Stanley's Keg: A day at the Preds Craft Beer Fest

The Nashville Predators hosted their fourth annual craft beer festival Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena, and beer enthusiasts rejoiced.

For those of us who don’t play golf, beer festivals are about as magical as the off-season is going to get between the draft and the up-coming World Cup of Hockey. Over 60 breweries brought out their best brews in support of the Predators Foundation. That’s right folks, day drinking for a cause. I’m a bit biased when I say this is one of the best beer festivals in Nashville. I love the Predators Foundation and all the great things they do for the community, but outside of that, it takes place in the cool confines of the arena, away from the sweltering heat. Deeming it the coolest beer festival in town wasn’t just a subtle brag on the Preds part. Personally I don’t venture out to many other festivals of this type, because the heat and too many overzealous beer fans can be a bit overwhelming... and I typically don’t like to leave joyous occasions feeling and looking like Frodo stumbling out of the eye of Mordor.

I learned my lesson last year that just because there are a lot of great breweries with a lot of great beers, does not mean you should try, or even attempt to try all of them. You’re only armed with a five-ounce tasting glass, but you’d be surprised at the damage that tiny glass can inflict. Dump buckets and trash cans will become your best friends, friends who won’t judge you for pouring out another four and a half ounces of beer you don’t like. Second lesson learned – wear closed-toe shoes. By the end of the night you can paddle your way down the halls of Bridgestone.

Our Uber driver wasn’t comfortable doing a notch over 55 mph down 65, so we were a bit late. Instead of jumping behind everyone else at the start of the loop, we started in the center with local and southern breweries. In hindsight this was a terrible idea. If you’re not familiar with the local breweries –they’re killin’ it. We wanted to start with the locals as a warm-up since we had a grasp of what we already liked. What was supposed to just be warmies turned into the first and second period.

We did a quick swing through Black Abbey per my request. All of their beer logos look like Black Sabbath album covers, with names to match. After that it was over to New Heights, they’re new to the Nashville brewing scene and their Coffee IPA did not disappoint. Keeping with the coffee theme, Franklin favorite Mantra has a Chai Latte Stout that will almost make you forget you’re drinking beer at all.

The real fun started by the time we reached Mill Creek, their owner was manning the booth in a sport coat that could rival James Neal’s playoff attire. They’re getting ready to open their tap room in Nolensville, and with brews like Lil’ Darlin’, they’ll be a local favorite for years to come. Yazoo was a bit busy so we skipped over them and sampled everything at YeeHaw, Dunkle being my personal favorite. By this point, we were probably 15 samples in when I spotted something I never knew I wanted to see – a life size keg replica of the Stanley Cup. Stanley’s Keg or Keg-O-Stanley if you will, was silly and a spectacle, but it was the hockey related fun our lives had been void of since the playoffs. Hats off to Tennessee Breworks for the masterpiece.

We ruined all beer tasting experiences for the day by stopping by Jackalope. I’m a big fan of their Bearwalker, this was my go-to beer during the playoffs and it’s on tap at Tavern ’96 – win! I didn’t think this beer could get more magical…and then they aged it in 1792 Bourbon barrels. Swoon. If I was the commissioner of the beer festival I would have awarded Stanley’s Keg to Jackalope, which they would have humbly hoisted in their brewery inspired hockey jerseys.

Before we even reached the end we were exhausted, everything was starting to taste the same, and our feet were sticking to the floor. Somewhere between taking photos with Gnash and searching for snacks, we ducked into the actual arena.

Note – I’m not one for rule breaking, and the curtains to the arena were drawn, meaning they really didn’t want a bunch of happy beer enthusiasts roaming around unsupervised. We wanted to see if they were done installing the rest of the new seats. My friend is a season ticket holder, and actually made a donation to the Predators Foundation to acquire his old seats after they took them out of the arena, and wanted to see if his new seats had been installed yet. Unlike the year before, the arena wasn’t empty. Slipknot kicks off their tour at Bridgestone on Tuesday night, and one of their roadies wanted no part of our arena seat discussion. To be fair he was nice about throwing us back into the beer soaked hallway. Well, as nice as anyone can be after spending countless hours constructing staging and lighting equipment, with the pending thought of the hours it’s going to take to deconstruct to accommodate Justin Bieber on Monday night. I should have taken the poor guy a sample.

I missed a lot of great beers, but I tasted a lot of great beers as well. Being able to function on Sunday and not having to wear sunglasses to watch Game of Thrones in the dark, made what I missed well worth it. If you missed the festival this year, I’m sure it will be back and even better next year. Hopefully there will be more Stanley Cup keg replicas and we’ll be discussing or imitating the Predators drinking from the real Stanley Cup.