The Sunday before Memorial Day has become like Christmas for craft beer lovers in Middle Tennessee. The excitement builds for weeks. Finally, the big day arrives, full of special surprises.

Chimipalooza got it’s start in 2012 after Eddie Chimichanga fell in love with the Nashville beer community at the first 12 South Winter Warmer. Chimi is the beer lover’s beer lover, and only his close friends know his true identity (he’s kind of like the Batman of craft beer).

According to Chimi, “it was started just as a bottle share to get a group of people together, some that knew each other, and some that didn’t, and share great beers. It really isn’t about the beer, it’s about the people. The beer is just an excuse to get the people together”

Chimipalooza is the annual family reunion of the Tennessee beer community. But it is bigger than that. It is more like an extended family reunion with attendees driving in from Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin. There was even someone from the Netherlands!

The local beer community is united by friendship, not just beer. They group has become closer by walking together through tragedies of the untimely loss of three young friends and standing with brothers fighting cancer. It is filled with joy by celebrating happy times like great new jobs, marriages and births. Truly, it is about the people.

The event rotates venues every year, visiting places like Craft Brewed and Bearded Iris in the past. This year Chimipalooza headed up in the holler, to BriarScratch Brewing in Cottontown, TN. It was a bit out of the way for some, but more than worth the drive. BriarScratch is located at the end of dead end road in a picturesque wooded setting, complete with a little creek running through it.

Beer was shared from around the world. The group has a preference for sour and funky beer, but there was a wide mix of styles. The event’s specialness is heightened by the rarity of the beer. The vast majority of bottle are not available for sale in Tennessee. Faithful beer lovers gather beer from around the country and share their bounty at Chimipalooza.

There were so many good beers, but there were standouts:
● A three year vertical of The Bruery Wineification
● A growler of fresh Tree House Julius
● Sierra Nevada’s Alpha Hop Society American Red Oak-aged Sour
● Cascade Brewing’s Apricot Ale and Blackcap Raspberry Ale
● Council Brewing’s Beatitude Peach and Nectarine Sour

You cannot, or at least should not, drink all afternoon on an empty stomach. Thankfully, Trace from Thunderbird Wings rolled his smoker trailer up in the holler and served up his legendary smoked thighs, wings and Mac & Cheese. If you have not tried them yet, you are missing out. The chicken is neither Buffalo or Nashville Hot styles, Thunderbird’s smoked chicken is truly unique. The tender chicken, full of smoke and spice, melts in your mouth. It is addictive, and Chimi is Trace’s biggest fan.

Every year’s Chimipalooza is special and 2016 was no different. The location was gorgeous, the food was delicious, and the shared beer was exceptional. Like any family reunion, it is not advertised publicly. However, if you want to be at Chimipalooza 2017, ask your beer friends if they know Chimi. Chances are, he is a friend of a friend. You won’t want to miss it. We are not exclusive. We are family.

Drinking with Friends

Written by Kendall Joseph

Photography by Sean von Tagen