When we arrived in Nashville area: 1978, all that was left of Gerst Brewing was one of the old original buildings. Inside what they laughingly called a German Restaurant: not very good at all. Good German beer hall atmosphere and OK beer. They knocked it down for Titan’s stadium and what was left of Gerst management decided to build a newer, smaller, building. Food was no better. They closed and became a home for homeless and their tents. An ongoing Nashville situation once kicked out of lowere Broadway. Then even that new building someone should have put a brewery in was no more.
Except maybe one competition per year, a final wave goodbye to Nashville and the beer business.
Millie and I moved to Joelton, Tennessee in 1978. At first they had a few more interesting brews compared to Upstate NYS, but not many. The craft brew biz hadn’t hit yet, except mostly out west; like the origin of all sacred craft beer holy: Acme. Sierra’s divine incarnation was just around the corner. Before that the boom wasn’t even a fizzle, except homebrewers.
I started in 79 when Jimmy made it legal. If you were homebrewing before that it was like smoking pot, legally. The sentences weren’t as bad, and crackdowns far less frequent.
The first craft brewery I remember was Market Street. Founded by Lindsay Bohannon, they were like a whiff of freshly mashed in mash flowing down Market Street. Then, after a few years, they became more like sour, phenolic air; and not the complex Belgian kind. The founder seemed less interested, eventually sold the brewery. Then it disappeared faster than a ship in the Bermuda Triangle. Never to be seen again. Reviled by homebrewers, home brew judges and craft beer drinkers with a sensitive palate.
I seem to remember Phil Kane from Memphis during a competition wearing and ass on his ass. (It was a Halloween competition, he was in costume.) Seems to me a few negative comments from him, Phil Snyder and Tom Vista were aimed at their defective quaffs. Maybe I said a thing or two?
Our favorite, in the early days of Market, was a Vanilla Cream Ale, if I remember right. Some sites have it as Vanilla Porter, but I don’t seem to remember that. (Maybe?) However, by that time I think we all wished we could have forgotten any of their brews. No tears when that brew-ship sank, and no Triangle mystery why. It had become quite awful. One expects some corn, but rancid corn? Green hose phenols? YACK.
The original was so popular some less than local breweries, some with their own defect problems from time to time, attempted to mimic the recipe.
Supposedly haunted??? Maybe it was the ghosts who drove it out of business. Didn’t like competing with their bad smells? I hear the ghosts hold a worst ghost fart contest every year. I know they keep chasing out businesses.
Yes, there IS a website claiming it was haunted.
Then came Blackstone, not long after Market started. Stephanie; co-owner, was a casual friend. Dave Miller was the brewer. Great beer, very much to style, but as Millie and I wrote for Nashville Panorama they could use some variation in style, maybe at least a one off tap, or seasonal. That so pissed off Dave he decided to lecture me about how ALL such articles should be puff pieces. Right.
I thinkNashville Panorama lasted one issue. I understand why. Not just the puff piece thing. I so pissed off another brewer with my very mild criticism, when he was given the right to edit the articles (really???) “someone” poured commas all over it.
Why, it’s almost as if God, or whomever, was trying to sabotage it. Never let it be said that some people aren’t petty jerks.
Blackstone had some of the best food in Nashville. While corn is not traditional in Shepperd Pies I’ve had, all is forgiven. Wow: for Nashville excellent. (I have yet to have food served that blew ma away in Nashville. A lot of good, to mediocre’ to bad.)
Back in the brewery, when Dave’s assistant joined the brew crew: Travis Hixon, that was solved. Great off tap brews. Last I checked he was with Blackberry Farms out east TN.
We miss it, and miss Stephanie. After Stephanie passed the restaurant went away, the building bought by another restaurant, and their production facility took over for all things Blackstone. Except foood. Another dead Nashville restaurant. Seems only mediocre’ and bland survive, like over cooked meat and threes.
I think Boscos was next, if I remember right, with the talented Chuck Skypeck as the brewer. A much wiser man than me when it came to homebrew clubs. He was very helpful, but otherwise kind of kept his distance when it came to club business. The next brewer didn’t. Way too much drama followed. So, from our hearts, thanks, Chuck.
Boscos was an acoustical nightmare with hard walls that made sound ping pong ball everywhere. Made it hard to hold meetings. And all our meetings were pretty much at Boscos in the early days once we joined. Hearing was tough. Food: they never did seem to settle on a menu and refused to carry chips and salsa. Always thought they felt they were too good for chips and salsa. Not that we noticed.
The décor? Well, let’s just say there were these giant covered boob chandeliers hanging upside down from the ceiling, like metallic bras ready to Bombay door drop on patrons at any time. Intimidating. First time I saw them I asked, “Who hung Madonna upside down?”
Next up: Big River. At first we enjoyed the beer, but their water caused problems. Old pipes. The brewer was Lance. Several times we had to turn in a pint as just bad. For a while they were competing with Market for worst of Nashville, but their food was always good.
Eventually they ripped out the old pipes, from what we were told, and put in new taps. Much better.
We did find some inconsistency, old favorites changed like Red Brick. Millie loved that. For chain beer not bad.
Then they became Rock Bottom. To be honest we lost track of them because lower Broadway HAD been cleaned up from the economic hell hole, criminal infestation, it was. Then it became a tourist hell hole. Rented personal scooters not obeying laws; cutting if front of everyone. Drunk buses and wagons people tried to jump on. Drunk bachelorette parties with women carrying giant rubber penises. The went from little parking to no parking.
Anyone in the know would be an idiot to go down to lower Broadway on a real busy weekend these days, unless to play. I respect good street performers, even though I’m not a country guy. Though I worked in country music before I started touring. At night: no way in hell.
We came full circle: anyone would have been crazy in 1978, now still crazy “after all these years.” Just different reasons. Plus, when we left, there were nightly reports of murders. I kept telling Millie this was one of the many reasons we had to leave.
So, of the older breweries , what did we prefer? If you’re looking for brewed to style: Blackstone. Quirky beers? Boscos, however they were a mix of interesting, OK and an occasional yack. Experimentation does that. Travis at Blackstone did offer the best, though more traditional, odd brews.
As a teaser for new kids in town Part II: Corsair Distillery had a brewery for a while. They hired a friend, and part of Music City Brewers When Karen Lassiter moved over to Corsair: Kudos. I had always thought Karen was a great classic style brewer, but big beer and weird? No. I was wrong. Kudos. She’s retired now. Corsair? More later.
On to part II: The New Kids in Town, and the area.
Just, if you visit, avoid lower Broadway at night, and maybe during the day. I hear those big rubber penises can be deadly.
Brew Biz: Werts and All: a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing, and commenting on beer-related topics. written by Ken Carman: certified beer judge, mead judge and pending cider judge. Brew Biz: Werts and All addresses various beer/mead/cider related topics, from the brewing business to fermentation.
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