Hanging out on lower Broadway, you're more likely to tug on a High Life and scoot your boots than sip the head of a handcrafted porter. And that's really what makes Pub 5 so appealing: good vibe, good beer, great escape from the roving honky-tonk crowds. The owners of Nashville staple 12 South Taproom have done an excellent job with their second project, preserving the crumbling-brick feel of downtown's oldest building and providing an oasis in a desert of authentic options. Rooftop bar on third floor, private dining on second.
The best of what's available to drink at Pub 5, like in so many of Nashville's draft bars, hails from a nearby city. Asheville is well represented by Highland Brewing Co.'s flagship Gaelic Ale. And one tap seems dedicated solely to Alabama's best, alternating between Birmingham's Good People Pale Ale (which is bright and clean with just a crackle of hop bitterness on the finish) and a number of inspired options from Huntsville's Straight to Ale. If their Laika Russian Imperial Stout is on, look no further, you've arrived.
The Stone Fox
The Stone Fox is the logical mashup of some oddball pieces of Southern culture. Tasteful taxonomy, an artfully junky yard, a Blue Velvet-style stage. As one patron whistfully put it, "It's a little bit of East Nashville in west Nashville." If the stuffed fox glowing from a backlit porthole inset into the gable of the converted house's facade isn't proof enough, stop in on Sunday nights to hear a truly old-school house country band, and then step out back for a smoke among the found objects so indicative of Nashville life.
Calfkiller Brewing Company has a constant tap at The Stone Fox that rotates in styles. The bar never knows what beer might show up until it arrives on the day, but that's part of the whacky charm of the Sergio brothers' fad-rebuffing brewery. It's out there, playful, and popular enough that often people just ask, "What's the Calfkiller tonight? Give me that." Especially try the Scorched Hooker, a smoked pale of quaffable proportions. Another essential staple at The Stone Fox: Aurumglass, a spicy golden ale from Turtle Anarchy, whose precisely made beers continue to surprise and delight.
The Marathon Motor Works building is one of the most storied haunts in all of Nashville. It was originally the home of the eponymous, short-lived automobile manufacturer from 1911 to 1914. More recently, it was the site of Yazoo Brewing Co., the first craft brewery to capture Nashville's imagination. And currently it's the address of Corsair Artisan Distilling, who carries the mantle with a distinguished pride. The Taproom, originally built by Yazoo, is a place largely peopled by regulars who "came with the building," according to bar manager and beer sprite Evil Emily K.
No nonsense here, just finely crafted ales served, with knowledge and a smile, to the people who care. Try one of Yazoo's four permanent taps (they came with the building too), or Calfkiller's Belgian-style pale ale, Grassroots, or if you're in a darker mood, the richly imagined Portly Stout from newbie local Turtle Anarchy. Then go next door to the distillery sales room and have yourself a Corsair cocktail, on the house.
Craft Brewed Bottle Shop & Tasting Room
Combination home-brew supply store, bottle shop and taproom, Craft Brewed is a home away from home for anyone looking to immerse him- or herself in beer culture. Stop to fill a growler from one of their 21 taps, and have a pint while you wait. Or throw some darts in the back room and peep the four varieties of trellised hops growing above the patio. No doubt those are destined for a Randall.
Beer options range from local to global, with roughly half of the 21 taps dedicated to regional fare. Locally, don't miss what's on offer from Mayday Brewing. They make an Imperial Black Ale called Evil Octopus that had this writer, much to his surprise, asking for another. It's a dicey style but these guys pull it off as well as anyone. Craft Brewed is also the place to find many of Asheville's finest, like Green Man's thirst quenching E.S.B. or Craggie's throwback recipe, Antebellum. Folks on staff are all home brewers, which in addition to the knowledge level of the service, translates into some pretty amazing one-off finds, like Victory's cask-conditioned Uncle Teddy's Bitter. All in all, a great range of pure American craft.
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden
It's hard to find a better way to pass a spring evening than sitting among friends drinking lager in the sprawling, terraced beer garden at The Pharmacy. There are lots of regional options to choose from on the draft list (and the occasional micro-import), with a penchant for German-styled beers like French Broad's Gateway Kölsch and Moerline's Helles Lager. The Kôlsch is a perfect place to start—snappy and refreshing without being light on flavor. Follow it up with a staple of the menu, Blanche de Bruxelles Belgian witbier. Spicy and fruity with a frothy head, it offers complexity and drinkability in one. And that's what The Pharmacy is all about.
Village Pub & Beer Garden
Three years in, Village Pub & Beer Garden has truly hit its stride. After beginning life as a place to get "beers from around the world," it has become exclusively focused on draft beers hailing from Tennessee and its border states. Owner Jess Hamilton is a fervent supporter of the growing brewery scene, and he was the first to go fully native. Come for the neighborly atmosphere, stay for the pretzel sandwiches and 20-ounce pours of Jackalope's Casper the Friendly Gose. A German-style wheat beer with crispness of flavor supplied by the additions of salt and coriander. Half-priced drafts Monday through Friday until 7 p.m.