Annual Food & Drink Issue
“Something that came along with opening here was this budding craft beer scene,” Winland says. “I would say when you look across Tennessee, Chattanooga probably has the most passionate craft beer culture in the state. We have really knowledgeable individuals who know what they want and have a passion for exploring new breweries, new beers, new flavors, and everything that comes along with the craft beer revolution.”
Luckily, craft beer fanatics don’t have to travel far to sample some of the country’s best craft brews. Chattanooga has its fair share of homegrown brewing talent right inside its city limits. Here, six local breweries delve into some of their most reveled creations, proving when it comes to craft beer, there’s an option for everyone.
Started in Chattanooga in the early ’90s, Big River Grille and Brewing Works has since won accolades for both its ales and its lagers. “There’s definitely a passion that goes into brewing here,” says head brewer Teresa Sentell. “Between myself and the other head brewer, Clay Gentry, we have more than 35 years of brewing experience.” According to Sentell, with that experience comes consistency with their products, but also the ability to have fun when creating small batches.
“We have the opportunity to play a lot. We have our steady beers year-round that we can stay consistent with, and then we open the door up and get to play as brewers. It’s fun,” Sentell says.
While she admits there are challenges when it comes to creating a top-quality product – namely dealing with unpredictable crops and adapting to new malts and hops – she says the rewarding part of her job is that the learning never ends. “No matter what I learn, I start realizing there’s a whole lot more I don’t know and need to learn. And I’ve been brewing for 16 years!” she says.
Moccasin Bend Brewing Company was created in 2007 by three home brewers who wanted to share their skill with others. “You know when you’re eating store-bought bread and you have fresh-baked bread for the first time? It’s still bread – it can even be the same kind of bread – and yet it’s so much better,’’ owner Chris Hunt explains. This, he says, is the difference you can experience with craft beer.
“Part of our philosophy is that we want to create something unique and special, and we do that by trying to craft the freshest thing possible,’’ Hunt continues. “Sometimes we’ll intentionally add something or do something a little bit differently, which makes that specific beer unique. Usually it’s just a little teeny thing and you can’t put your finger on it, but you know it’s different.’’
It started as a brainstorm between two cousins. Adam Hale had been dabbling in home brewing, building what he describes as a fairly elaborate system. His cousin, Sidney Hale, was interested in opening up a bar. “We just kind of mashed our efforts together and came out with a brew pub,’’ Adam says.
Both born and raised Chattanoogans, they saw the rising beer culture happening all around them, but still saw plenty of room in the market for a local brewery. “There were only three or four breweries in town at the time, so we saw growth potential for sure,’’ Adam says. Six years later, their pub, aptly named McHale’s, has gone on to win a gold medal in the world’s biggest beer contest – the Great American Beer Festival. The prize was for their Scottish Ale, which stands out from the pack thanks to minute details and authentic ingredients – the malt is straight from Scotland.
“Attention to very small detail is what I’ve always really harped on. Even when I was home brewing, my object was to be professional and exact about every aspect so that I would produce beer that wasn’t like a home brewer’s – I wanted professional beer coming out of there,’’ says Adam. And all that attention to detail pays off when he sees others enjoying the products he helped create.
Opened in 2009, Terminal Brewhouse was inspired by the desire for a small, local brewery in Chattanooga. Already owner of Hair of the Dog, Matt Lewis and his team decided that opening the Terminal was a natural next step. After restoring a long-vacant train terminal on Chattanooga’s Southside as the brew house’s home, they started brewing beer just weeks before their doors opened.
According to Lewis, who is operating partner of the Terminal, the beer you drink here could be as fresh as 12 to 14 days since being brewed. “The idea behind a craft brewery to me is that you’re not getting something that was brewed, then fermented, then filtered, then bottled, then stored,” Lewis says. “You’re getting the freshest possible beer that you can get, period.” Oftentimes, Lewis explains, the beer in the serving tank at the Terminal is fresh out of fermentation – meaning what’s in your pint glass just became a drinkable product.
Choosing Chattanooga as the home for their pub came easy to Lewis, who says it took a few creative and brave people to roll the dice on opening up local places and changing downtown’s landscape. “I think Chattanooga is a great place for just about anything food and beverage wise. Food and beverage people have really been part of a movement that has grown Chattanooga,” Lewis says. “We were able to say ‘Hey, Chattanooga’s going places, and we want to be a part of that.’ And luckily, people liked what we were doing.”
The Chattanooga Brewing Company’s long history dates back to the 1890s, when the Rief family first opened the brewery’s doors. The onset of Prohibition led to the CBC’s demise, but more than a century later, the company and brand has come back to life.
The re-emergence started when CBC’s two owners, Mark Marcum and Jonathan Clark, teamed up as home brewers to develop their version of a German-style maibock, one they called “chickbock.”
Today, they own the revived Chattanooga Brewing Company, which includes a tasting room and food menu. “The craft beer scene is up so much,” says sales manager Ryan Weaver. “Compared to what Bud or Miller would be like, it’s just two different worlds.”
CBC has worked intently to stay true to the roots of the original Chattanooga Brewing Company by closely replicating the recipes that were once used. Their leading beer, the Imperial Pilsner, was the flagship Chattanooga Brewing Company’s claim to fame, proving that although more than a hundred years may have passed, it’s still as authentic as it ever was.
The newest to the Chattanooga craft beer scene, Hutton & Smith opened in the summer of 2015 after owners Melanie and Joel Krautstrunk relocated from Las Vegas. “We knew we wanted to open up a brewery, and we could have gone anywhere,’’ Melanie explains.
Seeing that there was room for plenty more craft breweries in town, the Krautstrunks settled on Chattanooga. “We found the perfect place, and we’ve been really happy here so far,’’ says Melanie. Choosing their location on MLK, the Krautstrunks set to work making their mark on the local beer scene. One way they set themselves apart is through details like their own water treatment system. As one of the main ingredients in beer, water plays a vital role in how the brew turns out. “We really pay a lot of attention to the water we use,’’ Melanie says.
With nine beer selections, the Krautstrunks have been thrilled with customer reactions. “We couldn’t have asked for a better response than what we’ve had,’’ Melanie explains, noting that they’ve gained a legion of repeat customers already. “It’s just been a pleasure finally serving the beer. It was a long journey.’’