Overall the place reminded me of one of those late 80's or early 90's brewpubs that mostly went out of business back in the day.  It was worth the visit, but Yazoo has them beat in my book.  Still, I'm happy that there are options for beer-travelers like myself!

Nice day for a...Red Wedding!

Later that evening we had a great time at Susan and Alan's wedding.  The ceremony was at an upscale country club right on the shore of a small lake.  Herons fished along the bank and we could hear the soft drone of water skiing farther along the lake.  During the ceremony the band started to play the theme from Game of Thrones, causing Sj and I to look closely at our group to assess the presence of chain mail or crossbows.  Nope, all safe, no Red Wedding that day!  Later we sipped mint juleps on the lawn and watched the younger children roll down hills, getting their dress clothes grass-stained and dirty.  Ah to be a child again.  It was great to spend time with nearly my entire family on my mom's side.  Congrats Susan and Alan!  Thanks for giving me an excuse to make this trek!

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