“Knoxville has lots of other great amenities, and I think [everyone] appreciates having good beer as part of that,” says Matt McMillan, the ‘Champion of Craft Beer’ at Hexagon Brewing Co., which plans to open a 2,200-square-foot tap room featuring award-winning beers by Hexagon owner and brewer, Stephen Apking. The company will launch his alt bier, Sexy Cat APA, Evil Twin black IPA year-round, as well as spice sweet potato, and Benton's Smoked Porter. Apking has an authentic kölsch, classic West Coast IPA, mead, and more, ready to go too.
“The Ale Trail caters to locals, who are ready and eager to explore the overnight growth in our local brewery scene,” McMillan says, “but it also is a great attraction for increasing numbers of visitors coming to Knoxville looking for fun activities.”
Located in North Knoxville, Fanatic Brewing Co. released its first brew in March 2015. Today, the brewery is known for its Tennessee Blonde light-bodied ale and crisp, amber-colored Fanatic Pale Ale. Owner/brewer Marty Velas has trained more than 200 brewers and held brewmaster positions around the world; his indispensable sales manager is Nate Austin. These beers are available in local bars and stores.
In other new brewery news, the downtown craft microbrewery, restaurant and beer garden at Balter Beerworks opened this year. Participants in the 19th Annual Knoxville Brewers’ Jam, Balter Beerworks serves unfiltered Kolsch, Pilsner, pale ale, Belgian and other styles, including a special “Bear Blend” made using the local Three Bears Coffee. Balter Beerworks also serves seafood, burgers, sandwiches and appetizer plates.
Another 2015 entry to the Knoxville beer scene, Cold Fusion Brewing Company participated in the 2015 19th Annual Knoxville Brewers’ Jam, too. The three brothers who founded the company wanted to create new and exciting beer flavors at affordable prices. The brewery’s pineapple jalapeno IPA, Banana Nut Brown and others are available at local taps and stores.
Finally, Last Days of Autumn Brewing is another newbie on the scene, specializing in small batch ales determined by seasonality, local ingredients, customer requests and the brew master’s current preferences. Sharkbait Blonde Ale recalls a week of shark fishing off St. Helena Island, South Carolina, while dry, smooth Chickamauga Brown IPA has hints of mint, sage and other herbs.
Located in South Knoxville, Alliance Brewing Company makes traditional and innovative, beer styles. “We offer seven, year-round beers – Kölsch, Scotch Ale, Dry Hopped Blonde, Saison, Belgian IPA, Oatmeal Stout, and a rotating IPA,” says Adam Ingle, head brewer and co-founder. “We also have many one-offs and seasonals.” These currently include Altbier, a nitro Stout, and a Smoked Porter, with an English Mild and a Citra Mosaic Saison coming soon.
Suttree Landing Park lies across from Alliance with Knoxville's Urban Wilderness easily accessible by bicycle, where a downhill trail is in the works at Baker Creek Preserve. Alliance is less than half a mile from the marina, featuring family-friendly luxury yacht experiences and The Star of Knoxville Riverboat. You’ll also find restaurants, coffee houses and hotels nearby.
Not all local brew houses and restaurants are new to Knoxville. Blackhorse Pub and Brewery has served Knoxville since 1992. The brewery features handcrafted ales and dishes such as loaded flatbreads, salads and burgers. A semi-dry, opaque Coalminer’s Stout reflects English beers, and there’s always a seasonal brew available. Nearby restaurants serve pizza and sandwiches, breakfast and lunch, even Thai cuisine.
Among Knoxville’s oldest microbreweries, the family-owned Saw Works Brewing Company offers tours and tastings in the historic Warehouse District. A ‘sustainable’ business, Saw Works Brewing Company sources ingredients locally, as often as possible, and reuses most waste byproducts. From pizza to comfort food and symphony performances to nightlife, there is plenty of entertainment and dining within a mile of this brewery.
In downtown Knoxville, Crafty Bastard Brewery creates unconventional craft beers, including a chile-spiced IPA, and a coffee porter made in collaboration with Blackhorse Brewery. Enjoy onsite rotating food truck fare, beginning each spring. There’s a popular bakery, mid-century modern furnishings, a contemporary art space, and a 40-year-old theater, nearby.
You’ll find hand-crafted brews, mesquite grilled seafood, steak and Mexican cuisine at The Downtown Grill & Brewery. Brewmaster, Al Krusen, crafts ales, full-bodied, traditional IPA, a ruby red porter and a dark stout. It’s open daily inside the historic Woodruff building. Other restaurants crowd the neighborhood, from sub sandwiches to gelato and American bistro cuisine. You’ll also find nightlife and festivals galore downtown, as well as a craft distillery tour and Knoxville’s first urban winery.
MORE LOCAL FAVORITES
In west Knoxville, Smoky Mountain Brewery is one of Tennessee’s largest working craft breweries, offering live nightly entertainment, specialty cocktails and great food. ‘Main stay’ beers include Velas Helles – a Gold Medal-winning German light lager and Cherokee Red Ale, an Irish-style beer with five malts and English hops; or try a beer sampler with 3-8 selections. Multiple ethnic and bistro-style restaurants, and hotels operate nearby.
Half an hour north of Knoxville, volunteers run Tennessee’s first sustainable, co-operative brewery, Bluetick Brewery, which opened to the public in 2014. Chef and founder, Chris Snyder also shares his culinary skills at Blackberry Farm, a hotel in the Smoky Mountain foothills. Created amid this rural beauty, Blackberry Farm Brewery;s craft beers include saisons, Abbey ales, and Native brews made with wild yeasts.
With so many brewers in the Knoxville market now, this was the perfect time for creation of the Knoxville Ale Trail. Stop by the Knoxville Visitors Center at 301 S. Gay Street and ask for a map!