The Masters and Makers Trail
Words by Ashley Locke
Photos provided by Visit Franklin
Franklin, Tennessee (#FranklinTN) has become famous for its downtown. Many folks make a day-trip to wander through Franklin’s historic downtown core–the streets are lined with restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and more–but if you want to explore one of Franklin’s newest treasures, you may want to extend your trip another day or two. Meet the Masters and Makers Trail.
Established in 2017, the Masters and Makers Trail is connected by award winning breweries, distilleries, and a winery, all located in Williamson County. The trail is just over 70 miles of rolling hills, so no matter what order you choose to follow it, you’re taking the scenic route. The variety of spirits is a big selling point, but there’s another bonus–each stop is family and pet friendly!
The trail is an opportunity to learn the landscape like a local, taste craft spirits, and talk with the friendly faces behind each stop. By the end of the trip, you’ll be looking up Franklin real estate.
Stop 1: Mill Creek Brewing Co.
Chris Going set out to make a beer, and he ended up with a brewery. Working out of his garage, he wanted to make a beer that his family would enjoy. They loved it so much that he started Mill Creek, our first stop on the trail.
The space used to be for gymnastics, and remnants of that history remain–the floor is painted blue with white stars. The production line is in full view of the taproom, so you can sip on a pint and watch the magic happen. Stop by in the afternoon and you'll see kids playing soccer on the field right outside, a few serious games of corn hole, and of course a couple of beers.
Stop 2: Arrington Vineyards
When you think wine country you probably don’t think about Tennessee, but Arrington Vineyards will change your mind. When you enter the gates and follow the long drive through the lush greenery, you’ll feel transported.
The landscape is enough of a draw on its own, but Arrington adds to the allure with events like Music in the Vines and Food Truck Fridays. Co-founder Kix Brooks is also known to bring a few of his friends to the stage on occasion.
Then comes the wine– white, red, or sparkling, they have a bottle for every taste. Looking for something more elevated? Take part in Arrington’s Premier Experience where Master Vintner Kip Summers guides you through a wine and cheese pairing.
H Clark Distillery is not a large place, but that’s to their advantage. They make small batch whiskey, handcrafted, and you can taste the care in every sip. The distillery ended Williamson County’s 100 year dry spell, and the spirit scene in Tennessee would not exist without them. Founder Heath Clark played an instrumental role in changing the state laws that made distilling legal in Williamson County. Seven years ago, Tennessee had just three distilleries. Today there’s over 30, and H Clark was the trailblazer.
Their whiskey is distilled in the same building that local farmers stored grain in many years ago. It was a natural progression for the space, and the H Clark team is happy to share its history. Their motto is “We trust in tradition,” something you can see and taste on your visit.
Leiper’s Fork Distillery opened in 2016, but its tasting room has been around for over 200 years. It’s nestled inside a renovated cabin, along with a retail shop that sells the premium whiskey made in the stillhouse that sits behind it. They take whiskey seriously, using limestone filtered water and local grains to get a smooth, consistent taste in every bottle.
If you know anything about the small town of Leiper’s Fork, you know it’s full of songwriters behind the famous folks in Nashville. The distillery brings them to the stage for The Still House Sessions, an intimate experience that whiskey lovers and teetotalers alike can enjoy. Fridays bring more music, along with food trucks. It’s a fun day to spend the afternoon sitting at one of the picnic benches, watching the sunset with your family.
You’ve had beer before, but you haven’t had beer like this. Saffron, chai, and fig aren’t odd ingredients to the team at Mantra. Founders Derrick Morse and Chad Frost are always looking for unexpected flavors that make their selection stand out. Plan transportation before you come, because you’ll want to try the list.
When you swing by, they may be in the middle of a free yoga class or a trivia night, and you’ll be more than welcome to join in. You come for the beer, you stay for the fun.
Each stop has alcohol, but each stop has more to offer than a drink. Bachelor parties, history buffs, music lovers, and families will all find something to enjoy every step of the way. The truth of the trail is that you get to write its story, it is what you make of it, and you will find what you’re looking for.