Three Sunday's ago, my hubby and I decided to try our hand at the local brewery tour, Knox Brew Tours, here in Knoxville. For your reading pleasure, here's the good, the bad, the....wait...there is no bad! This local Knoxville tour is a definite must try for anyone new to the area, new to craft brewed beers, or a local who hasn't had to chance to explore all the great offerings our city has to offer! Here's how the tour went for us...
We started off meeting the Brew Bus at the Casual Pint downtown, basically adjacent to Market Square. Keep in mind, you'll need to find parking downtown in a garage (free on nights and weekends) or on metered spots, which are either free or pay per hour (depending on the day and what street you parked on). I would suggest planning MORE time than you need to find parking, and then walking to the Casual Pint, because there is always something going on during the weekend days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), when their brew tours are typically held. My husband and I THOUGHT we left in enough time to even get there early and check out the Casual Pint ahead of time, but we were sadly mistaken, as it look us quite a bit of time to find parking, due to the Hola Festival taking place as well.
We knew our tour was for Knox Brew Tours smaller, more "intimate" bus, which is a 1989 VW Vanagon Bus, which only holds 6 guests (plus the driver/tour guide), named "Scruffy." Knox Brew Tours does offer a larger bus tour as well in their 1990 GMC mini-bus named "Kathy." I personally loved this smaller bus atmosphere, as it gave you a chance to really interact with everyone on board, hear the guide better as he talked from place to place, and it overall just had a more "comfy" feel. I'd be interested to try the other larger tour sometime as well, just to get a comparison of styles.
Our tour guide (who is not the owner/starter of this business, but a good friend of his), was so gracious, funny, accommodating, and knowledgeable. They will ask to see your ID at the beginning of the tour, to verify everyone is over 21, but it does say on their website you can still come and enjoy the tour WITHOUT drinking (but you must still be over 21), and be a "designated driver" and that gets you a cheaper rate as well!
It does state on their website as well that snacks and complimentary water bottles will be provided, which they are. I would still suggest eating beforehand, and even bringing your own snack/drink bag along, since their snacks are pretty limited (on my bus experience at least) to small bags of cheez-its, gardettos, etc. You can view their whole FAQ page HERE.
You are allowed to bring your own growlers with you as well, as some places (not all) will fill them up (obviously you pay for that separate, it's not included in your ticket price). The Knox Brew Tours website also states all samples will be no more than 4 oz in size, but you'll get about 4 samples of different beers from each place. If you're like me, and aren't really a fan of most beers (I'm more of a wine gal), they do have a "dump bucket" to pour out what you don't like. Or you can just dump it into your husband's cup like I did, if you feel so inclined.
Our first stop took us to Balter Beerworks on 100 S. Broadway. Even the name of this place has a unique backstory, as the word "Balter" is defined as "to dance or tread clumsily, without much skill, but with enjoyment." That seems to be their whole philosophy at their restaurant and brewery--to not necessarily care if they're the best, the most popular or the most liked, but to do what they do with enjoyment and passion. Balter is actually a former service station, and you absolutely get that vibe from being there. It's a gorgeous building, with the "Brew House" being right across a little sidewalk section next the the bar, which is where we got to spend our time for the tour (normally they don't let people in here!). They also appear to have a great food menu, and a pet friendly patio as well! It was so neat getting to go into their "Brew House" and hearing and seeing how their process works, what goes into brewing beer, their "not so secret" laboratory, and into their giant walk in cooler.
Another great and cool factor was that after we left Balter Beerworks, our guide said we couple spare an extra couple minutes and go to Knox Whiskey Works to check out their store, if we wanted. Of course, we all agreed and yelled "take us there!" Here, we got to sample a variety of liqueurs, some of which we liked, and some of which we didn't. They pride themselves on being a small batch, craft distillery, using locally sourced products, to create unique spirits representative of East Tennessee. I'm not a liqueur drinker myself either, or a coffee drinker, but my husband is OBSESSED with anything coffee flavored, so when he saw their Coffee Liqueur, he was sold, so a bottle of that ended up coming home with us. Side note: that same Coffee Liqueur has now been used to make a homemade coffee ice cream, which we made together, and is to die for!
Our second (brewery) stop was to Alliance Brewing Company, located at 1130 Sevier Avenue. They have a super cool sculpture outside made completely of old bicycle parts, that's definitely a photo op as well. I'd say their outdoor patio section is the same size, if not larger, than their indoor space, which is a great concept to get people outdoors and socializing, and enjoying the (mostly) good weather East Tennessee has to offer, and it is pet friendly as well. They don't serve food at this location, however, but there was some kind of small food "truck" cart stand type deal outside as well, that seems to have a sort of "partnership" with Alliance, where they let her serve food, since they don't and she has somewhere to sell food! We ordered some deep fried okra in a basket, which came to us as legit, fresh okra with the most amazing breading on okra we've ever had. TRULY homemade recipe type taste to it. The inside and decor of Alliance isn't anything to do a double take on. It's very industrial in its styling, with simple gray and wooden tones throughout. As with our first stop, we got to prowl to the giant walk in cooler contraption and see "where the magic happens" as far as brewing their beers and their whole process.
Our third stop was to Last Days of Autumn, at 808 E Magnolia Ave, which started from a husband and wife's home brewing hobby, and once friends and family realized they could make stuff as good, if not better, than what's already out there, they decided to start a brewery of their own. Right off the bat, my husband and I noticed a vintage Donkey Kong electronic game against a wall, topped with an assortment of traditional board games as well. We also saw a group of people simply sipping their beers, and enjoying a game at the game as well. They do not serve any food here, either. Their website says their goal is to give you a "homey" feel, and they definitely hit that mark.
Lastly, the "little bus that could" took us to Crafty Bastard Brewery at 6 Emory Place, which labels themselves as a nanobrewery. Some things about the decor that really stuck out to me inside this brewery were the seats alongside the wall made of big wooden barrels, and the tap lever adorned eyes and a little green mustache. They do not serve food here either, but on their website it states they have, only in the summer(?), a food truck schedule that seems to provide good eats as well.
Overall, this is absolutely an experience I will be back on and take any visiting friends or family on as well! The whole tour was just an informative, easy going adventure, for beer drinkers and even those who aren't!
Have you ever been on Knox Brew Tours, or any brew tour before? Tell us your experience or thoughts below!