By Josh Sales

Mike Chase decided to pioneer craft beer in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee. He originally bought the Cooper Cellar with a group of friends in 1975.

In 1996 the Copper Cellar family, who also own Smoky Mountain Brewery, was looking for a way to provide their own restaurants with a locally-sourced craft beer. Mike’s answer at the time was rather innovative but admittingly unpopular. The first Smoky Mountain Brewery opened in Gatlinburg to a mixed audience. Customers came in looking for traditional brand-name beers only to be offered freshly-brewed in-house drafts.

Mike continued with the concept of beer made in-house, alongside sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas. When craft beer began to make its mark on the scene and become more in-demand, Smoky had years of experience and well-tested recipes to offer customers.

Today, Smoky Mountain Brewery has four locations. The Pigeon Forge location opened in 2004. The third location opened in West Knoxville’s Turkey Creek in 2008. In 2011 the company opened their latest site in Maryville, Tennessee. Each location is responsible for their own brewing operations.

Smoky Mountain beers aren’t available off-site, but Paul Melton, in charge of brewery support, puts it this way, “We’re our own customer.” At each Smoky Mountain Brewery, tanks directly feed into the lines that come out across the restaurant in the bar area.

Smoky’s Grissette is pleasantly wheaty with obvious hops on the back end; it’s a bit more refined than to be expected in your typical farmhouse or table beer. Overall, it presented as a fine beer to drink on the bar’s patio with a low ABV level. Paul says that the restaurant’s customers range from macro beer fanatics to those with “contemporary palates,” and that the brewery responds with their range of mainstays, seasonal beers, and Brewmaster runs.

Smoky Mountain Brewery has been in business for 22 years, since Mike set out to pioneer craft beer in the Smoky Mountains. His innovation has only awarded the brewery with experience, a chance to get ahead of the game, and the ability to expand East Tennessee’s craft beer history.