Knoxville Brewers' Jam 2001
By Bobby Bush
Perseverance. Determination. These are not words often associated with a beer festival, but that's exactly what it took to make the 2001 Knoxville Brewers' Jam happen.
The fest's organizing committee - Doug Beatty of Barley's Taproom, Dean Hitt of Hitt Communications, Sandy Rees of Second Harvest Foodbank, the fest's charitable sponsor, and Tom Rutledge of BeerSouth.com - knew almost a year in advance that their choice location of past years would not be available this time. What they did not foresee was change, in the form of a host brewery, the charity and the craft beer festival's very name.
It's an intricate story, complicated when New Knoxville Brewing Company, the founder of the event five years ago, folded for the second time. New sponsors City Brew and Calhoun's, both Knoxville area brewpubs, stepped to the plate for the May 19 show, which was held in the Dogwood Courtyard, actually a paved parking lot beside Barley's. Second Harvest boldly signed on, supplying the volunteers, along with the Knoxville Rugby Club, that are necessary to keep the fest running properly. The list of companies involved - from advance ticket sales to security to program printing - is lengthy, but necessary. Last but not least, a new name for the fest was deemed prudent to provide a more accurate identity to this annual festival's locale. East Tennessee Brewer's Jam became simply Knoxville Brewers' Jam. New identity begat a new logo as well.
Political machinations, organizational duties and preparedness chores behind them, the planning committee left nothing to chance, except the weather. Starting promptly at 3:00, as in past years, the crowd arrived slowly. Greeted by the musical strains of Johnson City's Blue Rapture and the beer of 18 breweries and one distributor, the sun beamed down brightly. Less than an hour later, the clouds opened, but for only 25 minutes. The temperature dropped to a more hospitable point. Completely ignoring the downpour, beer fans kept streaming through the gate. It rained briefly again, about 6:30, but by then the festival was in full swing with Ghost Mountain Rhythm & Blues, followed by Uncle Lightnin', providing musical entertainment.
Ah, but the beer, after all that's what a festival is really all about. North Carolina breweries out-numbered the breweries from Tennessee. Joining the Knoxville brewpubs - City Brew and Calhouns - were Big River and Blackstone from Nashville, Sevierville's Rocky River and Smoky Mountain from Gatlinburg. Highland and French Broad drove in from Asheville, joined by fellow NC brewers Olde Hickory, Catawba Valley (Glen Alpine), Ham's (Greenville), Williamsville (Farmville) and Carolina Beer (Mooresville), who poured their recently reintroduced Cottonwood beers.
Rounding out the group were Abita Brewing from Louisiana, Gordon Biersch of Atlanta, R.J. Rockers of Spartanburg and Thomas Creek from Greenville, SC. Knoxville distributor Beverage Control poured two strong Belgian ales and Mendocino's Red Tail Ale, from northern California. Seventy-one beers in six ounce taster glasses. By 8:00 when local favorites The HQ Band took the stage, the crowd was dancing in bountiful beer bliss.
There wasn't a bad beer in the bunch. Memorable scenes include Abita temporary tattoos pasted on an assortment of body parts, including several bald heads; Williamville's life-size Dergy Amber bottle strolling through the masses; R.J. Rocker's roving beer tap, a jetpack-like draft device shoulder by bartender/general manager J.C. Cudd who delivered on demand; and Gordon Biersch's blinking bottle cap lapel pins. Notable beers, from my fuzzy state of memory, were Abita's Turbodog, Cottonwood Endo IPA, French Broad's Laurel Country Ale (a Belgian Saison), Ham's Swashbuckler Spring Bock, R.J. Rockers' Big Red Johnsen, Thomas Creek's Dopple Bock and Williamsville First Coast Mango.
Through rain, through consternation, through multiple problems and doubt, the fifth iteration of the Knoxville Brewer's Jam delivered the beer. All is right in Knoxville.
For photos and more info on the 2001 KBJ, see www.brewersjam.com.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush