Just like the farm-to-table restaurant boom we introduced you to, a whole slate of breweries, brewpubs and even a speakeasy are shaking up the Knoxville scene and changing the way East Tennessee drinks. So grab a barstool or slip into one of the booths, ‘cause when it comes to brews and cocktails in Knoxville, you’re sure to sip some of the best.
Pretentious Beer Company
Don’t let the name fool you. The folks at Pretentious Beer Glass Company and the next-door Pretentious Beer Company are anything but pretentious.
The glass company came first. Noting a lack of unique craft beer-drinking glasses from which to drink equally-unique craft beer, glass blowing aficionado Matthew Cummings decided to make a batch for his friends. And like all great ideas, it started small, but began to mold into a larger vision. Today, his glasses are available to everyone in his Old City, Knoxville store.
Right next-door is Pretentious Beer Company, which, at this precise moment, does not brew any of their own beer. Instead, they have 16 carefully-selected craft beers on tap, as well as several non-alcoholic selections including handmade soda and Kombucha. Yet it appears that again, this great idea is molding into a larger vision. In the near future, Pretentious Beer Company will begin brewing their own beer and will become (so far as we know) the only place in the world where the beer you drink and the glass you drink it from are handcrafted on site.
Peter Kern Library
The thing about the Peter Kern Library is, if you don’t know how to get there, you won’t be able to find it. That’s because like any good speakeasy, it’s hidden.
So we’ll let you in on the secret. On Union Avenue, not even a full block off of Market Square, are the doors to the Oliver Hotel. During the weekdays, you can enter through these doors, and straight ahead against the far wall is a white, sliding door. You might not even notice it at first glance. It has no handle, and there’s no sign. But if you push it to the side, the soft lighting and dark wooden interior of the Peter Kern Library lies just on the other side. Yet on the weekends, this entrance is for hotel guests only.
In that case, search out the alleyway beside the Oliver Hotel - yes, the alleyway. Not far down, there is a red bulb glowing above a nondescript door. Again, there is no sign. The red bulb is your only guide. This door is the regular entrance to the Library, a cocktail bar and lounge specializing in fine whiskey drinks such as the Old Fashioned, as well as mysterious concoctions made with absinthe.
Blackhorse Pub & Brewery
Founded in 1992 by husband-and-wife Jeff and Sherri Robertson, the original Blackhorse Pub & Brewery location is in Clarksville, Tennessee, which makes sense. Jeff was a helicopter pilot of the 101st Airborne Division, stationed in nearby Fort Campbell, and had served in Operation Desert Storm. He came home from Iraq with a brand new plan, and thus, one of the Southeast’s original craft breweries was born.
When the Clarksville location became a successful mainstay on the food and beer landscape, a second location seemed inevitable and Knoxville was the logical choice. Jeff and Sherri had met in that city, while attending the University of Tennessee. So they brought Blackhorse’s brand to Kingston Pike where it became an icon. It’s a classic, “go-to” kind of place, an all-American brewpub that should be and is recognized as a pioneer amongst its peers.
Like some many great American success stories, this one begins in a garage. Home-brew hobbyists are not a rarity in Knoxville or elsewhere, but being good enough at it to start up your own brewpub is. So when the folks behind Balter Beerworks began to outgrow their garage, they decided on renovating an old service station on South Broadway, opening in February 2016. Since then, they’ve quickly become an undeniable staple in the incredible craft brewery and scratch food scene in Knoxville.
They’re pouring straight-from-the-tap brews ranging from unfiltered ales and lagers to a rotating list of seasonal beers, but they don’t stop there. Balter Beerworks went beyond their name to craft a signature cocktail menu too - the Jackson Avenue Mule, Marble City Ginger Fizz and Cucumber Mint Martini among them.
Alliance Brewing Company
One step on the grounds of Alliance Brewing Co.’s South Knoxville tasting room and you’ll understand the slogan and hashtag #activebeerculture that can be found across the premises. Maybe it’s all the bicycles at the racks outside, next to the sculpture of the cyclist made from bike parts. Or all the patrons wearing bicycle jerseys and carrying helmets, fresh off the trails that crisscross so near here. Or maybe it’s all the folks fresh in from the barre or yoga classes next door, yoga mat underarm and ready for a pint. Whatever gives it away, there can be no doubt that Alliance is Knoxville’s most active and health-conscious brewery and tasting room.
Each day, a rotating schedule of food trucks parks outside, catering to Alliance’s dedicated following. The day we visited, Dinner Bell Fresh, a vegan cuisine food truck, was serving guests trays of Mexican street corn nachos and Buffalo Tempeh wraps. And the beers on tap are just as unique, just as thoughtfully sourced. The Cubano Coffee Brown, for example, cold brewed with Three Bears Coffee - who just happen to be right next door. Or the Scotch Ale, made with beechwood smoked malts.