Hops in the Hills: Nailed. It.

Every month we live here, I become more deliriously happy with our choice. And the truth is, we got lucky. We knew Knoxville was cool. We knew we wanted to be on the “peaceful side of the Smokes”. But we had no idea until after we moved that Maryville was such a swell town to live near.

Yesterday Stacey and I attended the first-ever “Hops in the Hills” brew festival, part of the larger Summer on Broadway series.

All I can say about this brew fest was: nailed it.

First thing we noticed on arrival: the line of delicious-smelling fair-food vendors lined up out front. Funnel cakes, greek kebabs, etc. A common complaint I’ve had with brew festivals in the past is when they skimp out on food (sometimes this is a limitation imposed by the venue; I’m looking at you, horrible York Pennsylvania venues.) We wound up eating at Barley’s next door, because we wanted some sit-down food. But still: well done.

Next, great bluegrass music playing on stage. “Good music” continued to be a trend throughout the afternoon. Maryville is an amazingly musical town.

Next: Stacey and I were a bit gobsmacked when the first couple of stands we stopped at filled our glasses. We had to actually tell people to pour “just a sample, please”. This isn’t the sort of brewfest perk I’m likely to take much advantage of, because I prefer to sample beers upright rather than flat on my back. But still… wow.

Next notable item: two large open-sided awnings with ample seating and tables dominated the center of the festival space. Far too few brew festivals provide space to sip beer and chat with friends out of the sun and rain. This was a really nice touch.

All the breweries put in great showings. Particularly notable:

EDIT: I feel bad not mentioning local Bluetick Brewery; especially since they’re the ones who put this whole shindig together! The truth is, since I already knew I loved their beers, I spent less time at their booth than I did at the others.

Brewhibition 2015

It’s really starting to look like we moved down to the Knoxville area at the perfect time. A lot of very cool stuff is getting started right about now. Case in point: we arrived just in time to attend the first-ever Knoxville Brewhibition festival.

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Prepping a kolsch-kiwi infusion.

 

This was a lot of fun, and it was interesting to compare it to similar brew festivals up north.

Some things I really liked about this festival:

  • To my surprise, they took the “prohibition” theme pretty seriously. From the live swing music to the awesome flapper or bootlegger costumes many of the vendors were wearing, they really set the theme nicely.
  • I’m used to the distilled spirits vendors being off in a corner somewhere at beer festivals. In this case, local distillers (mainly moonshiners, naturally) had their own row, and each was showcasing their wares with their own take on a beer/liquor cocktail of some kind. I thought this was a terrific idea, and I had some great drinks along this row.
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A poet was on hand for on-demand poetry.

 

There were also a few areas in which it would be nice to see improvements in future festivals.

  • There was zero shade to be had, and it was a pretty hot day.
  • The lack of readily-available, free water was also kind of lame.
  • It would have been nice to also see some more local food artisans showcasing their wares alongside the beer. Although they would have had to move to a bigger venue to fit more booths.
  • Similarly, it would have been really cool to see some local food trucks instead of just a single burgers-and-fries stand.

All in all I really enjoyed the festival. It was very cool to see how many breweries there were just getting started. Some hadn’t even opened their brick-and-mortar doors yet. Seems like the Knoxville beer scene is really taking off right now. Like I said, we moved down at the perfect time.

And now, on to the beers. I don’t know how to properly taste beer, I just know what I like. So I’m not going to write down any tasting notes here. If it’s on the list, that means I thought it was worth remembering and drinking again.

Returning to Tennessee

Friends of ours on Facebook have seen a version of announcement already, but now it’s time to announce it to the rest of the world:

We are moving to Tennessee. Specifically, we are moving to the Smoky Mountain foothills outside Knoxville. By the end of March we will no longer be PA residents.

We are moving to fulfill a decades-long shared dream of having a secluded place in the mountains that we can call our own. Where we can let our kids run rampant and not worry about them being hit by a truck or yelled at by uptight neighbors.

Unlike past moves, there is nothing sudden about this one. It comes at the end of years of consideration, discussion, and soul-searching about of where we want to end up; years of working to have the means to make such a move; and months of searching for a house we could be happy to call “home”.

I think Stacey and I agreed that we wanted to live in the mountains since we met. The question was, where? We’re not the sort of people who like to pick up and move every few years. It had to be a place we could feel at home with for many years.

We considered many possible destinations, both inside the US and beyond.

Ultimately, we discovered that the answer had been between us all along. Some of my happiest childhood memories are from road trips down through the Blue Ridge, dreamily watching the mountains drift past the car windows. At least one of those trips took me all the way through the Smokies down into Tennessee. Meanwhile, Stacey grew up in Florida and relished family vacations to the north, staying in Gatlinburg and enjoying the change of scenery from her hot, flat home.

Last Spring we took a family vacation and stayed in a cabin in Gatlinburg. We decided that yes, we could see ourselves living in those mountains. Not in Gatlinburg itself, which is a bit of a tourist carnival. But in that region.

We’ve been cleaning house and packing for months now. Over the next month or so we’ll be moving down to our new house on top of a mountain. Well, on top of a foothill anyway.

I like to think of this as a return to Tennessee. Not many people know this, but I was born in Nashville. I lived there for perhaps a year and have no memories of it. Still, it is the land of my birth, and I am irrationally proud of this fact.

It is true that, having spent almost all of my life in the northeastern states, I have a northerner’s temperament. But I like to think that I can change.

I haven’t hated living in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I have many fond memories, and I’m going to miss a lot of wonderful friends. But the time has come to move on.

I look forward to meeting new friends in the Knoxville area. I’m especially looking forward to meeting the members of the programming community there. If you’re a hacker and you’re in the Knoxville area, look me up!