“You crafty bastard.”
That was it. Aaron McClain and Jen Parker, the brains behind Knoxville’s soon to open nanobrewery found their name.
Crafty Bastard Brewery will be something that Knoxville desperately needs. They won’t be huge, they won’t distribute across the country, and they might not have the same beers every month.
They will, however, bring out some of the most exciting and thoughtful brews the city has ever seen. We’re talking Salty Caramel Coffee beers. A smoked pale ale that puts you front and center at a Hawaiian pig roast with citrusy hops and smoked malts. Cask beers, sessions, sours. All made here on Rocky Top, a stone’s throw from downtown.
Brewmaster Aaron has been brewing for years. Constantly. “There are thirty-five gallons of beer at my house either in kegs, bottles, or fermenting.” He started in his early twenties, cutting his teeth on pint nights in the Old City and then Jen bought him a homebrew kit one Christmas.
“So, the first two beers were a brown ale and an ESB. Nothing too far out there, and then I started experimenting.” Aaron didn’t hold back. Mango IPAs, chocolate milk stouts, watermelon wheat. He even did a pine ale made with fresh young pine sprigs.
Aaron’s day job started to take more of his time, even though he still brewed. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Aaron was a math teacher for a long while before the beer called him back. That’s when the idea hit. “There’s nothing like this in Knoxville.”
The Crafty Bastard beers are going to be unique. Hop Candy, their flagship IPA, is a west coast style pale ale that won’t be extremely bitter but will pack in the hops and aromatics. Knoxville Pride, a casked english pale ale, is another of their flagship beers. Of course they will also have the above mentioned smoked pale ale and the coffee porter, but they won’t stop there. Assistant brewer Daniel Delph and Aaron have some pretty exciting beers that they will rotate. Daniel is the kind of crazy brewer we have come to love. According to Aaron, Delph will be infusing beers with all sorts of devilish goodies like chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake.
The brewery will be unique like the beers and won’t be just a simple taproom.
“I want to have a place where people come out, hang out and have fun.” He envisions a late night neighborhood bar with “really freakin’ awesome beer.”
“Here’s the thing, we’re late night people, as most young people are. A lot of these people are college students, service industry people, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of people in (this) area that work 8-5 Monday through Friday.”
Crafty Bastard will have a huge patio with plenty of seating and a spot for food trucks. Aaron also wants board games like Connect Four, Jenga, and chess. Being an avid chess player, Aaron taunts patrons with free beers if they can best him on the bar top chessboard.
Crafty Bastard is close to opening. They recently had a free beer tasting event to a packed house, and Aaron is starting to pare down his lineup of beers. The friends and fans of the brewery are ready. Crafty Bastard won’t just mean good beer from good people in Knoxville, it will help usher in an era of local pride that Knoxville’s beer community needs, bringing it one step closer to Asheville, Portland, and other notable craft beer cities.
“At the end of the day I would love Crafty Bastard to be remembered as one of those businesses that helped Knoxville.”