A recent visitor to Chattanooga was gushing about that city as he was sharing a pint at Hop House Tennessee Taps and Tapas in Franklin.
Small brewpubs and larger craft breweries there, like Hutton and Smith are transforming the southside of town into a walkable beer destination, following the pattern of Asheville, North Carolina, which some have taken to calling Beer Disneyland.
Chattanooga’s evolution is a part of a business and cultural return to the past, when in 1900, after a century of immigration, there were entire neighborhoods of breweries.
Today there are concentrations of breweries in Memphis, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Cookeville and Sparta, Knoxville and Johnson City.
Franklin’s debut of two tap houses during the same week this past winter is also is part of the trend. According to Brewers Association statistics, brewing peaked in 1871, when there were 4,131 breweries in the USA. But through changing tastes and industry consolidation that number had dropped by 1980 to 101, and the ten largest beer companies controlled 94% of the market.
That’s the decade when tastes began to change again, and the Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams), started a wildfire that continues to spread. Today the Brewers Association counts 6,300 breweries, with 6,266 of them classified as “craft” breweries based on production volume and variety of styles. They counted ninety-nine breweries in Tennessee, including about thirty in Nashville and greater middle Tennessee.
Middle Tennessee came to the party in 1994 when Blackstone Brewery opened. Yazoo started in 2003 in a corner suite at Marathon Motor Works, and last year moved into a large new custom-built facility overlooking the Cumberland River in Madison.
Franklin has served as an incubator for two breweries: Turtle Anarchy and Mantra. Turtle Anarchy moved to a large facility in West Nashville, and Mantra built a new facility on eighty-six acres near Murfreesboro. Mill Creek, which took over the Turtle/ Mantra brewing space in south Franklin, has since re-trenched at its Nolensville headquarters. Cool Springs Brewing continues to thrive as a restaurantbrewpub.
Beer has become as diverse as wine – perhaps even more so. Today there are hoppy India Pale Ales, malty brown ales and stouts, fruit beers, sours, and many more. Flavors tickle all classes of tastebuds, ranging from the piney and bitter to “juicy” and sweet, clear and crisp to dark and dessert-like. Ciders also are part of the story. Hop House Tennessee Taps aims to bring all that diversity together in one place. Those who say, “I don’t like beer,” probably haven’t tried it in a while, so come see us at Hop House and we can remedy that situation.