Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

Written by Ken Carman

The Terminal Brewhouse
6 E 14th St
Chattanooga, TN 37408
(423) 752-8090

I was on tour, in the Atlanta area. Now, I could have spent 29.99 plus, and been 15 miles, at best, from all but one of my gigs. Or, stay 70 miles away and be closer to Chattanooga so I could do a review on Terminal. Never guess what “stupid for beer” did?

Chattanooga, Tennessee sits between mountains, or “hills” if you Rocky Mountain snobs prefer, and from the top of one you can see seven states. A river flows busily by if you arrive from the northwest. Chattanooga is barely north of Georgia if you come up from the south and barely beyond the Smoky Mountains if you come down from Knoxville. Negotiate your way through downtown Chattanooga just right and you’ll find The Terminal Brewhouse. You’ll be immediately impressed by one oddity: not your average brewpub visually. Terminal Brewhouse is like a big, tall, wedge, sitting in downtown Chattanooga. Once upon a time it was The Terminal Hotel; one hopes not during the 1929 crash or maybe the name might have been a bit too accurate? Of course “Terminal” was used here in the sense of serving a railroad.

After all, this is the city made famous by trains and a song. Now you can go to a historical building that served railroad passengers and “chew, chew.”

Sorry. Some puns are just so hard to resist.

The former Terminal hotel was also known as a speak easy for a while during the Great Depression, a greasy spoon and even a courthouse. Then it sat for a while, falling apart: vacant.

But now it’s filled with thirsty quaffers, hungry families and steps leading up to its three floors. So the Terminal building receives no more vacant… stairs.

Let’s go inside, shall we?

Here’s the list of beers above the bar.

Being one who has taste buds that need beating, I’m a fan of their Magnum PA. Be aware there’s not a lot of filtering to these brews. Occasionally that can be a real problem, but I didn’t notice that at Terminal. Indeed: less filtering= more flavor… all the better for moi’! The magnum had a Cascade nose with a supportive body. Nice foamy head: a bit more bubbly than “pillow,” if I remember right: but it didn’t last long. It fills the mouth and seemed well balanced. Reminds me a bit of Acme IPA by North Coast. Not an Imperial, just “IPA.” Of course Tennessee law might have something to say about making it an actual “Imperial.”

Here’s my glass…

You do know I emptied that, right?

Other beers I tried were the Dead Sexy Scottish Ale, Southwestern Oatmeal Stout, their Terminally Ale, White Shadow Belgian and their Maibock. The Dead Sexy had a hint of carmelization, it was a heavy gold; or amber, in color and nice head for a style that sometimes can lack head. Uses 7 malts. I did think it needed just a little less Black or darker malts for the style, though it was pleasing for sure. Perhaps a little 80 rather than a darker malt like chocolate or patent?

The White Belgian had just a slight twist of coriander and orange peel: maybe not enough to satisfy some Belgian geeks… but just right for those just starting out “Belgian.” Unfiltered, as one would expect here, and just a little leather to the yeast. Pleasing. No citrus to the nose but “yes” to the taste. Just a little chamomile in the recipe which explains a very light “other” herbal sense; oh so slight. Raw and white wheat used. Spalt and Halletau hops. You’d never know, to be honest… not that it matters much with this style.

The Maibock had just a bit of a Munich nose and maybe Vienna. It says “Munich and Bonlander.” But Bonlander is Munich, right? Bubbly head that lasts. Amber. Not much hops to the nose. I thought it just a little one dimensional but still a fine quaff. And if not for Tennessee laws it would be intriguing to have a second version called,”Oh, Mai GOD Bock.”

Yes, “Terminally Ale” is a bit indicative of the humor here. I love playing with syntax and puns, so I felt right at home. A bit copper-ish and more hoppy than expected: Tettnang and Liberty. Other than a bit heavy on the caramelization; which I liked, a pleasing quaff even for regular, a bit more geeky, beer drinkers. Nice malt aroma with malt and caramelization and some hops. Hops more to taste than to the nose. That’s why I didn’t expect the hops at first.

Southsidestein Oatmeal Stout had a big chocolate nose but not much to the taste. I thought it could use just a bit more roasted barley but it was pretty balanced. Maybe just a wee bit of a soured beer sense, like Guinness? Certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a stout, though odd in an oatmeal, perhaps.

That’s our brewer: Steve Purdie, who was a homebrewer for 10 years; starting in 1997, studied under Fred Sheer who has brewed at Guinness, A/B, Boscos… and is now the masterbrewer at Battleground in Franklin, TN. Steve started brewing at Terminal in November of 2008. He told me they have a seven barrel system by Premier. Their first year they did 800 barrels. Their yeast comes from Brewing Science., their hops from Hop Union. They use hop pellets and a few whole hops for dry hopping.

I asked Steve what suggestion he had for homebrewers, other than sanitation: an obvious necessity.

He didn’t give me one: he gave me a list…

1. Join a club
2. Find a mentor
3. Read every book you can get your hands on
4. Go all grain
5. Read up on first wort hopping
6. Use the best and freshest ingredients you can find
7. Invest in some brewing software, ie Beersmith
8. Always use a yeast starter
9. Find a way to control fermentation temperatures
10. Try to only use glass or stainless for fermentation.

One of my biggest complaints about brewpubs is when they think they’re too good to serve nachos, or nacho-like dishes, for the casual quaffer who doesn’t want to get all elite-ish while drinking his favorite beer. Terminal suffers from no such snob appeal. Nachos? Yes! And the cheese order is well suited for one person even if you just do a half order. This isn’t just some Velveeta-ized offering: garlic and jalapenos. For those seeking more fancy fare’ they have Yosemite Salmon Cakes… remember what I said about the puns? …Black Bean Burger, Eat a Peach Roasted Garlic Airline Chicken with Chuck Norris Slaw and Drunken Peach Salsa. Twisted Hummus and Navin R. Johnson, 8oz Salmon… I would assume that’s a reference to the movie “The Jerk.” A veggie lasagna and “The Dirty Hippie:” hoagie stuffed with portobello, onions, green and red bells, Cajun seasonings… sounds good.

They do have Buffalo Burgers. They are good. I just don’t recommend ordering one very rare and then judging those Belgian beers with yeast funk. Your former Buffalo sandwich might be tempted to escape, singing, “Home, home, where you feel a little strange, now that your Buffalo Burger is about to go free range…”

Now for those Harry Potter fans, look at this…

Luckily for quaffers, unlike Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, these stairs don’t move. If they do please reconsider your plan to have another.

Make it to the second floor? Quite the trip, wasn’t it? Hmmm… maybe I shouldn’t have used “trip?” There’s one more floor to go: that’s where we judged beer last December. But this delightful, intriguing, building didn’t always look like this…

One of the owners: Ryan, told me they spent about 3 million on this; along with the landlord.

(Gutted interior)

And from the obvious results my pictures have painted they have created a unique brewpub with special beer out of an abandoned wreck of a building. Please, if you select Chattanooga as a train stop, or winging by on your way to Nashville, Knoxville or Atlanta, and give it a try. I promise, the visit won’t be “terminal,” and it will be very, very enjoyable.


Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to review, discuss and comment on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

©Copyright 2010
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

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