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Keen Competition for Taps Isn't Slowing Nashville's Craft Beer Explosion

On a hot summer afternoon in the back beer garden of the original M.L.Rose, decision makers from both the Eighth Avenue and Charlotte locations are drinking a lot of beers, an ounce or so at a time.

It’s their quarterly “beer council,” and Tom Perry — the chief operating officer of A.Ray Hospitality, which owns M.L. Rose, Melrose Billiards and The Sutler — is running through a half-inch binder of marketing materials from various craft brewers, all of whom are pitching to get onto one of the 30-plus taps at each location. Perry pours another beer for the dozen or so assembled tasters, who are rating everything on a spreadsheet. What they’re looking for is a consensus “yes” from the group, something difficult from such a wide range of palates. At the end of it all, there are only a few new brands that make the cut.

“We look at this through a number of lenses,” says Austin Ray, the hospitality group’s owner. “We look at local first. We look at popularity and sales. And we look at taste.”

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