Written in 2013…much has evolved with us since the early days in the holler! See The Brewery for a look at our current facility.
The story of BriarScratch Holler. In 1984 my father purchased his first piece of property. It was a landlocked 22 acres of hollers and hillsides with an old cabin (the holler house) and a freshwater bluepoint spring located deep in Cottontown TN. He purchased the place from close family friends, The Bursbys. My dad and his buddies have been hanging out at the holler house since the 70s, many years prior to him purchasing the place. He began calling the place Briar Scratch Holler. Parties and gatherings at the holler house are legendary to many folks in Sumner County and it is always a custom to dip some cold, refreshing spring water right out of the source.
In April of 2009, after I brewed that first batch of India Pale Ale from a beer kit, I soon began dreaming about how great and fulfilling it would be to craft beer “backwoods style” with my glorious spring water. I wanted to call it The Backroad Brewing Company. I talked about this for a while before I did a simple google search and found that Backroad Brewing already existed! The immediate next name that came to me was the Briar Scratch Brewery, named after our little holler. So obviously that stuck and ideas of BriarScratch started taking shape.
In May of 2010, after becoming very familiar with some of the best local spots for craft beer, I discovered a new place in Knoxville that had just opened called the Bearden Beer Market. Little did I know that this place was about to change the course of my life. After meeting with the owner, Chris Morton, I soon realized this was the exact kind of place Knoxville needed. He was interested in my knowledge of microbrews and I was interested in hanging out at his beer mecca. When he offered me a job I gladly jumped on board with the team and in August 2010 began the greatest job of my college career. I learned great amounts of knowledge about working in retail, the beer industry, and the type of market that was developing for craft beer. Getting pints on the job was a nice perk as well! I also got the chance to learn about all grain brewing when I started hanging out with my new coworker, Ben Seamons (Rest in peace, dear friend). One weekend, after traveling home, I made the trip back to Knoxville with some buckets full of the good ole Cottontown spring water and some pears from my pear tree. I wanted to make a nice, citrusy IPA and add some fresh pears to part of the batch. With the help of my new buddy Ben, my first all grain brew and the first Cottontown spring water beer was crafted in Knoxville Tennessee! We poured samples of the “ImPEARial IPA” at the beer market and it was so much fun and intriguing to receive the positive and critical feedback. I got the brewers bug and was itching to build my own All-grain brewing setup. I had an amazing time working with Chris and the gang and in that short time developed some great new friendships through our appreciation for quality brew. After finishing school in January 2011, I had to leave Knoxville and my job at the beer market to start my new occupation, doing environmental training programs with the company my dad helped build. Even the new job opened up windows for me as a brewer and beer lover since I was required to do a lot of traveling. Traveling a big portion of the country from city to city allowed me to see the growing trend for regional beers and allowed me to meet and tour many great breweries. To date I have visited and toured over 150 breweries (update:about 250 breweries as of 2017) across the country and talked to dozens of brewmasters from all different backgrounds.
In June 2011 I brewed my first solo all-grain batch on my new 10 gallon system. It was a German Kolsch-style recipe that I had created myself. It turned out perfect. I have since built up many components of my brewing system along with the highlight of 2012, a custom built homebrewery in our old tobacco barn. Many new things happened for BriarScratch in 2012. I crafted the recipe for Cottontown Brown and brewed many experimental batches. I started the facebook following and have since been able to spread the word all over town. In May 2012 I designed the BriarScratch brewing logo. With Summer came the first batch of logo Tshirts and stickers! We were fortunate enough to pour our beer at the Ronbonnaroo festival in Gallatin and The Knoxville Beer fest and several other private events with a tremendous amount of positive feedback. The idea had finally become a reality! As we finish up the homebrewery/beer lab, we are beginning to focus much farther ahead to the new location right down the dusty trail. Meeting with local bar owners and sharing the interest has inspired me to get this thing going soon! I have read multiple success stories of small breweries popping up like crazy all over America. We are in the middle of a beer revolution and Sumner County needs their local brewery!