I stood, waiting aimlessly at Food City in Lakesite, Tennessee for my wife to reply to a text message. The text had been sent in an effort to ensure that my selection would not result in my return to the same store later in the day. As I had some time to kill I went to the only logical place in the store where I could kill some time; the beer aisle. While the usual suspects in their large bottle and can varieties could be found I was more interested to see what craft selections might be available in this small town just north/northwest of Chattanooga. Highland, Good People, Back Forty, Yee Haw, Anchor, Dogfish Head, Bell’s, Wiseacre – wow, there wasn’t just a selection but there was more than I expected. As I perused the cooler I turned around to find as much on the shelves – if not more – as well as the obligatory grocery store mix-a-six setup. There might have very well been more craft than macro. My wife responded and I went on my way. However, I found myself mentally returning to not only what I had seen but also reflecting on how far we’ve come in craft beer as a state.
Lately we’ve answered a fair number of questions regarding how far Knoxville has come since we began this blog over 5 years ago. In short, we’ve come an incredibly long way. I’ve heard others talk about how the south was behind on the whole craft beer movement, thanks in part to our religious roots. Some would also suggest that our bootlegging activities also stunted growth. That said, I think we’ve made up for lost time.
Let’s take stock for a moment- and just focus on Knoxville:
- at least 4 brew pubs – one with multiple locations, multiple breweries with several more in the works,
- Knox Brew Tours – who is doing incredibly well not only promoting tourism but energizing the craft beer community,
- the fastest growing craft beer franchise – The Casual Pint,
- our very own Knoxville Area Brewer’s Association (KABA) – who also brought us the Knoxville Ale Trail,
- several incredibly proactive distributors such as Eagle, Cherokee and Lipman, who regularly look for additional craft brands to bring into the market,
- a brewing school! South College Professional Brewing Science Program,
- Have you SEEN the East TN Beer book yet??!!
- Our own beer week! Which is coming up…
- and an incredibly supportive craft beer community.
I could go on – there are multiple other establishments, people and events that make Knoxville what we are today – so much to be proud of. What I have come to realize though is that for our growth to continue, it’s up to us. Not just the brewers, not just KABA, not just the distributors, retailers or South College but all of us. That includes us self labeled “beer snobs”, “beer geeks”, beer patrons, home brewers, Untappd nerds, beer runners, beer cyclists – any and all of us connected to this wonderful art. It takes each one of us to make Knoxville great – and great in beer.
What do I mean? Yes, it means showing up, it means parting with our hard earned money, it means singing praise but it also means being careful – but constructive – with our criticism. We have witnessed some downright awful occurrences across the interwebs. While we are all entitled to our opinions – we are all tied to this craft beer culture. It is awesome. It is unique. It is ours. If someone is making bad beer, serving bad beer, serving improperly – or otherwise doing anything dangerous – speak up. Speak up doesn’t mean mouth off on Untappd, leaving an anonymous comment, or to fire off an angry tweet. It means looking a brewer, a manager, a server eye to eye and giving them an honest shot – in private. These guys all want to improve – let’s help ’em. Let’s encourage them. Let’s provide the dialogue necessary to grow. Let’s not embarrass them online or put them on the defensive. Let’s praise what we love for all to hear and offer private feedback on what we don’t. Let’s accept that our opinions aren’t the end all but continue to strive to push Knoxville to be the best in every aspect possible.
While I know many of us look east towards Asheville and ask why that can’t happen here. Well, it can. Come January 1st, 2017 the game changes in a lot of ways. I hope we don’t become Asheville though. Asheville is Asheville and I enjoy it immensely. Knoxville is uniquely different and I want it to stay that way. So many of us make up this wonderful place that I would never want it – or us – to be lost or become some duplicative community. Knoxville, beer city kinda like Asheville only different. No thanks.
Knoxville, great beer, incredible people. I think we’re well on our way.