I’ve spotlighted a number of breweries over the last six months, each with plans of opening within the next few months. I also recently spotlighted Jeff Scheafnocker and Three Bears Coffee. This is where the two topics find a meeting point. Big things are happening on Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville. From Chapman Highway through to the Island Home neighborhood the energy is spreading. I’ll have more about the development along this strip as the next days and weeks pass.
The latest business gearing up for a late August opening along this stretch of road is Alliance Brewing Company. The opening has been a long time coming. Head brewer Adam Ingle told me they hatched the plan for the brewery literally years ago and thought it would have long been open before now. Turns out it’s complicated to open any business and probably more so a brewery.
Adam hails from east Tennessee, he attended UT, and has lived in Knoxville for most of his life. His wife Margaretanne Ingle owns and operates Ingle Studio Photography. Adam obtained a sociology degree from UT, which fits perfectly for a brewer, right? He worked retail for some years, including a long stint as a district supervisor for Walgreens. Moving on from that, he was the second employee hired at the Bearden Beer Market. Owner Chris Morton is one of several partners in the new brewing business. Ben Seamons, another partner, was the third employee hired there. He brings his UT MFA to the business. They clearly have diverse backgrounds.
As the group hatched the idea of a brewery, they began scouting locations all around the area. They looked in Alcoa, Maryville, west Knoxville and on North Central, but they were drawn to what’s happening in the area all around them. The entrance to Suttree Landing Park will run from just across the street. The urban wilderness is a short bike ride away. The city will be improving the road, including a roundabout and adding on-street parking. The Bell Helmet Grant for the Knoxville Urban Wilderness Gravity Trail received their grant. It’s a lot of energy for a small area.
And it met their vision for the brewery. They want to promote what they call “active beer culture.” This isn’t your father’s image of beer drinking – a guy with a big gut sitting on the couch drinking a six-pack of cheap beer while watching television. With Bearden Beer Market’s motto of “earn your beer,” they imagine cyclists riding in the urban wilderness and stopping back by for a beer. Several of the partners are off-road cyclists or trail runners.
Adam worked at the Smoky Mountain Brewery for about three years, which taught him a great deal about the business. Smoky Mountain Brewery supplies the Copper Cellar chain. It was a good lesson in operating a production brewery. He left there in December of 2012, prepared to open Alliance in Alcoa. The location fell through and so began two years of searching for the right spot.
As the opening date approaches, plans call for ten taps for Alliance beers, one for a gluten-free beer and one for another local option. The ten Alliance taps will likely include six standard beers and a rotation of four seasonal beers. The six types of beer which should always be available include a Kolsch, a smoked scotch ale, a Belgo IPA, a rye saison, an oatmeal stout and an American IPA.
The production will be small, though it should be plenty to use in house, with a small percentage reserved for a few other places around town. It will be a three barrel brewhouse with ten three-barrel fermenters. Since they can’t start brewing until they are open (one of those rules Tennessee has about alcohol), they’ll be open a short time serving other local brands before they have their own beer. Most ales take fourteen to twenty-one days to completion, so it will be a couple of weeks before their beers start hitting the taps. Lagers take five to twelve weeks and are a bit trickier, so those will come later.
Even before the group opens the new brewery, they have hopes for future expansions. Adam said they, “would like to go from a three barrel to a twenty barrel capacity eventually, and have a production brewery.” The new facility – at the opposite end of the former laundry building from Three Bears Coffee – has the room for at least one expansion, including room for a small canning and production system should they decide to install one.
The external appearance of the building will soon change dramatically, partially thanks to a facade grant from the city. The awning will be removed and what has been a small parking lot will give way to a beer garden with trees for shade, tables and chairs. Plenty of bike racks will be provided. With coffee on one end of the building and beer on the other end, the middle would seem to be perfect for a restaurant serving complementary food. Let’s hope.
The interior space, designed by Brett Honeycutt, will provide seating at the bar, seating along the front window at a drink rail and standing tables, which will accommodate about eighty people. The bar will be made of Sapele, a beautiful African wood. The floors, buried beneath the previous tile are a cool colored concrete, no doubt dating back to the pre-laundry days when the building housed a grocery store. The ceilings are about seventeen feet at the front and covered with corrugated steel with beams and trusses left exposed. The brewing process will be visible from the seating area.
Alliance isn’t looking to take over anyone else’s territory. Rather, their simple goal is to make quality beer. They are part of a movement, not only locally, but nationally, which has seen craft beer companies claim over 10% of the market share in the US. According to Money Magazine, as of the end of last month, there were 3,739 craft breweries operating in the US employing over 115,000 people. An additional 1755 breweries were reportedly in the planning stages. It sounds like perhaps too many until you consider that we’ve just now topped our pre-prohibition era numbers and the population of the US has more than tripled since 1920.
The hours will be limited initially and they haven’t been firmly set, but they will be something like 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Tuesday through Thursday, Noon – 10:00 PM Friday and Saturday and Noon to 8:00 PM on Sunday. He points out that it will not be a late night place because it will be a family friendly place and everyone running it has a family. In Adam’s words, “We want to take care of the business and take care of our families.”
The guys look forward to welcoming like-minded beer drinkers and Adam, along with others will be available, not only to pour beer, but to explain it to those of us who need a bit more knowledge or to talk about it with other enthusiasts.