Each December, craft beer enthusiasts gather in Sevier park for Nashville’s best beer festival, the 12th South Winter Warmer. There are countless beer centric events throughout the year, but this one ranks at the very top for several reasons: the beer (duh), the people, and the event organization.
The beer is nothing short of spectacular. Beer preferences are subjective of course, but if your thing is robust stouts, barleywines, porters, special winter brews, and lots of unique barrel-aged choices, then this is the festival for you. Some of craft beer’s best brewers offer their finest beers during the Winter Warmer. This year one of my favorites was from local brewer Blackstone. Their barrel aged Black Belle with Coconut was a thick, brown-sugary, coconut concoction with hints of bourbon and oak. It was outstanding. I think I went back for three servings.
Given that the event takes place outdoors in early December, this is exactly the kind of beer that will hold up to a chilly Saturday drinking in the park. That being said, this year was unseasonably warm until the sun went down. Once the temperature dropped though, it was time to huddle around bon fires together, and congregate under the big-top tent where we sipped, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company.
The craft beer community is relatively small but passionate in Nashville, so going to a festival like this is really like hanging out with a bunch of your friends. I always manage to run into old friends here, and meet a few new people along the way. Even people who are complete strangers are welcoming and fun to be around. High gravity beer seems to be the perfect elixir for making fast friends. There is more to creating a cheery atmosphere than simply having good beer flowing though. Part of the reason an event like this one is so much fun is because the festival is run so well.
I can’t stress enough how well The 12th South Winter Warmer is organized. The event is produced by Rhizome Productions, and they limit the number of tickets to 1000. This ensures that it isn’t too crowded, and once the gates open, people get in quickly and generally have plenty of room to move around, even under the tasting tents. The other nice thing about having a smaller event is that the lines to sample beer and grab food are either small or non-existent for everything except the highly sought after rare beers.
Speaking of food, with all that good beer, you need some solid food options. The organizers have always made sure that there is an assortment of Nashville’s best food trucks. This year I ate at Funk Seoul Truck, and chowed down on a rich noodle dish called Tonkatsu Ramyeon with chasu pork belly, white kimchi, shiitake, and egg. A perfect base for an afternoon of drinking outdoors in December.
Years ago, when the first Winter Warmer was announced, I was skeptical that the weather would be too cold in December. Nashville, however, has fairly mild winters, and the timing actually makes for a very pleasant experience. Most beer festivals take place in the warmer months in Nashville. Drinking outside in the brutal summer sun and humidity while sweating buckets is not my idea of fun. Most years at the Winter Warmer all you need is a light layer to get by.
In addition to putting on well run events with top notch beer, it is worth noting that Rhizome Productions partners with a local charity for all of their events, which makes this about more than good beer with friends. This year their charity partner was Oasis Bike Workshop, which helps young people in the community with alternative transportation by teaching them how to custom build a bicycle, that they then get to keep and use to get around town.
So now you can drink your beer AND feel good about it.
Tips to Make the Most of Your Winter Warmer Experience
- Tickets always sell out. Set a reminder to make sure you are ready to buy them right when they go on sale.
- Plan to get a ride to and from the festival as there is no parking nearby. Plus, with all that beer you don’t want to be driving anyway.
- Bring a fold up chair. Some people like to stake out a little area in the grass outside the tasting tents. That way you always have a place to sit if you don’t want to stand all day.
- The list of brewers attending the festival comes out in advance. If there is something special with a limited quantity that you want to try, plan to go there first.
- Eat! Drinking high gravity beers all day means you need food in your stomach.
- Check the weather. I’ve only had to wear a jacket maybe once or twice. The temperature under the big tasting tents is always higher with all the people inside.
- The event takes place in early December at Sevier Park in Nashville’s 12th South Neighborhood. More details here.