by Don Else

By that, I’m referring to New Heights Brewing Company. As one of the newer breweries in Nashville, they brought a west coast style of brewing to Tennessee.

Founders and owners Jeff and Tracey Fountain are from Alabama, but lived in San Diego for a while before returning to their Southern roots and setting up shop (brewery, to be exact) in Nashville. Jeff worked in the mortgage/finance industry, while Tracey worked in technology products and services-based project management. Then Jeff got a home brew kit. Within six months he was volunteering at breweries. That was seven years ago.

But at first batch, he was committed to making that his career. Almost all craft beer stories start with a home brew kit, but they usually lead to competitions and buddies saying “you should go pro,” and all that.  Not many craft brewery stories start with the first batch, but that was the commitment, immediately.

Enter Dustin and Katy DeWinter, neighbors of the Fountains. Dustin, a Marine Corp. veteran, is now assistant head brewer and sales manager and he is passionate about creating mouth watering meals, as well as craft cocktails. He contributes these talents to many of the specialty beers at New Heights. Katy, the taproom manager, is a Certified Specialist of Wine and level 2 Sommelier.

The Fountains and DeWinters in the brewery.

 

Jeff’s passion to start a brewery, a dream also dating back about seven years, was infectious. Dustin and Katy were in. Plans started to solidify, and, not too much later, the families made the journey home to the not quite yet “it” city of Nashville (though that silly title followed fairly soon after.)

A couple income streams were set up (Dustin became the ace bartender at Merchants downtown), and Jeff took on the site search, which took every bit of nine months. In that time period, Jeff explored pretty much every commercial property available in the Nashville area. Interestingly, that included the current location of east Nashville brewery Smith and Lentz, whose original location burned just as they started their build out.

But that segues to another point, Smith and Lentz would have been the fifth brewery in the Nashville Brewery District©, the position that New Heights holds now with their location at 928 5th Ave S.  The Brewery District is a SoBro/Gulch area of five breweries, including New Heights (the newest member), Yazoo, Jackalope, Tennessee Brew Works and Czann’s. This is a great walk-able, self-guided craft beer tour just south of downtown.  Take the walk.

Once this site was found, it was time to start planning the brewery. They looked at everything from a three- to a thirty-barrel brew house, and ultimately settled on a “big” fifteen from Premier Stainless. The thirty barrel fermenters generally mean a brew day is going to be a double batch.

The first batch brewed wasn’t so much a double, but it did take two days. This was April 1 and 2 of 2016, making them officially just over a year old. This was a collaboration of sorts with Crema Coffee — the Coffee Crema IPA. I remember tasting that in the brewery, and it was fantastic.

And then the taproom. The site was chosen in large part because the brewhouse area was clearly defined, as was the taproom area, just a few steps up from the brewery.  I was personally amazed at how quickly the taproom was finished. Sidle up to the bar and enjoy the view of the brewery floor through the window wall. The first taproom beer was poured November 19th of last year.

New Heights IPA and Nothing Fancy Cream Ale are taproom staples.

They are now canning their IPA from the very early days of homebrewing, and the beer made for Dustin and Katy’s wedding, as well as their (anything but) Nothing Fancy. They recently started canning their immense and appropriately named Navel Gazer (think about it, a 9.25% 85 IBU Imperial Stout). My personal favorite, THE Double (IPA) will also soon be available in cans.

More importantly, get out to the taproom for some fresh pints. Maybe look for JJ Russell playing at their Wednesday music night (check the calendar). They also do a monthly free comedy night, and started doing trivia nights, which Katy and I won (OK, with a couple others sitting at the bar) the first time I played. Currently open every day but Tuesday, this is a must see taproom — spacious, laid back, friendly.

Jeff and Dustin celebrate winning 1st place for People’s Choice at the Predators Beer Festival

 

On October 11th, the Nashville Scene announced that New Heights took the title of Best New Brewery in the Writer’s Choice category. Their beer is making an impact in the craft community and the city as a whole, and impressing the Scene writers is, well… impressive.

And don’t forget about New Heights winning Fan Favorite at the Predators Beer Fest.  This is an amazing honor for them and will allow them to sell their beer at Bridgestone Arena during Predators hockey games, now the hottest ticket in town.

Until then, see ya at the taproom.