Perfectly embodying the spirit of Chattanooga’s urban renaissance of the 1990’s and 2000’s was the reemergence of the the city’s namesake brewery: Chattanooga Brewing Company.
Originally founded in 1890, Chattanooga Brewing Company was once one of the largest breweries in the Southeast, distributing a whopping 150,000 barrels of beer in its turn-of-the-century heyday. As fate would have it, however, Prohibition shut down operations in 1915, and the owners were forced to sell their huge, block-wide manufacturing facility on Broad Street to an ambitious little soda company called Coca-Cola. (This facility actually became the first place where Coca-Cola was ever bottled.)
The sale and subsequent years of outdated liquor laws led to an unfortunate hundred-year hiatus for the brewery. But in 2010, in a pint-sized space on Northshore’s Frazier Avenue, two passionate homebrewers and entrepreneurs gave Chattanooga Brewing a new life-line.
After purchasing the rights to the Chattanooga Brewing name, Mark Marcum and Jonathan Clark set forth on their small-scale operation. For four years, they operated out of the 1,200 square foot space on Frazier, distributing their product to a handful of loyal local buyers around town, including the neighborhood bar where they first met, the Tremont Tavern.
In early 2014, to accommodate their rapidly growing venture, the two business and beer partners decided it was time for a move. The new location? A 7,500 square foot, two-story building on Chestnut Street in the burgeoning Southside neighborhood of Chattanooga.
The new space—the one they occupy today—is sleek and modern with a wonderful blend of amber wooden floors, bar tops, and tables, as well as ornately-crafted metalworks. The downstairs features long, communal tables and large, glass windows, allowing customers to peer inside the belly of the brewery at the impressive stainless steel brew kettles. The upstairs features another bar and more wooden tables, and even a couple of inviting leather couches.
Educational tours of the brewery are frequently given, and the Cellar Manager, Alex Rivers, is normally always on hand to lead them. Known to all merely as “Rivers,” he’s just that…known to all…(not a river). Standing well over 6 feet tall with a beard that hangs well over a foot below his face, Rivers possesses an infectious smile and a constant desire to introduce himself to anyone and everyone to talk beer.
And speaking of beer, that’s really what Chattanooga Brewing prides itself on the most. Their flagship brew, the Imperial Pilsner, is a German-style pilsner that closely resembles the first beer ever produced at Chattanooga Brewing Co. back in the 1890’s. While it’s not the exact same recipe, it’s pretty darn close. Other favorite staples include the perfectly hoppy Hill City IPA, the deliciously smooth Chestnut Brown, and the caramelly malted Chickbock. And the brewers are also always up for experimentation, never afraid to throw in a hint of coffee here or a kick of jalapeno there.
Top all of this off with an impressive pub fare menu that complements, rather than detracts from, the flavors of the beer, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a brewpub.
And their motto of “Beer for Adventure” is really what it’s all about. After a day exploring the nearby trails of Lookout Mountain, it doesn’t get much better than winding down on the outdoor patio at Chattanooga Brewing Co. with a few brews in hand and a few friends in tow, watching as the sun falls behind the scoreboard of Finley Stadium and casts long shadows and golden rays over you and the other smiling patrons. Pure brewery bliss.