John Holl's picture

A Beer Oasis in a Strip Mall

And there it was. Buried among a group of strip malls in suburban Nashville, the white friendly letters caught my eye: Brewery.
Cool Springs Brewery in Nashville

Upon closer inspection, the establishment revealed itself to be the Cool Springs Brewery, and the red neon “Open” sign in the front window was lit. On New Year’s Eve some 1,000 miles from my home, Father Time had given me one last brewery visit for 2009.

Inside I met Chris Hartland, who along with his wife, Jane, opened the brewery in September and poured the first pints a month later. They emigrated from the United Kingdom in 2008 wanting to be closer to family and hoping to open a restaurant.

They found just the spot in Franklin, Tenn., at a pizzeria known as Guidos. The owner was looking to sell and Hartland was ready to move in.

As the brewery was preparing to change ownership, the local newspaper profiled Chris and Jane Hartland and that’s how brewer Mike Kraft (pictured below) got involved. He immediately drove to the brewery after reading the article and handed in his resume. A veteran brewer, he worked for a number of breweries in Texas, including a spell as corporate brewer for the Two Rows Restaurant and Brew Pub chain.

Kraft too had returned to Nashville to be close to family and was soon hired as Cool Springs brewer.  Currently he has five beers on tap: Franklin’s First, a Kolsch, BushWacker, an American-style unfiltered wheat, Fatback amber ale, Pecker Wrecker pale ale and a Porter.

A Scotch Ale was tapped on New Year’s Day.  

“It’s open to interpretation,” said Kraft after I asked him about the name behind BushWacker. He wouldn’t comment on political leanings or a fondness for Australian brush. He also pointed out that there were mercenaries during the Civil War that went under the same name.

Regardless, Kraft has created – in a very short time – a group of well-crafted brews that elevate Middle Tennessee’s beer scene to a new, and better level.

The pub itself – a two story spot done in wrought iron and bold colors – manages to have a warm cozy feel, not unlike a British pub. There are only three televisions in the place and they thankfully do not dominate the room. Headland told me that despite being in a strip mall, he’s already getting regulars in the place, who are getting to know each other, sharing stories over pints, again, not unlike the pubs found in the United Kingdom.

“That is how we are going to be successful,” said Hartland. “Being a place where we know our customers and they know us.”

The menu has remained Italian with pizza, pasta and the like.

In addition to their house beers, Cool Springs also offers taps from Stella Artois, Miller Lite, Blue Moon and a pale ale made by Yazoo, a Nashville brewery. But, Kraft said, most are sticking with the homemade suds.

“I expected people to go for the kolsch or the ale,” said Kraft. “However, they are going for the darker beers, the hoppy beer. That’s been a great surprise.”

If that keeps up, perhaps this oasis among chain stores in a strip mall will grow and introduce even the hardened Bud drinkers – the bottle of choice in these parts – to a whole new beer experience.