By Bobby Bush
Our last stop in Nashville before turning westward was at Blackstone Restaurant &
Brewery. A rushed Friday 11:00 lunch crowd was pushing through the doors, hungry and
thirsty. We found our requisite spot at the bar and promptly ordered a sampler tray of
head brewer Dave Miller’s barley and hop creations. A homebrewing author of note, with
five books to his name, Miller brews in a 15 barrel brewhouse situated in the window
overlooking the brewpub’s parking lot and busy West End Avenue beyond.
Brick and plaster, a library setting in one portico, the oddly-shaped bar sported a
stainless steel serving tank almost dead-center. Despite logistics, Blackstone’s brews,
including one on cask, were all quite remarkable. Four World Beer Cup and three GABF
medals, hanging on the wall by the brewery, attest to Dave’s degree of brewing success
and ingenuity. Hefeweizen, a brewmasters special, was unfiltered cloudy gold. Fruity met
estery tingle subsiding only after a spicy finish splash. A German-style kolsch, Chaser Ale
was mild with subdued hoppiness from Washington-grown German hops. In classic
British style, Nut Brown Ale was malty, oozing with burnt caramel and dark chocolate
tones. No bitter hops notes were detected though the beer was near-perfectly balanced.
Red Springs Ale, an American amber based on a UK bitter, was bright copper, medium
bodied and smooth with obvious maltiness from the start. It stopped slowly with a bitter,
dry finish. Renamed Nashville Sounds Red Ale, Red Springs is also served at the local
minor league baseball stadium, where “Baseball, Hot Dogs and Blackstone Beer” is the
slogan of note.
St. Charles Porter, a British-style Brown Porter, was in-your-face chocolate with
bittersweet mid-taste and lightly bitter aftertaste. Another brewmasters special, Maris
Otter was named for its barley base. Considered the finest of all English barleys because
its “low tannin and protein content make for a clean flavor and smooth finish,” this subtle
ale wafted a sweetish nose and an orangey malt flavor. Dry bitter finishing, Maris Otter
made for a satisfying session beer. On cask, it was smoother, warmer and somewhat sour
beneath a foamy white head.
With superb beer and a menu that’ll make your mouth water - Beer Brats, St.
Paddy’s Ruben, Cajun Pasta, Black Bean Chicken, Steak Biscuits - it was obvious to see
why Blackstone is such a popular lunch spot.
Time did not allow for a journey about one hour northwest to Clarksville,
Tennessee where Black Horse Brewery awaited. The historic downtown brewpub lost a
sister Black Horse in Knoxville several years ago. See www.blackhorsebrewery.com.
The following morning, had we not been making the 200 mile jaunt from Nashville
to Memphis in the early AM, we could have stopped just off the interstate in Jackson for a
brief visit at Barley’s Brewhouse & Eatery. The brewpub is not related to Barley’s
Lunch bells were just starting to ring as we pulled into downtown Memphis.
Originally intended to be another Big River, this Main Street address was quickly (and
expensively) converted to the first post-merger Gordon Biersch. Opened since March
2000, it meets the GB standard to a tee, save the outdoor silo. Balcony and main floor
dining, a billiard room occupies the upper front overhang while Patrick Jones’ brewhouse
comprises the rear loft.
This facility actually started brewing in May 1997 as part of the then-expanding
Breckenridge Brewing chain. After closing, it sat vacant for 18 months before being
snapped up by the Big River, nee-Gordon Biersch Chattanooga-based firm. Brewer Jones
hit the GB beers succinctly. Seasonal Hefeweizen was slightly cloudy and citrusy spicy.
Smooth and malty, Marzen was filling, in an Oktoberfest kind-of-way, while deep copper
Dunkles was medium bodied with faint caramel apple flavor. Golden Export, a clean
Helles-style lager, was a good tricycle drink. Because of Tennessee’s prohibitive alcohol
laws, this brewpub cannot brew the GB Pilsner. The corporate brewer apparently is
unwilling to compromise his traditional German recipe by lowering alcohol content below
Come along. This Memphis tour continues next issue, Memphis In the Meantime
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush