“Is this the place?” I asked my wife as we pulled up to the unassuming white building on Ewing Avenue not but a few blocks from the new Nashville Convention Center. The numbers ‘809’ have been spray painted on the front of the building in a few places and the tell tale signs of new construction abound. While the loading dock is the first thing you may notice right now, in just a few weeks the facade’s transformation will be complete and a tiered beer garden will be the predominant feature when you pull up. The concrete was gleaming white in it’s newness and the steel railing is so new the metal has oxidized a bit around the weld marks. Within a few minutes Christian Spears pulled up sporting a fresh haircut and a big grin. He’ll say that he’s pessimistically optimistic about the endeavor that he and long time friend Garr Schwartz have ventured down. I met Christian over the vast interwebs about a year ago and have been keeping tabs on their progress since. They took possession of this building just this past February, now it’s a fully functional brewery and soon it’ll be a brewery with a very impressive tasting room.
Christian let us in via a side entrance due to the construction and as the lights kicked on the sheer size of the space was somewhat surprising. While the building isn’t incredibly wide it makes up for it in length. The brew pad was immediately front and center when we walked through the door and it certainly demands your attention. The 25 barrel system is meant to be incredibly efficient and highly automated. It’s paired with a Meura Micro Mash Filter which is a very impressive device separating the grain from the wort quickly and efficiently. Five 51 barrel fermenters sit close by with more on the radar in the very near future. Christian was an awesome host and while eager to show us around he knows what speaks louder than anything else; the beer. He led us to one of two cold storage areas and pulled out a pallet with 5 kegs on it. He began with a keg that was mysteriously labeled, “Test batch #1” explaining that it was a blonde ale and the very first brewed on their system. Being the snob that I am, I usually steer clear of blonde ales if I’m going to consume calories; I’m looking for flavor. However, on the nose I thought that it smelled a little bit like a farmhouse ale and on the tongue it was a little creamy, very subtly hoppy and actually very good. For a first brew, this was one to be proud of. While this beer won’t be a mainstay selection, they do intend to keep it on in their tap room. Next, we moved along to the Southern Wit. Many years ago I had a wit that I just didn’t care for and wrote the style off completely. However, lately I’ve been much more open to trying them again. This beer was one of my top two for the day. As I sipped on this brew Christian showed us the tasting room. If the front of the building gave some tell tale signs of construction, the interior gives off full blown signs with saw dust and fresh lumber all around. The tasting room is a very unique design. First of all, it’s two levels each with its own bar. There’s dedicated cold storage for this area and while it won’t be ready initially, kitchen space has been allocated with the plans on being able to offer a few hot items with the beer. Also, as the front of the building is meant to be very open, there will be plenty of glass along the front to let plenty of sunlight in. As you come through the front door, a small stage will be on the left. As you can tell by the logo, while beer is important, being in music city, music is important too. So important that the Clair Brothers in Nashville wired the audio and helped make acoustic suggestions for the build-out so that the music would always sound top notch. Now, while there’s a small stage downstairs, the space upstairs allows for a larger stage that will overlook the brewhouse. Christian and Garr also wanted to provide a space so people could be closer to where the beer is made. That said, a seating area just next to the brew pad is part of the design.
We then moved into the next beer, my favorite of the session, the Basil Ryeman Saison. At first, I’ll admit, I was skeptical about basil in my beer but the fresh Thai basil doesn’t overpower, instead it gently dances on your palate. While all of their beer is meant to be sessionable, this one is especially so. My wife, who is not traditionally a fan of Saisons, deemed this one her favorite of the day also. We then moved into the Extra Easy Ale which is an ESB – pretty tasty. Finally, we enjoyed the Cutaway IPA, which is a very even IPA that you could easily have several of and not tire from the flavor. As we were winding down, Garr pulled up and we were able to spend a few minutes with him discussing the beer and the system. Within the first few minutes I could tell that Garr is a very careful and meticulous individual. As we were discussing what led him to the Basil Ryeman recipe I could see his excitement – the discovery, the research. He’s a talented brewer and it shows in the product.
Tennessee Brew Works has had their product in the Nashville market for two weeks now. So far the feedback has been very good and the demand is picking up quickly. While we won’t see them in Knoxville right now, Christian assures me that Knoxville is on their radar stating that the beer culture here in fabulous Knox-vegas seems very hungry for and receptive of new brews.
We had a great time with these guys and wish them the best of luck. If you’re in Nashville, the tasting room will be open soon so be sure to stop by and tell them that the snobs sent you!
Christian Spears and Garr Schwartz of Tennessee Brew Works