Friday, October 5, 2012

Chattanooga Beer

Chattanooga has drawn many comparisons to towns like Boulder and Portland, where the microbrew trend has long reigned supreme. One of Chattanooga's breweries even adopted a riff on the "keep Portland weird" slogan with "keep Mocassin Bend weird." 

For years, Big River Grille was the closest thing to a good local beer. It's true that it's a bit more homey than Budwiser or Mic Ultra, with the first location of Big River being the one that stands proudly on Broad Street in the heart of downtown. However, that original Big River has since gone on to be one of "nearly 200 restaurants operating under 14 different brands, we employ close to 12,000 people in serving approximately 80,000 guests each day," from Denver to Chicago to Ohio and everywhere else in between. Big River remains a local favorite, and it still presents its beer along side other, less national microbrews at the annual Chattanooga Beerfest. 

In the past ten years, Chattanooga's beer scene has come even further, with the arrival of The Terminal Brewhouse on the newly revamped Southside. The Terminal not only offers a wide range of regular beers representing everything from the very light to the very stout, but also fun small-batch casks like wasabi-laced beer, or beer that ties in to other local entitites, like their current Hellbender Hefe which benefits the Hellbender Salamander conservation efforts at the Chattanooga Zoo. 

In 2010, Chattanooga Brewing Company revived a hundred year old tradition by bringing back beers not enjoyed in the city since 1915. In addition to the Imperial Pilsner and Hill City IPA, Chattanooga Brewing Company also has seasonal offerings. One of our favorite fall and winter options is their Chickbock, which is dark and rich and perfect for chilly nights. They partner with many local restaurants around town, and you can use the Beer Finder on their website to check out where in town you can try their tasty brews.

Moccassin Bend Brewing Company is now a successful St. Elmo staple, located in the bottom floor of an old warehouse across from the historic Forest Hills Cemetery. They brew a wide range of beers, all of which can be tried in their huge tasting room, staffed by volunteers and beer enthusiasts who work just for tips and a love of the craft. They have some very inventive beers, including a smokey one that tastes like if a dark beer and a good old fashioned Southern barbeque got together and had a baby, or a fabulous juniper beer that is perfect in summer. 

For those looking to buy beer beyond a pint or growler, or for non-local brews, there are two stores in particular that beer enthusiasts will love. 

One is the aptly-named, Beverage World, an out of the way beer mecca tucked away in Fort Oglethorpe about 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. There you can buy beer by the bottle, case, or growler. It kind of feels like the IKEA of beer, in the endless variety of brands and the giddy sense of shopping possibilities. From Dogfish Head to high gravity to Old Rasptuin Imperial Stout to rare aged beers they've carefully curated in one of their large cooler rooms, Beverage World has both the beers you're looking for and some you've never heard of.

The other is Riverside Beverage Company, a large-well stocked store offering beer by the keg, as well as wine and liquor in a "separate" shop next door. This gets them around Tennessee's blue laws. The beer side of the store offers fair prices and a decent amount of variety. The real benefit to shopping here, however, is the extremely knowledgeable staff and the impeccable customer service. For those in Chattanooga with private home kegerators, Riverside Beverage is a favorite place to stock up.

Finally, if you want to tour a national selection of beers in a bar setting, Taco Mac in downtown's Jack's Alley area has an unbeatable selection and a long-standing reputation for the most beers in Chattanooga. They also have a beer passport club that gets you rewards from sampling their vast array of options.

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