The South is considered a destination for many things — rich food, great music, friendly faces — but one thing we weren’t considered for a long time: a top stop for locally made craft brews. That’s changed considerably in recent years, and not just here in Nashville.
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee — all throughout our region, exceptional beer is being brewed, poured, bottled and canned. “Some of America’s very finest breweries do business beneath the Mason-Dixon line,” Thrillist said recently, and if you’re prone to exploring craft beer regularly, you likely agree.
If you don’t feel like you’ve spent enough time studying the South’s growing craft beer scene, there’s a perfect upcoming opportunity: the 12 South Winter Warmer beer festival, on Saturday, December 5 in Sevier Park.
The setting’s a great one (we just listed a gorgeous home in the 12 South area, and we’re big fans of all there is to do, eat, drink and buy in that part of town). The beer offerings are broad and, fittingly enough, focused on body-warming brews, like big stouts, porters and barley wines.
With 35 hand-selected breweries on site sharing what they’re making, the 12 South Winter Warmer didn’t specifically shoot to create a tour of the South’s craft beer scene, but you can easily make it one.
If you wanted to use your Winter Warmer ticket as an excuse to sample the South, we have some suggestions.
The bad news: It’s sold out, so if you don’t already have tickets, sorry for wagging a great event at you. The good news: You can find most of these beers around town, so even if you’re not going to the Warmer, this list makes a good roadmap for Southern craft beer exploration.
SOUTHERN CRAFT BEERS WORTH EXPLORING
They kickstarted the craft beer revolution in Nashville, and for that they’ll always be loved. A favorite for the cool weather: a beer named SUE, a smoked porter given its edge via barley malts smoked with cherrywood.
Belgian-style brews made here in Nashville, including a Potus 44 porter, infused with Kenyan and Hawaiian coffee from Nashville’s Frothy Monkey.
Creative flavors made by two brothers out in Sparta, including The Brown Recluse, with dark caramel and brown sugar tastes.
A little love from Memphis, Wiseacre offers lots of super bold and creative flavors, like their Unicornucopia saison aged in red wine, and their Holy Candy Belgian dubbel with figs.
Mantra Artisan Ales
Brand new in Franklin (their grand opening is November 13), Mantra is the brainchild of celeb chef Maneet Chauhan and Derrick Morse (late of Cool Springs Brewery). You may recognize some of their flavor-forward creations if you’ve been to Chauhan’s Nashville restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, like Saffron Cardamom IPA and Milk Chai Stout.
Blue Pants Brew
Madison, Alabama’s Blue Pants aren’t lodged in a style, just shooting for “unreasonably good” — for Winter Warmer purposes, we have to call out their Chocolate Oatmeal Porter.
Good People Brewing
According to BeerAdvocate, these Birmingham brewers make the four highest-rated beers in the South. A cold-weather offering: the chocolate-y and spiced rum-y Fatso Imperial Stout.
Since they’re in bourbon country, Louisville’s Goodwood wood-ages their beer and uses the limestone water distilleries use for whiskey. Cool, no? A nice warming winter one: Bourbon Barrel Stout, aged, of course, in a bourbon barrel.
Southern Prohibition Brewing
A relatively new name, launched in Downtown Hattiesburg in 2013, Southern Prohibition stands out as much for artful packaging as flavor. Their Lazarus Abbey Quadrupel, aged in bourbon barrels before being moved into bottles topped with gold wax, is particularly cool.
There’s lots more being poured at the 12 South Winter Warmer — including plenty of beer not from the South — but we like the idea of it being a chance to explore the flavors of the place we call home.
If you head to the fest (or to local bars/restaurants/shops) and try any/many of these, we’d love to hear your takes.
And if hanging out in the area makes you fall in love with the idea of living in 12 South, let us know — we can definitely help you find a place!