If you identify as a craft beer snob or an aficionado of fine spirits, you’ve come to the right place. Or rather, you’ve come to the right region of the world. Rooted in the persevering values of 17th- and 18th-century European pioneers, Appalachian culture developed a singular style of alcohol. Just as Napa Valley is known for its wine and Kentucky is known for its bourbon, Appalachia has become synonymous with moonshine and craft beer. With a variety of distilleries and proximity to some of the biggest names in the craft brewing sphere, the Great Smoky Mountains is a comprehensive place to try the full spectrum of flavors. These are just a few of the finest attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, where spirits and beer tastings abound!
Gatlinburg Brewing Company
A locally owned and operated start-up, Gatlinburg Brewing Company is exactly what you want when you’re scouring the world for original flavors. Enjoy a slice of craft pizza at either of their two locations in Gatlinburg or Sevierville, washing it down, of course, with an ice-cold draught. Ask the bartender to hook you up with a flight of their best original concoctions, such as the aptly named Don’t Feed the Bears brown ale, Frog Alley double imperial IPA, Smokey Mountain farmhouse saison ale, and Gatty Issues the sour gose. Bring your kid and your appetite, and don’t forget to fill up a growler before you head out.
Azul Mexican Cantina & Brewery
Azul Mexican Cantina & Brewery is a brand new restaurant coming soon at The Mountain Mile, a first-class shopping and entertainment center in Pigeon Forge. The magicians in the kitchen are designing a unique take on Tex-Mex, implementing traditional Mexican cooking techniques on a classic Texan wood grill. Any selection from their handcrafted cerveza-style lager beers, original agave spirits and top-shelf tequila collection will pair well with your spicy entrée. Sit at the vibrant rooftop bar and enjoy the mountain view as you delight your taste buds.
Local Goat specializes in everything craft: from the food to the drinks and even the local artwork displayed on the walls. This unique Pigeon Forge restaurant serves a wide variety of entrées made from sustainably sourced ingredients, such as the Hawaiian Ribeye, Shrimp & Grits, Maui Chicken, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, not to mention seventeen visionary burger creations.
Aside from their diverse food menu, their draught list is replete with regional craft brews from Atlanta, GA, to Lexington, KY. Try another round from Gatlinburg Brewing Company or expand your Tennessee beer knowledge to include Knoxville breweries like Albright Grove Brewing and Blackhorse Brewery. Plus, Local Goat produces original beers of their own, such as the Local Goat American Lager. In addition to a comprehensive beer list, their adult beverage menu also features classic cocktails, original inventions, and a handpicked wine list to match whatever mood you’re feeling.
Ole Smoky Moonshine & Whiskey Distillery
For a truly authentic Appalachian tasting experience, don’t miss out on Ole Smoky Moonshine & Whiskey Distillery. As Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distillery, their recipes date back to the early 1800s and still prove delicious and eccentric today. Participate in a distillery tour to learn up-close about the distillation craft, an art form near and dear to the local heritage. Afterward, sit down for a tasting of one-of-a-kind moonshines, like Strawberry Mango Margarita, Butter Pecan, Apple Pie, and Hunch Punch Lightnin’, and life-giving whiskies, like Salty Caramel, Peanut Butter, Peach and Cold Brew. Go home with a bottle or two and experiment with their extensive recipe list, or snag a pack of their canned cocktails for some pre-made downhome goodness.
Sugarlands Distilling Company
Explore the electrifying scene in Sugarlands, where Appalachian storytelling, live music and outdoor adventures alone are enough to enliven your spirit. Still, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as that first sip of Tennessee firewater, like the craft moonshine and whiskey you’ll find at Sugarlands Distilling Company.
During one of their tasting events, you’ll learn the proper way to mix a moonshine cocktail and taste every layer of flavor it has to offer. You can also go on a tour of their barnhouse distillery and participate in fascinating hands-on workshops where you’ll learn how to make your own batch of moonshine. Don’t forget to buy up a couple of souvenirs for later, such as Maple Bacon Moonshine, Blueberry Muffin Moonshine, or Root Beer Moonshine. Or, purchase a few bottles of whiskey to give as gifts, such as the Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye, Jim Tom Hedrick’s Unaged Rye, or Talladega 50th Anniversary Corn Whiskey.
Tennessee Legend Distillery
Owned and operated by Appalachian locals who grew up hearing stories about the legendary moonshiners, Tennessee Legend Distillery is just as deeply rooted in mountain heritage as any of the older distilleries. Make sure to pick up a bottle of their award-winning White Lightning moonshine and then browse their 16 other moonshines and whiskies, such as the Salted Caramel Whiskey, Smoked Apple Whiskey, Kingsnake Bourbon, Coffee Moonshine and Peach Moonshine. They even produce unique cream liqueurs, like Peppermint Mocha, Crème Brûlée, and Blueberries and Cream, plus the occasional vodka and rum.
Would you prefer sipping it neat on your front porch rocking chair, mixing it into hot cocoa on a wintry night, or adding a splash to your apple cider on a camping trip? No matter your idea of a perfect evening, the spirits at Tennessee Legend Distillery offer delicious options for every occasion.
The Authentic Flavors of the Smokies
The community of craft brewers and distillers reaches far and wide across the planet. Yet nowhere else in the world will you find a style quite like that of the Appalachian region. The locals will attest that there’s no more satisfying feeling than taking that first refreshing sip of craft beer made from mountain stream water after a long hike. They will also say there’s no flavor in the world that encapsulates the feeling of watching the sun set over the mountains from your tent or porch in the way that Tennessee whiskey and moonshine do. As a bona fide amateur of craft booze, would you not agree? The next time you visit the Great Smoky Mountains, lend your palate to its unfamiliar and original flavors!