Bearden Beer Market
Downtown Grill & Brewery
KNOXVILLE — When it comes to drinks, price versus quality is always a complicated issue, as is staying in versus going out. So recently I've been asking around to figure out what beers bring people out of the house.
Joel Smith, a current UT student, explained his rationale on ordering brew.
"If there's a special at the bar for two-for-one, I jump on it," he says, "because in reality if I'm at a bar with friends there's a higher probability of me getting inebriated. And so the sticker shock once the bill comes is easier to take when I pay for only half of the beers I drink.
"That being said I don't go to bars that often, so (when I do) I opt for nicer beers which are in some cases more stout, so there's also a bang-for-the-buck factor," he adds.
Half Barrel bartender Jared Brewster confirmed this approach to be extremely common.
"(Half Barrel) is a place where people come out (because we have) the most taps on the Strip," he says. "A lot of people come here to see what we have new," explaining they rotate seasonal beers out.
"On the other side of the coin, a lot of people come in looking for deals on beer, which we also have," he adds.
"We get all types of beer drinkers in here, but they all come for specific drinks. Whether it's beers they like, the deals, or to try new stuff. Mainly they ask for what's cheapest." Brewster guesses that about 25 to 40 percent buy beer based on the price, and not necessarily the quality.
Overall, the biggest beer sellers are always Bud Light and Miller Lite with PBR and High Life close behind.
My good friend Brandon Blevins, 26, is a High Life enthusiast and frequent orderer.
"High Life represents more than just a good beer," he says, "It has withstood the test of time. It's been part of American generations before us, and it'll be part generations after."
"High Life is priced for the everyday American, (who) gets off work, heads to a bar, kicks back, and doesn't want to fret about a hit on their wallet," he adds.
Ashley Susong, a 25-year-old sushi chef at Nama, takes a different approach.
"Excepting spectacular happy hours or daily specials, I would rather pay $5 for a delicious, well-crafted beer than $2 for 16 ounces of gutter swill."
She's a fan of the New Belgium beers, which have only been available in Tennessee since 2008. "All the New Belgium beers exhibit an adventurous spirit," she says, "building on what one would expect of a good beer and delivering nuances normally found in boutique breweries but at a very reasonable price."
Brewster also remembers the hype of Fat Tire prior to its arrival in Tennessee.
"(There was that buzz) about Fat Tire before we had it," he says. "People would talk about, 'Oh, I went to Colorado and brought back three cases in the trunk'. People love it."
On the other hand, Steve Smith, 28, is a fan of Downtown Grill and Brewery, which brews its own blends. "I'm a member of the mug club," he says, adding he's there "at least a couple nights a week."
As far as his favorites go, he cites the Nut Brown and the IPA. "The nut brown is more than an ale but it's got the nut like a stout," he says. "It's that nice medium and it's pretty strong and dark."
Although he's a big fan of their beer, Smith frequently goes out for the purpose of trying new beers. "I found one from Jonesborough that's pretty good," he says of Depot Street Roundabout Stout, which he found at Bearden Beer Market. "I didn't know you could buy it," he adds, "I had it at Brewers' Jam a few years ago."
Even though he, like Susong, prefers a more well-crafted beer, he also finds himself occasionally pinching pennies. "If I'm going cheap, I go PBR," he concludes.
"The long and short of it is this: There remains but one bar in Knoxville that challenges me as a beer enthusiast, and that's the Bearden Beer Market," Susong explains. "I can find big name microwbrews at most any reputable bar (like) Barley's, Pres Pub, Urban Bar and Sunspot.
"Sure, Union Jack's has some great beer, but you can get those beers for much cheaper elsewhere nowadays," she adds. "But only the Bearden Beer Market dedicates manpower into investigating exciting brews and bringing them to Knoxville."
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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