Explore the Flavors of Hidden Brew Gems in the Tennessee River Valley
The Tennessee River Valley boasts plenty of outdoor activities and beautiful scenery and the seven-state area is also booming with locally owned craft beer breweries, each with their own unique flavor custom to their particular location. For those in search of a unique destination experience and who have a love for craft beer, the Tennessee River Valley has rounded up a list of some of the top brew pubs, breweries and taprooms.
According to the Brewers Association, the trade association for small and independent U.S. craft brewers, the U.S. craft beer industry grew by 5% in 2017 and mid-year figures show 5% growth continuing in 2018. There are more than 7,000 breweries operating in the United States in total, which equates to a 20% increase over 2017. While the final numbers are still being compiled, the Brewers Association estimates there will have been around 1,000 openings in 2018.
"With a growing desire to support local businesses and to experience flavors unique to a region, breweries have become popular destinations for road trips," said Julie Graham, spokesperson for the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council. "These locally-owned establishments typically source local ingredients to craft flavors which really lends to a brewery's uniqueness."
In Knoxville, there is no shortage of outdoor recreation and craft beer. The 9 Lakes Region is made up of the 16 counties surrounding Knoxville, Tenn. and is home to miles of biking trails with levels ranging from novice to highly skilled experiences. It is also home to an exciting microbrewing scene. Tourism leaders in Tennessee have combined the two activities, biking and craft beer, to come up with an incredible getaway. After spending a day on the trails, pull up a bar stool at one of the many local breweries to unwind and prepare for another adventure the next day.
The 9 Lakes Bikes and Brews Trail consists of four outdoor attractions and four breweries. Only two-miles from downtown Knoxville, the Knoxville Urban Wilderness presents a unique urban playground for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners. Thirty-five miles of natural surface trails connect five parks and natural areas with public and private lands to create an unparalleled outdoor venue. In south Knoxville, I.C. King Park has over eight miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. In nearby Oak Ridge, Tenn., Haw Ridge Park offers 28 miles of handmade trails for the hiker, trail-runner or experienced mountain biker. Windrock Bike Park is an uplift assisted mountain bike park located inside of Windrock Park in Oliver Springs, Tenn. Designed and built by professional bikers, the bike park features nine trails ranging from one to one and half miles long each dropping 1,000 vertical feet.
Located nearby to Urban Wilderness are Alliance Brewing and Printshop Beer Company. Alliance Brewing is a locally owned brewery offering a core lineup of craft ales that include IPA's, Blonde Ales, Kolsch, Scotch Ale, Saisons and Stouts, as well as seasonal and one-off brews rotate on tap. Rotating food trucks and special events throughout the year offer additional entertainment. Located on the Tennessee River in South Knoxville, Printshop Beer Company hosts local events and tastings for guests in a casual atmosphere. Most weekends, a food truck will be parked and serving up locally prepared cuisine.
Located in downtown Knoxville are Hexagon Brewing Company and the Pretentious Beer Company. Hexagon is committed to using locally sourced products to produce its craft beer and offers a variety of beers including seasonal and rotating limited production pours. Located in the heart of Old City Knoxville, Pretentious Beer Company offers a carefully curated selection of house-brewed craft beer along with house-made soda and kombucha served in glassware hand-blown especially for the brewery. This may very well be the only place where one can drink beer made in house out of glasses made in house. A quick walk through the beer garden to the Pretentious Glass Company and craft beer aficionados can purchase a handcrafted glass to take home as a souvenir.
Passage of the Free The Hops Gourmet Beer Bill in 2009, the Brewery Modernization Act in 2011, and the 2016 Growler Bill removed some of the restrictions on beer production and consumption in Alabama and has led to an increase in the creation of microbreweries in the state. Launching in 2016, the North Alabama Craft Beer Trail invites beer enthusiasts on a self-guided tour of eleven North Alabama microbreweries offering hundreds of unique flavors custom to the region.
The Singin' River Brewing Company in Florence offers tours and beer tastings. The Singin' River Brewing Company's name is inspired by an old legend that says the Cherokee Indians of northern Alabama called the Tennessee River "the singing river" because the flowing waters sounded like a woman singing. Goat Island Brewing in Cullman opened in early 2015 and is the first brewery in Cullman since the 1880s. Located in the beautiful lake town of Guntersville, Main Channel Brewing Company is Marshall County's first brewery. Inspired by an old agricultural term referring to the 40 acres of land situated furthest from the barn, Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden serves award-winning beer and great food using local ingredients.
Huntsville is home to several breweries. Mad Malts Brewing offers live music almost every weekend in its taproom. Salty Nut Brewery is an up and coming microbrewery that has the right combination of good beer and music. Founded by local home brewers in 2009, Straight to Ale uses bold flavors and innovative brewing techniques to make great beer. Housed in a former middle school, Yellowhammer Brewing is dedicated to creating premium ales and lagers, drawing on Belgian and German brewing traditions with a Southern interpretation. Rocket Republic Brewing Company began when a couple from Key West who loved brewing beer met up with a couple of rocket scientists in Huntsville, Ala. to come up with a great selection of craft beer which includes AstroNut Brown Ale, Coffee Cream Ale, Cosmic Cookie Brown Ale, Solar Sour, Terrestri-Ale Belgian Tripel, Apollo Amber Ale and Mach 1 India Pale Ale.
In nearby Madison, Blue Pants Brewery operates under the notion of hops, barley, water and yeast make great craft beer and that's really all is needed. Decatur's first brewery, Cross-Eyed Owl Brewing Company opened in early 2018. At their downtown location, guests can watch the brewers work their magic while sitting at the bar, play a round of foosball or challenge friends to a game of corn hole outside in the beer garden.
Nestled in the valley between the Cumberland and Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia is the bustling town of Dalton. While the town is home to many of the world's floor covering manufacturers earning the title of carpet capital of the world, its craft beer scene is elevating the northern Georgia town to a beer destination.
Fairly new on the craft beer scene is the Dalton Brewing Company which opened in early 2018 with a mission to be less of a bar scene and more of a family-oriented, low key hangout spot where kids and dogs are welcome. While no food is served, patrons are welcome to bring in food from home or other downtown businesses. They offer a variety of events including trivia nights, Tunes on Tap open mic night and beer and board games. Also located in downtown Dalton is the Cherokee Brewing and Pizza Company where patrons are treated to authentic, made-from-scratch pizza and craft beer. The beer selection consists of 24 craft beers on tap including four signature beers brewed onsite. For the past 10 years, the Downtown Dalton Beer Fest has been serving up unlimited samples of craft and domestic beers and a dose of live music to thousands of visitors. This year's event is set for Nov. 9, 2019, and admission is $35/person.
"The Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide is a great resource for craft beer aficionados to plan their next beer destination," added Graham. "The trip plan section of the website offers itineraries with contact information, directions and other valuable information. Visitors to the website also have the ability to create their own trip plan if they want to incorporate other attractions into their visit."