An interesting thing about spending enough time in a place is that you have the perspective of seeing locations grow, change and develop. I remember being a freshman at the University of Tennessee in the early 1990s. I so wanted to explore the big city though a lot of my friends on campus were content watching bands on the Strip or doing the fraternity thing, I wanted to see what else was going on in town. The love of some of the ‘new music’ at the time was enough to entice me downtown before it was anything like the wonderland that it is today.
I blame Ska… the concept of horns, clever lyrics in a rock band were enough to bring me out to a little club on the old Market Square called The Mercury Lounge – it was starting to get dark and nobody was around. The Subway was only open during the day and there were not even homeless people were milling about since there was no-one around for them to ask for help. I remember being a little scared until I heard the music spilling out. I was a foreigner in the land of kids who were a mix of goth, redneck, rockabilly and skaters – I guess I was the only preppie that night – the people I met there have mostly either become West Knox parents or hipsters at this point. I still see some of them when I venture downtown and Mercury Lounge is now the super-popular Preservation Pub. If you have been to Downtown Knoxville lately, you’ll know what an amazing change has been happening in the past few years. Among other cultural developments, Knoxville is becoming a destination for beer lovers!
While I have passed the biggest ‘going out’ phase of my life, I’m currently beginning the Mediterranean diet – something my amazing girlfriend assures me will make the rest of my life much better – but I have gained an appreciation of the spectrum of tastes and especially the social impact on Knoxville (and many other Southern cities) that the thriving culture that has grown up around craft beer.
Last night I saw my friend Sallye, the brand champion for Blackberry Farms own craft beer label. She was talking about a partnership that Blackberry Farms had formed with Madisonville’s world-wide culinary sensation Benton’s Bacon founder Allan Benton. Any foodie will be wowed if they don’t already know that Allan was awarded a Who’s Who membership with the James Beard Foundation. Recently Benton contributed his amazing rich smoky flavor process to the Blackberry Farm’s Tennessee Smoke. When I heard this the image of Primus’ Pork Soda album cover flashed in my mind – but when I smelled the stuff she was sampling it was pretty amazing!
Just about anyone walking down Gay St in Knoxville will know about the venerable Downtown Grill & Brewery, kind of the granddaddy of Knoxville brewing. These days micro breweries dot the landscape from downtown’s reclaimed warehouses like “Crafty Bastard” and “Fanatic” spaces to the Disneyland-like “Schulz Bräu” and ultra-hip Elmont Exchange. The scrappy outliersd like Hexagon & Last Days of Autumn are tucked into unlikely spots just out of the way enough to encourage true hops hunters to go hunting for the patios where they would normally speed by.
A personal favorite place to explore new and exotic local creations isn’t even a microbrewery – of all things, it was originally known as a bakery! Sitting in the tawny 100 block of Gay St and priding themselves on a rich assortment of “locals-only” taps, Sugar Mama’s is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner. Aside from the homey old-Knoxville environment, Sugar Mama’s boasts a richly warm and fun cast of characters including Premiere Beer Snob Jason “Ratchet” Carpenter, the friendly and under-stated Matt Jackson, the wonderfully witty Leslie Berez and many others behind the counter and helmed by perfect hosts Mike and Hannah McConnell, Sugar Mama’s is the place to be when you’re looking for the ultimate sampling spot for local flavors.
Even if you’re not an imbiber, you’ll love soaking up some of Knoxville’s beer culture flavor! Knoxville is a wonderful place to live, if you’re thinking of making it your home, or relocating closer to downtown we’d LOVE to help. Give us a call! Hutch & Howard (865) 216-2009 at Keller Williams (865) 966-5005. Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated.