Chattanooga’s Ale Trail

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Spend a bit of time in Chattanooga’s breweries and taprooms and it is readily apparent that local beer drinkers and thirsty visitors have become somewhat studious of late. While bartenders are pouring pints, their customers are poring over pocket-sized yellow notebooks, scribbling tasting notes and planning their next stop of the evening.

World travelers may collect stamps from exotic locales in their passports, but explorers of Chattanooga’s craft beer landscape are collecting stamps from their favorite haunts and discovering new ones while sampling local brews and earning collectible drinkware in the process.

Not long ago, a city-wide brewery tour would have ended after just a few stops. But with the steady growth of Chattanooga’s craft beer community, there are almost too many craft breweries and taprooms to keep them straight.

Keeping track just got a little easier with the introduction of TapTour: Chattanooga’s Ale Trail. The Ale Trail is certainly not a new concept—Bend, Oregon; Columbus, Ohio; Asheville, North Carolina and others have well-established and highly regarded beer circuits. With its maturing beer scene, Chattanooga has at long last achieved the critical mass of local craft beer establishments to support a bona fide beer tour of its own.

Debuting this recent summer with a kickoff party at ℹ️ The Camp House, TapTour is a “self-guided jaunt to and through Chattanooga’s finest breweries and beer drinking communities” according to John Dooley, TapTour co-creator and project manager at Super Chief, the film and design company that developed the concept locally. Super Chief recently relocated to Cherry Street from Trenton, Georgia and in the grand southern tradition of not arriving to the party empty handed, developed TapTour as their gift to the city. “It’s a pretty simple concept,” says Dooley. “Anyone can grab a passport, which we call Brew Guides, explore the locations, and collect stamps. Chattanooga’s whole craft brew community has come together to make TapTour free to everyone.”

As TapTourists plot their courses along the Ale Trail—it is comprised of a number of taprooms and every brewery in Chattanooga and neighboring Red Bank—they collect stamps that are redeemable at ℹ️ Imbibe, the upscale beer, wine and spirits purveyor on the Southside’s Broad Street. Four stamps gets a TapTour pint glass, thirteen gets a custom growler and a discount on purchases at Imbibe. Super Chief’s lead designer, Eric Higgins, created the current growler—other local artists and designers will be enlisted to create future designs once the original batch of glassware is depleted.

TapTour is already a hit with local hop heads. “We’ve passed out a ton” says Calvin Cummings, beer specialist at Imbibe, referring to the custom pint glasses and growlers. “The vast majority of people are local.” That local beer drinkers have quickly latched onto the idea should come as no surprise. Thirsty Chattanoogans seem to readily embrace each new brewery that opens, but the Beer Guides seem tailor-made for out-of-town visitors. That was apparent to the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) which recognized the natural fit between beer culture and tourism. The CVB partnered with Super Chief in the TapTour project and serves as a distribution point of the Brew Guides.

While local beer may not yet be Chattanooga’s biggest tourist draw—the ℹ️ Tennessee Aquarium and Lookout Mountain attractions cast long shadows—most craft beer devotees tend to seek out and explore local beers when traveling, regardless of the reason for their visit. Rather than spending valuable vacation time seeking out nearby offerings, TapTour puts a concise list of options at a visitor’s fingertips. While hard-core beer lovers might plan an entire weekend to check off all of the area’s breweries, more family-oriented visitors can use TapTour to sample several local brews between a visit to the Aquarium and an afternoon of minor league baseball or a stroll around Bluff View Art District. A recent visit to ℹ️ Oddstory Brewing on Martin Luther King Boulevard found a few patrons coming from Cleveland, Tennessee to tour Chattanooga’s breweries and taprooms while taking advantage of a daughter’s vacant downtown condo as she visited Spain. Each collected their Oddstory stamps before strolling east along MLK to ℹ️ Hutton and Smith Brewing Company.

TapTour’s creators at Super Chief are pleased with the concept’s initial reception, but have no plans to stop there. “We want to add any brewery that opens in the future—automatically. We’re forcing them!” says Super Chief’s Adam Dukes, only half-jokingly. Additional taprooms are also expected to be added to the list over time. “I think it’s something they are going to want to be associated with as this grows, because it will drive people in [to participating businesses]” he adds. It is certainly something thirsty Chattanoogans want to be associated with. They have their Brew Guides and they are ready for their next stamp.

For more information, go to taptourcha.com.

Participating TapTour Breweries
• Oddstory Brewing Company
336 E MLK Blvd | oddstorybrewing.co
• Hutton and Smith Brewing Company
431 E MLK Blvd | huttonandsmithbrewing.com
• Moccasin Bend Brewing Company
3210 South Broad Street | bendbrewingbeer.com
• Terminal Brewhouse
1464 Market Street | terminalbrewhouse.com
• Big Frog Brewing Company (Red Bank)
2122 Dayton Blvd | bigfrogbrewery.com
• McHale’s Brewhouse
724 Ashland Terrace | mcalesbrewing
• Big River Grille and Brewing Works (downtown only)
222 Broad Street | bigrivergrille.com
• Mad Knight Brewing Company
4015 Tennessee Ave | madknightbrewing.com
• Chattanooga Brewing Company
1804 Chestnut Street | chattabrew.com

Participating TapTour Taprooms
• The Honest Pint
35 Patten Pkwy | thehonestpint.com
• Clyde’s on Main
122 W Main Street | clydesonmain.com
• Hair of the Dog Pub
334 Market Street | hairofthedogpub.net
• The Social
110 Market Street | publichousechattanooga.com/chattanooga-club
• Beast and Barrel
16 Frazier Ave | beastandbarrel.com
• Pucketts Grocery & Restaurant
2 W Aquarium Way | puckettsgro.com/chattanooga

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About Author

Scott Phillips is a certified beer judge and award-winning home-brewer. He is an avid gardener, an occasional hiker, and a perpetual dabbler. Scott's contributions include food & drink and outdoor excursions.

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