Located in the heart of Nashville’s 12 South neighborhood near Belmont and Vanderbilt universities, 12 South Taproom is a neighborhood beer bar and restaurant par excellence. The Taproom opened in 2006 and I started drinking there sometime in 2007, and have been visiting several times a year since. In the first few years they were open I went even more, as during those years they had live music every night. Some of Nashville’s finest musicians – session players or sidemen of big-name artists – often were there, either showcasing their side projects on the stage or sitting at the bar listening along with the rest of the crowd. After a number of years 12 South Taproom phased out the music, installing flat screen televisions over the bar and thus attracting the sports bar crowd more than those interested in the esoteric music scene. I miss the music, but I guess it was a sound business decision – the place has been absolutely packed every time I’ve been there for the last couple years.
The beer list hasn’t suffered at all. We visited at Happy Hour on Friday (4-7, $1 off draft beer). We got there around 4:30 and were able to get a table inside near the window – it was full and people were standing around waiting for tables by 5:30. 12 South Taproom has a great patio too which is far enough back from the street that the noise and fumes from traffic are not oppressive, but I had already gotten enough sun that day.
Flat 12 Bierwerks, Indianapolis, IN: Saison Du Flát 8 ABV (8)
Blackstone Brewing, Nashville: St. Charles Porter 5.8 ABV (8*)
Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY: Fleur de Houblon 7.1 ABV (7)
Blackstone Brewing, Nashville: Hopjack 5.6 ABV (7)
Straight to Ale, Huntsville, AL: Gorillanaut Imperial IPA 9 ABV (8)
Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI: Rübæus 5.7 ABV (8)
(phirx ratings) are on a scale of 1-10.
12 South Taproom does not offer sample sizes – their draft beer is either served in pints or 9 oz. pours for high gravity beers. The Saison Du Flát is a tequila-infused saison, and was remarkably balanced – the tequila was quite distinct without overpowering the mellow summery flavors of the ale. Blackstone delivered the St. Charles Porter* in a cask to the taproom, who served it on nitro; it was incredibly smooth with a floral hop aroma – the brewery must have dry-hopped the cask as this beer usually hasn’t much hop nose. The Fleur de Houblon from Ommegang was mislabeled on the menu as a saison (it’s a Belgian style pale ale) but no matter, it is bright and delicious, and hides its high ABV well. Blackstone’s Hop Jack is a medium-bitter IPA (why is it labelled a pale lager in Untappd?) – easy to drink and refreshing, although it has little hop presence beyond the bitterness. Straight to Ale’s Gorillanaut is a fabulous IPA – intensely bitter with a strong hop aroma and heat from the 9% ABV – compelling. I finished my happy hour tour with Founders’ Rübæus – a delicious raspberry beer. It tasted a lot like Lindeman’s Raspberry Lambic from Belgium, without the sour tang of the lambic.
The Taproom has a broad menu for a beer bar, and apparently no deep-fryer! Food is fresh and crosses cuisine borders: we had ceviche from the menu and the two flatbread specials. The first was the traditional Italian prosciutto and arugula, and the second was the vegetarian pizza pictured above, with artichoke hearts and feta.
Although no longer a favorite music venue, I will continue to return to the Taproom for their superior beer list and neighborhood atmosphere.