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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There are hundreds of beers on the market catering to a wide variety of tastes, but what if you want a truly local brew?
At Smoky Mountain Brewery and Restaurant, 11308 Parkside Drive, Marty Velas, an award winning brew master for the Copper Cellar Restaurants, took us on a tour of a brew house.
It's one of the largest craft breweries in the state, making nearly 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of beer a week.
"Attention to detail really makes a difference between good products and great products. Then you want consistency," Velas said.
That consistency has led to six to eight beers regularly served at their more than 15 restaurants, including the Calhouns and Smoky Mountain Brewery locations.
Velas, who's been making beer for more than 25 years, says his philosophy is simple. "Life is too short to drink boring beer. Beer with flavor is the way to go."
He also says he learned to appreciate beer in Europe, and he works to make sure "that flavor" can be found in each beer they serve. You can find, "Everything from light lager American-style to a really meaty stout that you can eat with a spoon, really yummy."
When asked what makes his beers stand out, Velas stresses their freshness, saying, "We've got malt, hops, water and yeast. That's it. No sugar, additives, hamburger helper, no preservatives or additives or chemicals, no pasteurizing."
Managers with the Copper Cellar Corp. say their business is growing nearly 15-17 percent each year.
CEO Bart Fricks says one of their latest moves is selling their bottled beer at Earth Fare stores. "We've gone out into local grocery stores and other bars and pubs. We sell bottles and mini kegs. Business has been booming!"
However, this is not the only craft beer in Knoxville. Marble City Brewery opened a few months ago. It's producing kegs in the former New Knoxville Brewing Company location off East Depot Avenue near The Old City.
"The building and equipment really was in disarray. It was quite a mess. When we were cleaning this up, we went through eight dumpsters. Every time we pulled something away from a wall, we discovered another issue or problem," said President Adam Palmer.
However, some equipment was salvageable, and Palmer is making improvements including adding a tasting room called The Quarry. It's expected to open to the public the first week of October, just in time for brew master Jennifer Muckerman to serve one of her more popular seasonal beers.
"Spiced pumpkin ale, we will be making that next week," Muckerman said. "I've always had lots of success with it in the past."
Muckerman has been making beer for more than a decade. She has her own recipes and describes the beer making process like this. "Beer is a science, but it is also art."
She hopes to make Marble City "Knoxville's beer." The brewery served its beers at several events last year including Brewer's Jam, and it will be at several others this fall.
Muckerman and Palmer say it's so important to give Knoxvillians what they want. Marble City even has a poll online where you can submit what beer you'd like them to produce next.
They're making about 150 kegs a month that are distributed to nearly 50 clients including:
The Market on Gay Street
Aubrey's Cafes - 3 locations
Barley's Tap Room, 200 E. Jackson Avenue
Bearden Beer Market, 4524 Old Kingston Pike
Bella Luna on Market Square
Bistro at the Bijou, 807 S. Gay Street
Brixx Pizza, 2 locations
Marble City hopes to be bottling beer sometime next year.
This report touches on the newest, and possibly the biggest, brewers in town, but there are more than 30 breweries listed in Tennessee, including the popular Downtown Brewery and Grill, 424 S. Gay Street, in downtown Knoxville.