We heard a female voice call out,”are you the people we’re looking for?” as we stepped through the door of the 4th & Gill apartment building. “We sure hope so!” was our reply. It was a warmer than usual November Monday afternoon here in fantabulous Knoxville, Tennessee and we were getting to meet the people behind Crafty Bastard Brewing for the first time. Jen Parker and Aaron McClain were ready for us – glasses ready and beers chosen.
We had barely shaken Aaron’s hand before he began telling us what he had lined up as if we were old friends – our kind of people. We moved to the porch to enjoy the weather as Aaron poured Berliner Weiss in four glasses and began telling us about their approach with this beer before noting that half way through he’d add some prickly pear syrup as was common in Germany. Clean, refreshing, very drinkable – quickly drinkable and with the syrup added, wow – what a change. The beer was perfect for the weather and would only be better paired with a dock on the lake late in May.
We then moved to a raspberry saison that Aaron noted was perhaps a little too young but was worth a shot. On the nose the raspberry’s were strong – as if I had just bought a container at Kroger and opened them for the first time. On the first sip the tartness of the beer was overpowering – more raspberry than saison but what Don and I both noted was that after a few sips our noses and taste buds connected and the tartness died down leaving a great flavor on the palate. At 6% ABV this is a very nice beer. While more raspberry than saison at this point, I think it’ll settle down a bit more shortly. Aaron is right in that saison’s are very versatile and you can do a lot with them – that’s why we love them! From my understanding Aaron is going to be utilizing the base malts of the traditional saison and pairing them with various fruits and spices like many other breweries are doing with the wheat base so get ready to be schooled in the world of the saison.
It was at this point we began to ask about the brewery. First things first, they’ve chosen a name that certainly sticks with you. When I first heard about these guys I texted Don to let him know someone was using his birth name for a brewery. Turns out this was a result of a brainstorming session at The Thirsty Monk in Asheville, NC. Aaron shared that when he was in high school he and a friend would jokingly call one another a crafty bastard while roaming the halls. Turns out that this same friend is now a brewer in Arizona. Funny how things work out.
Next beer: An Imperial Amber with ancho peppers. While I usually steer clear of amber beers, holy cow this was good. The chocolate malts offset the heat and the addition of some tequila soaked oak brings some nice tannin’s to the beer. At 7% ABV this was an excellent beer that impressed both of us.
Now it was time for the IPAs. While we love IPAs I think Don and I can both agree, we’re drinking less of them than we used to. First up, Hop Candy IPA. This one is one of their flagship beers. The nose on this beer was as if it was a double – big, almost boozy but more of a California feel to it. The body though, lighter than the nose would reflect. I was reminded of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA – nice, very very nice. I want to pair this beer with tacos, ribs, anything. Don said he’d like to get drunk on this beer all night long – this is the equivalent of two thumbs up from Fonzie.
Tessellation IPA was our final beer of the evening which was brewed with Mosaic hops. One of the definitions of tessellation is to be adorned with mosaic. This beer had a wonderful aroma – a lot of citrus, was sweeter than the Hop Candy and lingered nicely on the palate.
So by this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the deal and when can I try these beers out? At this point Crafty Bastard is slated to be open in March of 2015. They have a spot locked at 6 Emory Place and they’ll have a 3-5 barrel system (nanobrewery!) and intend on only serving their beer in house. Their priority is quality beer and when you’re brewing on a smaller scale, the ability to get quality ingredients is much greater. You can expect 8-10 taps with 4 mainstay beers, 4-5 rotating and 1-2 non-alcoholic beers (think kombucha and ginger ale).
We’re excited for Jen and Aaron and had a great time getting to know them. Great beer, nanobrewery, here in Knoxville. Stay tuned as they get setup and ready to open their doors.
Thanks Jen and Aaron! Cheers!