The craft beer scene has been booming in Knoxville for years now. It’s not exactly breaking news—people like great beer—but the hoppy renaissance has blossomed in a big way with recent additions of several microbreweries and tasting rooms.
Great signature brews can be found all over town, from Alliance Brewing in South Knox to Smoky Mountain Brewery, with locations stretching from Turkey Creek to Gatlinburg. And of course, you can’t forget about the center city staple Downtown Grill and Brewery. But through the local sudsy revolution, North Knoxville has emerged as a sort of epicenter for Knoxville’s fine brewski culture.
Within just a few miles of North Knox it’s possible to visit a half-dozen breweries and a distillery, plus a smattering of bars and restaurants sprinkled in between, making it a must-visit destination for beer connoisseurs. It also happens to be one that’s easily toured on bike, or even on foot, if you’re willing to put in the legwork.
Last Days of Autumn Brewery
808 E. Magnolia Ave.
Start on the Eastside at one of the newer breweries on the block. Okay, so it might not technically be in North Knox, but these neighborhoods are intertwined in culture and fine brews, plus it’s an easy bike ride to neighboring breweries and the greater North Knoxville scene.
In just a few short years, East Knoxville’s Last Days of Autumnhas managed to attract the taste buds of many local beer aficionados, and have its wares featured on menus all across town. An upstart by husband and wife team Mike and Tracy Frede, the microbrewery developed out of a long-running love affair with great beer and homebrewing. Now offering some 17 varieties of small batch beers, you’ll need several rounds to get the full effect and vision behind the wide-breadths of flavors. These range from a Salted Caramel Porter to Sophie’s Belgian Blonde, from a Pre-Prohibition Ale to the Pacific Gem Single Hop Pale Ale—and there’s a lot in between. Check out the full roster onLDA’s website.
Saw Works Brewing Company
708 E. Depot Ave.
Knoxville’s oldest microbrewers, Saw Works’ brewski chefs have been crafting brews since 2010, and just opened a commercial brewery in East Knoxville’s warehouse district near Parkridge in 2012. Just a few pedals north of Last Days of Autumn, Saw Works is a logical next stop on the beer northside beer route.
Sticking to its industrial roots, Saw Works takes its name after the building it calls home: the former Wallace Saw Works building. Likewise, its facilities are rustic and industrial, a vibe that seeps into some of it’s alcoholic concoctions. Most of the offers feature more hop than hash, with five signature beers on the market: Saw Works Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Baby Got Black IPA, No Easy Day IPA, Rocky Hop IPA.
With such a variety of bite, this could make for a dangerous stop off early in your tour.
Schulz Brau Brewing Company
126 Bernard Ave.
After lengthy construction delays, Schulz Brau Brewing Company opened earlier this year to considerable fanfare. The microbrewery bills itself as Knoxville premier (and only) German brewery dedicated to brewing within the constraints of "Reinheitsgebot,” commonly called the "German Beer Purity Law” in English, a series of rules that limit ingredients and make for some tasty craft brews.
The brewery welcomes casual dinners and those looking to learn more about what it’s doing. The Bavarian-themed castle has a polished interior and bar, but the big point of pride is the "authentic" (and grandiose) biergarten that opens up within its towering walls.
From Saw Works, cut through the 4th and Gill neighborhood to Central Ave., where you’ll likely pass Crafty Bastard Brewery before reaching your turnoff onto Bernard (save that stop for a rest on the return trip towards downtown!).
2735 N. Central St.
Now a staple of manylocal grocery store beer aisles, Fanatic Brewing has earned it’s reputation as one of the most accessible local craft beers. It’s roster of beverages ranges from blonde to black, with four brews available year-round: Tennessee Blonde, Fanatic Pale Ale, Tennessee Red, and Fanatic Black. The trip to Fanatic’s facilities will take you further north along Central Ave., marking your turning point to head back towards town.
Not sure which brew is for you? Take the tour. The brewery itself does not have a taproom where you can kick back and imbibe, but it does offer various tours and tastings on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on Saturday through most of the afternoon. Tours range from $29-$55 (for two or four people) andmust be booked in advance.
Crafty Bastard Brewery
6 Emory Pl.
A favorite local watering hole, the Spartan establishment in Emory Place continues to offer up a wide variety of whacking small-batch brainteasers. Not available anywhere else besides its small bar and patio area, Crafty Bastard Brewery is a must-stop for many Knoxville visitors with local connections. Despite its cast of flavorful intoxicants, the small brewery remains largely below the radar with limited (i.e. no) distribution beyond its brick-walled headquarters.
Don’t let names like Hawaiian BBQ Pale Ale or Specialty Batch Sweet Potato Pie Dunkelweizen put you off, these ahem crafty bastards know what they’re doing. A revolving cast of different beers on tap means there’s always something new to try, though they tend to keep a few fan favorites ready to pour. Check theirFacebook page for regular special events, tastings, food trucks, music, and art shows.
From here, it’s just a short jaunt down Broadway or Gay St. to reach your next destination.
100 S. Broadway
This polished restaurant and brewery has transformed a once-derelict building into a must-stop fine dining and craft beer destination. Carved out of the husk of a former gas station at the corner of Broadway and Jackson St. just north of downtown, expect to see full tables and a packed patio during warmer times and peak hours.
The clean lines and modern design has added some pizzazz to what was once a nearly abandoned section of town. Now, Balter Beerworks and the nearby Knox Whiskey Works sit on the cusp of downtown’s continued resurgence, and people have taken notice. It’s handcrafted drinks run the gamut from light and fruity (try the Maypop American Pale Ale) to dark and dangerous (Bear Blend Coffee Oatmeal Porter).
Knox Whiskey Works
516 W. Jackson Ave.
Head on block east along Jackson Ave. from Balters and you’ll find Knox Whiskey Works, a burgeoning local distillery. It’s small tasting room features a lot of regional staples and new creations, from Heirloom Corn Whiskey to Tennessee Valley Gin.
One of its newest additions, the Urban Wilderness Urban Liqueur (named after Knoxville’s growing assortment of trails and nature areas in theUrban Wilderness) fuses notes of wormwood, hyssop, and lemon balm with a kick of, well, liqueur.
A quick stop off here and you’re pointing in the right direction to reconnect with your starting point in East Knoxville. Or, if you hit all of these breweries in one loop, to hail an Uber ride home.
Originally written for BCBS of Tennessee.