A few weeks ago I got a chance to drop into Hops and Hollers at 937 N. Central Street. The Craft Beer Store and Taproom opened the first weekend in April and really does seem to be off to a great start. Sitting just a block or so off Broadway, it may be more on the southern edge of Old North Knoxville than in Happy Holler proper. Maybe it’s a suburb of Happy Holler.
I stopped by the unassuming building on a Saturday afternoon around 5:00 and a good crowd had gathered at the bar and the tables were filling. Customers came in and purchased specialty beers from the shelves. I bellied up to the bar with a good root beer. I’m sure I looked very manly. I’m not even crazy about root beer, let alone actual beer, but that was a good one.
The store offers growlers for carry out as well as over 100 bottled beers to choose from. Mixing and matching is encouraged. But while I’m sure people do carry out beer, it’s more the kind of place you want to linger. They have thirty-two taps of craft beer, with twelve devoted to Tennessee beers. In just the few weeks they had been opened before my visit, a crew of regulars had already established themselves. One couple had walked from their Old North home and were walking toward downtown when they left.
The bar is owned by Todd Wakefield and I spoke with co-founder and bar manager Charles Ellis who is very excited about the possibilities. He hopes to have a true neighborhood bar – a place where people are comfortable and enjoy gathering. He’d love to see more people like the couple I met, who walk from home or bike to the bar. Bike racks are located outside and a large parking lot sits next door, but Charles has his eye on expanding the patio into some of that parking lot.
One of the unique features incorporated by the new business is their systematic use of food trucks to provide patrons with a meal. You can see the entire schedule here, but each day a different food truck parks in the parking lot at dinner time and patrons are free to bring the food inside or take the beer outside to the food. I was there earlier than the food truck and some patrons had brought their own food to enjoy with their beer.
The food trucks are available all day Saturdays (I must have visited before this arrangement was made) and Sunday, with Sunday featuring a rotation of a variety of food trucks. Many of your favorites take a slot: Good Golly Miss Tamale, Dale’s Fried Pies, Bulls Barbecue, Savory and Sweet, Gonzo Gourmet and more.
Like all the best places I’ve written about, it’s the people who make all the difference. Thirty-two taps of great beer isn’t enough if the atmosphere isn’t welcoming and the faces aren’t friendly. You’ll find friendly faces and a convivial crowd at Hops and Hollers. Maybe it will be the spot where downtowners, Happy Hollerers and Old Northers meet for a sit down over a good beer. Visit Charles and see what you think. I think you’ll be back.