Knoxville is in the midst of a brewing brewery boom.
At least six breweries are currently in some stage of construction. Among them, Abridged Brewing Co. in Bearden. Owner Jessie Bowers says they’re looking at a May opening.
“Right in the middle of construction,” he laughed, gesturing to the surrounding mess inside their building.
He plans to focus on lower-gravity session brews that retain big flavor.
Also in the pipeline: Elkmont Exchange on North Broadway, Geezers Brewery in the Old City, Hexagon Brewing near Interstate 640, Hindsight Brewing near Ijams Nature Center and the Pretentious Beer Company, also in the Old City.
Pretentious’ glass-making side has been up and running for a few months, while the taproom has served other makers’ brews. Now, they hope to fill their own glassware with their own creations.
“Now we have two businesses, which is really awesome,” said Sam Meketon, while blowing glass. “And to be able to mix a brewery into it, makes it even better.”
All this expansion is good news for the folks at Visit Knoxville, which recently coined the term for this local trend: The Knoxville Ale Trail, a play on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.
“I think as a town, it does a lot for Knoxville because a lot of people like to go and try different experiences, whether it’s food, or whether it’s beer,” said Erin Donovan, spokesperson for Visit Knoxville.
The trend is getting attention from national publications like Draft Magazine.
But the question remains – with 20 breweries soon to be in town, will the competition kill the buzz?
“I don’t think that the market can get saturated because all the breweries offer a different experience,” said Donovan. “And even when those guys are collaborating, there are still a lot of different beers coming out of that collaboration.”
Bowers agrees with that – he says with a focus on customers from the neighborhood, he thinks even more breweries can drum up a customer base without forcing each other out.
“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘A rising tide raises all ships,’” he said. “I think that’s how the craft brewing industry is, there’s enough room for everyone.”
Visit Knoxville also plans to attend a conference in the coming months to learn how to attract more brewery business.