Just about the time I think I’ve got a handle on all the new breweries coming to the downtown area, I find another. I’ve nosed around the area out Jackson on McCalla over to Magnolia and across to Standard Knitting Mills and into Parkridge a bit, recently. It’s really all pretty close together. I’ve written about a couple of places out that way recently.
It was actually when I went to Saw Works Brewing Company recently in order to write the story on Park City Cigar that I first heard the name of the new brewery. Told it was just around the corner on Magnolia from Saw Works, I rode my bike around the corner, spotted the space and realized a couple of people were inside so, you know what I did. I went inside to introduce myself and wound up scaring Tracy Frede, who co-owns the new brewery with her husband Mike, pretty badly. I don’t think she expected anyone to walk in and, while I appreciate the fact that I might be considered to look vaguely dangerous, I really do regret it. I was lucky she gave me a business card as opposed to, say, shooting me.
Later I met with Mike to get the story of Last Days of Autumn, this latest entry into the brewing empire that is Knoxville. He welcomed me into his office – and office that looks a lot like the ones I’ve entered in other breweries-to-be: a couple of camp chairs in the middle of the proposed brewing space. He motioned to my chair with a laugh.
Mike moved to Knoxville from Milwaukee in 1994, while Tracy moved here in 1986 to attend UT. They met in the food-service world, meeting at Spaghetti Warehouse where they both worked. It eventually closed and you now know it as “Barley’s.” For a while, it was hoping. I used to take Urban Girl and friends there and she and her friends loved it. Mike moved back to Milwaukee briefly to help a friend set up a new business, but soon return and he and Tracy worked together again when he bartended at Wallaby’s.
They married in 1999, but he left the food-service world for a long detour into logistics, while she became a nurse. A customer at the bar worked for an air freight company and said they needed a dispatcher. He learned logistics and worked up to regional manager, was laid off in staff reductions, worked for another company, was laid off due to staff reductions, and later worked for Fed Ex and U.S. Foods doing similar work. After four layoffs between 2005 and 2011, he formulated a longer range plan that included being his own boss. As he told me, “If I’m going to fall on my face, I want it to be on my own terms.”
During all this time he’d been home-brewing, having gotten his first kit in 1994, meaning he has over 20 years home-brewing experience. When he worked for Fed Ex, he took advantage of the fact that they would pay for him to attend classes – of any sort. He attended Walter’s State Community College Culinary School on their dime.
A conversation with a friend when he was visiting Atlanta led him to really begin to pay attention to the quality of his beer. The friend challenged him to make a beer as good as Seirra Nevada, implying he wasn’t really making beer worth drinking. He met the challenge and the friend was sold. It was a couple of years ago that Mike and Tracy decided they were going to go all in and open a brewery. They toured numerous breweries. One trip he recalled to Colorado (Denver, Boulder and Ft. Collins) included twenty-two breweries in five days. That’s hard-core research.
They sold their house to finance the new venture, so as he puts it, “We’re all in.” They sat in tasting rooms and bars and counted beers that were sold. They poured over business plans trying to determine what it would take to make it. They learned that some of the most successful bars were not in the best part of town and some of the least successful were. What went on inside the tasting rooms was more predictive of success or failure.
They visited numerous breweries, including a number in Asheville, generally spending a couple of hours at each. Mike said the owners of the various businesses were always happy to sit down with them and tell them what they had learned. Interestingly, the consistent message was, “You will sell more beer than you think.” Mike began to get more comfortable with the idea. After about twenty years in the corporate world, he said, “This was way outside my comfort zone.”
After considering other locations, they settled on half the building at 808 E. Magnolia. They actually lease half the top and the entire basement, though they have no present plans to use the lower portion. The top is 2,000 square feet and the basement includes twice that. It also has a parking lot and high ceilings, one of which they felt was important, the other necessary.
He says they always made a wide range of specialty beers, but after making batches of very particular beers, he found that people loved one or two, but then wanted to resume drinking more customary beers, leaving him with the remaining portion of the batch. He changed his focus to making beers that people would enjoy repeatedly, though that left a wide range of possibilities. He and his wife have different tastes in beer, with one preferring British style beers and the other more of the German style. So, they’ll try to address each to a degree as they go.
They will have two different IPAs, a blonde ale, a wheat beer and two different Belgian beers. They will also rotate the beers often, making small batches so that is possible. Mike says he likes finding something new when he returns to a tasting room and he assumes others would appreciate the same. They hope to have sixteen taps, with four devoted to other local start-up breweries.
They’ve been in touch with most of the other local breweries who all seem keen to want to help each other through what can be a complicated process to get started. A fledgling brewer’s association is currently taking shape, but he mentioned several brewers who have been helpful, as well as Chris at Bearden Beer Market.
The first complicated decision was to locate a space. They’ve always liked the Old City and looked there. They looked out Central where a couple of other breweries have begun build-out. The process isn’t easy as the building has to have a concrete floor (not tough to find), but also ceilings of certain height, a space to build out ADA approved bathrooms and parking is also important. Compounding the problem is the fact that many of these properties aren’t advertised, so a person literally has to drive the streets looking for possibilities.
For now, the focus is on getting the construction underway and working through city permitting and so on. The front space you see walled off will be the brewing area and a large window harvested from the old Carousel Lounge will replace one of those walls so the process will be in view. A bar will cut across the center of the large space, with a room behind it to hold the kegs. Seating will be all around and larger windows will light the area.
The timeline is a bit fluid, but the hope is to begin brewing by January. Look for events there including regularly scheduled food trucks. Since most of my readers who are interested in this topic know where Saw Works is located, the best way to tell you to get there is to take Georgia (right beside Saw Works) to Magnolia (a distance of one block) and look to your right. You are there. Pretty simple.
Oh, and the name? Bonus points if you know already (I didn’t), but it is the name of a song by Leftover Salmon. Who would name their business after a song, right? Oh, yeah. I did that. Anyway, cool song posted below and the reference is Mike realized if he’s going to go for his dream at some point, it’s getting time to do it. So, he and Tracy are on it. Watch for their opening. Go ahead and “like” them on Facebook so you can get the latest updates. You’ll also find their website here.