Knoxville, Tennessee, like many similar-sized cities in the South, is perhaps just on the cusp of its beer boom. A few brewpubs sprung up in the city in the ’90s, followed by a second wave of breweries opened in latter decades, including Crafty Bastard and Alliance. But 2017 proves to be a huge year for the city’s stainless steel concentration, with six coming-soon breweries in various stages of buildout. Meet the new kids on the block:
Abridged Beer Co.: “We’re a college town and have always been dominated by cheap beer, and now people are coming around to more small, local, interesting beer,” says Abridged managing partner and brewer Jesse Bowers. “People are getting braver.” Planning to open in spring 2017 in west Knoxville, Abridged will concentrate on session beers in its brewpub, which will serve food from a chef who is Bowers’ longtime friend. The name Abridged references the session-beer focus: “It’s taking big, bold, aggressive beers and trying to condense that flavor into a more drinkable, approachable package,” Bowers says. Most will be below 5% ABV.
Elkmont Exchange: Knoxville native Alex Violette brewed around the world (including in Denver as head brewer at Upslope and most recently in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as the co-founder of Pasteur Street Brewery) before returning to his hometown to helm Elkmont Exchange. The brewery will open in approximately six months in downtown North Knoxville; the 10,000 square foot space will house the brewery and a full-service restaurant. While Violette hasn’t committed to styles yet, his background as a biochemist should come into play as he brews with local and regional ingredients in both traditional and experimental styles. Once open, Elkmont’s beers will be available in the taproom with a few select kegs sent to local bars and restaurants.
Geezers Brewery: Three partners are behind this brewery that plans to open within the month in downtown Knoxville with a roster of familiar American ales; the flagships will be a milk stout, a pale ale and a blonde ale. The 7,000-square-foot production brewery will initially open without a taproom; the partners plan to build that out once the 15-barrel brewhouse is up and running. The brewery won’t serve food, but will invite a rotating group of food trucks to Geezers. Oh, and as for that name: “One of the other partners and I moved here from Vegas. We’re both big mountain bikers. We started entering races as a team and what we realized is that we were quite a bit older than everybody else racing, so we named our mountain-bike race team the Sin City Geezers,” partner Robert Noto says. “So as the concept of the brewery came about, we just said ‘You know, we’ve been Geezers for a long time, let’s stick with that.’”
Hexagon Brewing Co.: Co-founder Steve Apking began homebrewing in Knoxville in the mid-90s after he met a former brewer who’d opened a homebrew shop. Now, with co-founder Matt McMillan, Apking is just a few weeks away from opening Hexagon in a space about 10 minutes north of downtown. The brewery will have a 20-barrel production system as well as 3.5-barrel pilot system; the larger will be used for Hexagon’s American- and German-style ales, including a pale ale, kölsch, IPA, black IPA and a stout, as well as lagers including a dunkel and potentially an amber lager, pilsner and American light lager. The pilot system will brew creative one-offs; Apking mentions a smoked bacon porter made with malts smoked in Benton’s Country Ham’s smokers as well as a smoked, spiced red ale infused with smoked, sundried peppers. They’ll start with a taproom and local distribution and potentially move into cans down the line. “To be a hometown beer, that’s the demand we want to fill,” says Apking. The name Hexagon is a reference to the structure of bamboo fly-fishing rods; Apking found a book about bamboo fly rods belonging to his late grandfather that he felt was guidance in naming the brewery.
Hindsight Brewing: Jim Civis moved to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee, but realized post-graduation that academia wasn’t for him. He and two partners have turned their homebrewing skills into a business with Hindsight, slated to open in south Knoxville (about a half-mile south of Alliance Brewing Co.) this summer. “Our focus is going to be really on the hoppier side of things,” Civis says. “A lot of the breweries in town already are a bit more traditional or European influenced, so we’re going to go with a bit of the more American side.” He checks off pale ales, IPAs, single-hop beers, saisons and maybe some funky or sour beers. The partners will begin brewing on a 3-barrel system, aiming to sell the majority of their beer from the taproom, with a few kegs heading to local bars.
Pretentious Beer Co.: “Once we get to brewing beer, we will be, as far as I know, the only place in the world where you can come get beer made in house, out of glasses made in house and watch everything being produced,” says owner Matthew Cummings. That’s because Pretentious is an offshoot of Pretentious Glass Co., a handmade beer glassware company Cummings founded. He then expanded with an onsite bar that served his own kombuchas and sodas, and now will operate a 5-barrel brewery that pours its beer from the same space. Pretentious will have a Belgian leaning, but with twists: Saison Blanc is a hoppy French Saison with Nelson Sauvin hops and Honey Trippel is made with local wildflower honey. “We will also have a lot of ‘edutainment’ flights, as one of my glass mentors would say,” Cummings says. “[That’s] educational and entertaining. For instance, we might brew a saison base and then ferment one batch with French Saison yeast and the other with Belgian Saison yeast, so that you can see the differences that the two yeast strains make with the exact same base wort. When people think about what steers the flavor of beers, a lot of times it goes toward hops and malt, I want to bring the importance of yeast selection to the forefront.” Pretentious just received federal approval, so look for its beers to debut “as soon as possible.”