My Picks- 10 Local Nashville Brews-

People often ask me, "What is your favorite local beer?" To be honest, I don't have a particular favorite beer on a local or worldwide level. With so many styles to choose from, my palate changes with my mood. I decided to make a list of my 10 preferred Nashville beers. The criteria was that the beers had to be locally made, and offered at least once a year. I did not include special releases because that would serve no purpose if they are not available. Here it goes!

Yazoo Hefeweizen
- Brewer Linus Hall has a nicely balanced brew here, with a light refreshing body that is not watery. This won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2004. I love it fresh on tap, but you can find also this on most grocery and beer stores in bottles. Ideally a summer beer, but I can drink it anytime.

Blackstone Irish Red Ale (seasonal)- Did someone say Killian's? Yawn. I normally don't get excited about this style, but when I first tried this beer, expletives were uttered from my mouth. This is probably one of the best Irish Red Ales that I have ever had. This has a good malt profile with the perfect amount of sweetness and hop balance. Available at Blackstone and Flying Saucer.

Boscos Hopgod (seasonal)- I believe this is a recipe derived from the winner of a homebrew competition. Nashville does not have many local offerings for "hop heads" like myself. When I hear about this beer coming on line, I get excited like a child on Christmas Eve. Bitter to the very end, just the way I like it! Available only at Boscos.

Blackstone St. Charles Porter- I have read many beer snob criticisms that this lacks robustness and bitterness. If they would do their homework, they would see that this is not modeled after a modern American porter. This is a BROWN PORTER, which has is closer the authentic British roots of the style. This is a stellar beer that pairs well with many foods. Another local GABF medal winner and one of my favorite porters in the US. Available at Blackstone and Flying Saucer.

Yazoo Amarillo Pale Ale- This is a subtle but interesting twist on the style. The malt profile is lighter and less caramelly- when compared to the typical Pale Ale. The use of the Amarillo hop gives it a nice tangerine-esque accent to compliment the pale malt backbone. There are several nice nuances in this beer that many of the "beer snobs" fail to pick up. The key is to find a fresh sample, because this beer loses it's mojo once the hop flavor fades. Yazoo does date their bottles (thank you Linus!). Available on draft and in bottles at several local restaurants, Yazoo Tap Room, and most grocery stores.

Boscos Oatmeal Stout (seasonal)- Full bodied with a creamy texture, this should please most stout lovers. This has nicely balanced flavors of roasted nuts, coffee, and dark bakers chocolate. Available at Boscos.

Blackstone Red Springs Ale- There are a lot of mediocre ambers out in the beer world, but this one is exciting. The beer has a British caramel and toffee malt backbone, but is kicked up a notch with some Americanized hop bitterness. This beer is even better on cask. Available at Blackstone and Flying Saucer.

Yazoo Sly Rye Porter (seasonal) - This is one of my favorite Yazoo offerings, but sadly this one is not bottled. This beer is a perfect marriage because I like rye beers and I like porters. This has a nice body and texture, with well blended flavors of dark chocolate, rye, and roasted grains. This may be the only rye porter that I have tasted, because most rye beers are ambers, pale ales, or IPAs. If you see this on tap anywhere, I highly recommend you get yourself a pint. Available at Flying Saucer and Yazoo Tap Room.

Boscos Ray's Honey Rye (seasonal)- This is another Boscos beer that I go out of my way to drink when it's available. This one won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival. This pale golden ale has a nice touch of bittersweet and spiciness from the rye, with a clean and dry finish from the honey. Available at Boscos.

Boscos Bombay IPA- I love hops, and the more the better. Brewer Fred Scheer likes his beers to be balanced, and he adheres to his philosophy with this beer. Even at 50 IBUs,
this seems very close to an American Pale Ale. Either way, this is a very solid brew that should please anyone wanting a bit more hop kick to their beer without getting overly bitter. Let this one warm up a bit before you drink it, as Boscos usually serves this too cold. Available at Boscos

What's New In Nashville Bottle Shops- Spring 2008

I travel quite often for my consulting job. The up side is that I get to visit many brewpubs and bottle shops, plus I bring home many great beers not available to Nashville. The down side is that I am away from my family. Local retail beer selection is important to me because I can sample new beers in the comfort of my own home. 2008 has brought some exciting new brands to the Music City and I will post reviews of the ones I try.

Kasteel Rouge (Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck, Ingelmunster, Belgium)
Description: Belgian Ale with cherries and cherry juice added. ABV 8%
Smitty's Review: Pours deep reddish brown with a pale pink head. Strong and pleasant aroma of cherries. The malt provides a full bodied and slightly sticky texture, as the cherries dominate the palate. There is a large amount of residual sweetness and a minimal amount of acidity on the finish, with alcohol well hidden. Since this is not tart like a true Belgian Kriek, this would be an ideal crossover beer for people wanting to venture into Belgian Lambics
Recommended Food Pairing: Works as a stand alone dessert beer, or paired with similar fruit flavored desserts like pie, pudding, ice cream, or cheesecake.
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits (Liquor store side), Frugal McDugal, Flying Saucer

Kasteel Trippel Blonde (Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck, Ingelmunster, Belgium)
Description: Abbey Trippel. ABV 11%
Recommended Food Pairing: After dinner sipper or with sweet soft white cheeses
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits (Wine Side), Frugal McDugal, Flying Saucer

Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw/Blue
(Brouwerij Het Anker, Mechelen , Belgium)
Description: Belgian Strong Ale. ABV 11%. "Every year on the 24th of February, the birthday of "Charles the fifth", the Brewery brews the Gouden Carolus "Cuvee of the Emperor" in a limited quantity and with an eye on the highest quality and tradition. This unique brewing, with only extra fine Belgian hops and with a higher alcohol level, guarantees a better evolution in the time, than the already known Gouden Carolus. This beer, as all our beers, is 100 % natural, with no preservatives, no adjuncts and no chemicals. We bottle it in bottles of 75 cl and closed with a quality cork. Excellent to store several years. Every year the public is invited to assist to the brewing process. "
Smitty's Review- Coming Soon!
Recommended Food Pairing: Sweet soft white cheeses, Pork, Steak
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits (Liquor store side), Frugal McDugal

Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
(St. Louis Brewery, St. Louis , MO)
Description: Imperial Stout. ABV 10.5%. "Around the time of the Louisiana purchase, beer was shipped in barrels. if one had been lucky enough to receive a used Bourbon barrel of Imperial Stout, this is what his/her happy taste buds would have encountered: roasty, rich, malty imperial stout with a strong dose of caramel, oak, and Bourbon character. "
Recommended Food Pairing: Smoked Meats, chocolate mousse, pudding and cake.
Other good offerings from Schlafly: From the liquor store side- Pumpkin Ale (seasonal), Irish Style Extra Stout, and Oak Aged Barleywine. From the beer store side- Kaldis Coffee Stout and Dry Hopped APA
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits (Liquor store side)

Avery Mephistopheles Stout (Avery Brewing Company, Boulder , CO)
Description: Imperial Stout. ABV 16%. "Mephistopheles is the crafty shape shifter, the second fallen angel. Amazingly complex, coal black, velvety and liqueurish, this demon has a bouquet of vine-ripened grapes, anise and chocolate covered cherries with flavors of rum-soaked caramelized dark fruits and a double espresso finish. Mephistopheles is the final installment of "The Demons of Ale" series.
Smitty's Review (Batch 1)
:Pours a viscous oil brown-black with a thin chocolate brown head. Nice complex aroma of molasses, soy sauce, sherry, and vanilla. Rich, oily and full bodied mouthfeel. Flavor has notes of dark syrup, licorice, raisens, plums, and blackstrap molasses. Grainy texture on the finish which has a pleasant alcohol bite along with some smoke and brown sugar, with some molasses lingering on the palate. Minimal hop bitterness detected on my sample. At 16% ABV, this is not a beer for the inexperienced beer drinker.
Recommended Food Pairing: After dinner sipper, smoked Meats, chocolate mousse, pudding and cake.
Other good offerings from Avery: From the liquor store side- Hog Heaven, Collaboration not Litigation. From the beer store side- IPA and White Rascal
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits and Frugal McDugal (Liquor store side)

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12, 16, and 30 Year Old (Harviestoun, Alva, Central, Scotland)
Description: Old Ale. ABV 8%. "Ola Dubh (or ‘Black Oil’) is a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park, Distiller of the Year*. It is based on Harviestoun’s award-winning Old Engine Oil. With more than a stylistic nod to the classic Imperial Porters (and Stouts) of the nineteenth century, this deliciously rich, dark, 8% a.b.v. beer is the first ale to be aged in malt whisky casks from a named distillery and, with traceable casks and numbered bottles, the rest with genuine provenance. Ola Dubh will initially be available in three different expressions; the initial release will be of small batches aged in casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 12 Year Old, Highland Park 16 Year Old and Highland Park 30 Year Old. Further variants are planned for the future. Ola Dubh is, in the words of beer afficionado Owen D.L. Barstow: “The most interesting new British beer I have tried in years.”"
Smitty's Review (16 Year Old)- Sampled at 50 degrees. Pours a deep dark brown with a milky brown head. Strong amounts of chocolate and dark roast in the nose. Full bodied, but with soft carbonation and smooth oily texture. This goes through a roller coaster of flavors, starting with chocolate and subtle scotch, then moving to sweet notes of vanilla. Mid palate is dominated by smoke, peat, and ash. The dry and peppery finish has some warming alcohol followed by lingering notes of charred wood. This is definitely better as it gets closer to room temp when more of the chocolate and sweetness balance out the smoke. Very complex and well brewed, but a bit heavy on the smoke. Fans of smoked beers should like this.
Recommended Food Pairing: This begs to be paired with cured Meats and grilled foods
Where To Buy: Frugal McDugal (Liquor store side)

Ommegang Rare Vos (Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown , NY)
Description: Belgian Ale. ABV 6.5%. Rare Vos is flemmish for "Sly Fox," and the name of one of Brussels’ great cafes. It has a sweetly fruity malt character and yeasty spiciness. A fine dose of yeast permits the beer to mature and mellow in the bottle..
Smitty's Review
:Aroma of belgian esters and sweet wheat malt. Flavor profile has a subtle complexity. I picked up flavors of honey, pale malts, yeast, exotic fruits, cinnamon, and caramel.. Without looking up the style, I thought this was a Biere de Garde. The bitterness is well done, with a slight lean to the aggressive side. There is a perfect amount of residual sweetness to balance things out. Finish is semi dry and yeasty.
Recommended Food Pairing: Lamb, cheese, pork.
Other good offerings from Ommegag: From the liquor store side- Three Philosophers
Where To Buy: Midtown Wine and Spirits and Frugal McDugal (Liquor store side)

Panil Barriqee (Panil Birra Artigianale, Torrechiara-Parma, Italy)
Description: Sour Ale. ABV 8%. "This masterpiece is ‘triple-fermented.’ Primary fermentation is in stainless steel. The deep earthy, sour character results from three months of maturation in cognac barrels from Bordeaux, followed by re-fermentation and further aging in the bottle. Barriquée is not pasteurized or filtered, and no sweeteners are added, so it is uncompromisingly dry and complex, and endlessly interesting."
Smitty's Review
: Pours a muddy amber red with a limp beige head. Aroma of tart cherries, malt, vinegar, and wild yeast. Medium bodied with soft carbonation, with a thin but not watery texture. Earthy malt backbone of dark wheat and figs, countered by a subtle cherry sourness and dry woodiness. For a wild beer, this well balanced. I really appreciate that it was not overly sour (like New Belgium La Folie) or too acidic (Rodenback Grand Cru).
Recommended Food Pairing: Chocolate, Mussels, Antipasto (with cured meats)
Where To Buy: Frugal McDugal (Liquor store side)

In addition to the beers mentioned above, a few other breweries are now available at the under 6% stores. Look for offerings from Appalachian Brewing Company (PA) and Fort Collins Brewing Company (CO), Boulevard Brewing Company (MO), and Boulder Beer Company (CO).

Any other new beers in Nashville I should know about? Are there other places that carry these beers? Questions about other local or national craft beers? Please feel free to email me at


Cheap Beer in Fine Restaurants. What A Shame!

How many times have you gone into an upscale restaurant and they proudly hand you a wine list. When you ask about beer, the typical response is "we have Miller Lite, Bud Light, Heineken, and Michelob Ultra." I am sad to say that this happens here in Nashville. As an aficionado of craft beer, I find this frustrating and offensive. I refer to these beers as industrial pale lagers, or what we beer geeks commonly refer to as "swill." Why do these restaurants only provide the swill to their customers? It probably varies from place to place, but my guess is that it is plain ignorance or that they just don't care.

I believe that these restaurants need to eliminate industrial pale lagers from the menu if they are going to pride themselves on quality food and fine wines. The only exception I could see is if they have a fair amount of stand alone bar business. No Bud or Miller products? Isn't that a little extreme? I don't think so. Would it be acceptable if these same restaurants replaced the artisan breads and rolls with Wonder bread? Another beer blogger told me that he summons the manager, and then tries to order a box of Franzia or a half gallon jug of Gallo. When he is unapologetically told that they only carry fine wines, he simply asks why they only carry industrial beers. I like how he thinks and it brings up the question- why can't the same standard be applied to the beer selection? To all you guilty restaurant owners and managers, I have yet to hear a good answer. My wine drinking wife gets to browse through pages of carefully selected wines, and I am left with a beer selection that is available in 16 ounce cans at my local gas station (complete with brown paper bag).

I hope I am not coming across as a beer snob, because that is not my intent. I do not have any animosity toward the macro brewing industry or the people that consume those products. The brewing science involved with the production is fascinating, and the beer is consistent (which is hard to do with brewing). Brewing technology aside, the sad fact is that the quality of these beers is poor. They are full of cheap adjuncts, void of any hop flavor, and have a prickly carbonated mouth feel. I understand that most people like these beers, but they are widely available and produced for the masses, just like a McDonald's hamburger. Therefore I stand by my belief that they do not belong in fine restaurants. Cheap beer paired with pricey gourmet food and upscale ambiance makes absolutely no sense.

Us craft beer drinkers need to take an active role in requesting that better beers be provided at restaurants. Educate to the managers, bartenders, and sommeliers and give them some recommendations. Craft beer sales grew 17% in 2007 and these places need to take notice to our growing audience. I will not hold my breath for any immediate change, but I will hold my wallet, with the exception of the few restaurants that understand the importance of serving quality beer. Margot Cafe and Bar, Radius 10, and Boundry are excellent establishments with good beer on the menu. Radius 10 and Boundry even have their beer menus online. Please send me an email if I missed any other places that deserve mentioning. Are you a restaurant manager or chef that needs some recommendations for a craft beer list? DO you need help training your servers on craft beer? I can help. Send an email to

Margot Cafe and Bar
1017 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 227-4668

Radius 10
103 mcgavock (in the gulch)

Boundry Restaurant
911 20th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 321-3043