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Oct 01, 2014

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Blackstone

August, 2001

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 Taproom.

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 6%.

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

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