I met Joel on a cold and rainy afternoon at Sigler’s Craft Beer and Cigars in Chattanooga. For the inaugural issue of the TN Craft Beer Mag I had been asked to handle the brewery update section for East Tennessee which, I thought wouldn’t be that big of a deal as I knew a lot of the people behind the breweries. Turns out there were more than I thought, however it gave me a unique opportunity to make some new friends – like Joel.
One of the great things about this industry is that people are so open to talk about their hopes, dreams, aspirations, what they appreciate about other breweries/beer, what they may do differently but overall, people are very respectful and happy. Hard not to be happy when you have a beer in your hand.
Joel and I talked much longer than the 45 minutes to an hour I had originally planned. During this time I got to hear about the events that led up to the creation of Hutton & Smith Brewing Company as well as Joel’s extensive background in home brewing that, like many, grew to the point where it was time to make the leap into a full fledged brewery.
Joel and his wife, Melanie, aren’t originally from Tennessee but fell in love with the Chattanooga area when they were on a vacation. The outdoor activities that the area offers drew them in as they are both avid mountain bikers and climbers. The name, Hutton & Smith, gives a nod to their shared love of geology and beer. I’m going to copy the explanation from their website (so consider it credited!) as they explain it very well:
James Hutton and William “Strata” Smith are considered the fathers of modern geology, and rightly so. In “The Theory of the Earth”, Hutton, a Scot from Edinburgh, illustrates the concept of deep time – the immense expanses of time over which geological changes occur. The Englishman Smith produced the first geological map of the earth, a revolutionary feat, detailing regional geology. Scots and Brits had been drinking beer for ages before any of these revelations came to mind, and it is rumored that our two friends sometimes strayed to focus on their love for tasty brews. Though we can only speculate, it is almost certain that at some point they imagined what it might be like to brew their own beer. We pay meager homage to these two beer drinking pioneers of their field by opening Hutton & Smith Brewing Co. in their names.
On a recent visit to Chattanooga I was able to stop by the brewery to check out their progress. They’ve done a great job of keeping everyone apprised as to how they are doing on their Facebook page but there’s nothing like standing in the brewery. First of all, 431 East Martin Luther King Blvd in Chattanooga is very familiar to me as the church I grew up attending is a mere two blocks away on McCallie Avenue. I traveled this road frequently growing up all the way though high school – it’s changed a lot and seems to be going through a resurgence. This brewery is well positioned. The building they occupy looks very sharp from the outside and has a roll up garage door on the front to open the tasting area up to the street. As you walk through the door the first thing you realize is that they are out of space as a bright tank is the first thing to greet you. Joel says this was the plan all along – go big and max it out – they’ve done it. The space has incredible touches throughout. Joel built the bar by hand and his ability to craft wood is equal to his ability to brew beer. You’ll also note some very neat stain glass light fixtures made out of bicycle parts that Melanie created. Also, the climbing theme continues with rope and carabiners holding the shelves up behind the bar. The attention to detail continues to the brew house with a 7 barrel system from Bennett Forgeworks. All the electrical and water filtration systems are top notch and well thought out thanks to smart and talented family members. The water filtration system allows them to begin with a clean slate and add the appropriate elements for each beer based on it’s profile.
Joel was brewing when we arrived and he immediately filled a glass for me. We began with the Rope Gun Rye which Joel explained wasn’t quite giving the aroma he was looking for as they were tweaking the draft system. However, I thought it smelled and tasted great. I will say that it was the second beer we had, Igneous IPA, that, in my opinion, sets these guys apart. Everyone does IPAs these days – English, West Coast, wet hopped, dry hopped, session – I can’t count the variations and it takes something special to get my attention – Igneous IPA got my attention. On the nose a lot of pine, some citrus and on the palate it’s full and flavorful – sweet, citrus, just enough bittering. This beer while very similar to west coast style IPAs, doesn’t kill the palate as it finishes fairly clean and left me confident I could move to another beer – and I did! Next up was a porter that didn’t quite hit the mark they were going for, but it was still very good so it continues its life onward perhaps simply named Porter #1 or something like that. While it didn’t have the body it was intended to have, the nose and flavor were great. After that I had another Igneous IPA!
We’re very excited for Hutton & Smith Brewing Company and what it means for not only Chattanooga but for East Tennessee and our growing craft beer culture. We hear that a soft opening is on the way so watch their website and Facebook page for details. Also, if you’re passing through, they do have a crowler machine on hand – just saying – you won’t be disappointed. For those of you in the area, keep an eye on these guys and check them out as soon as you can.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see these guys in Knoxville before too long. Until then, we wish them the best of luck and godspeed!