Calhoun's BBQ

[KY flag]

A surprise find among the continuous line of strip malls along Kingston Pike southwest of Knoxville, Tennessee is Calhoun's BBQ & Brew. Inside, the open two-story room offers a skylight that illuminates the dining area, and to some extent, the brass Bohemian brewhouse and its accompanying stainless steel fermenters and conditioning tanks. Nearby, the red wood oval bar is topped by black Formica and features two 8-tap stainless steel towers. Surrounding it stand padded bar stools with backs. A CD sound system contributes to the ambiance while the three silent TVs do not. The adjacent dining area offers both small tables and booths, most with a view of the outdoors. Stacks of Great Western grains lie piled between the bar and dining area. The building's interior conveys a sense of openness through its use of glass walls, red brick columns, neon and framed paintings on the walls. Electric fans hang from the dark wood and tile ceilings.

Forget about the Bud Light and Coors Light hidden under the bar, Calhoun's has plenty of clean beers of their own that actually offer flavor. The Helles holds the position of the cycling Brewmasters Special. Starting with a clear amber color, plenty of carbonation is apparent but the light malty flavor carries through, finishing with a malty sweet aftertaste. The Bock is seasonal, with a clear dark amber color; dry chocolatey flavors dominate. The Light begins a very light straw color with its light body and great mouthfeel matched to crisp, very light hop and malt flavors. The Old Thunder Road is a clear gold color with a smooth mouthfeel, clean even flavor balance, and light hop finish. The Cherokee Red Ale is a clear dark amber with a dry, malty flavor, and medium body. Has the Surgeon General seen this name? The Calhoun's Reserve is a light brown color with a very malty, dry flavor, medium body and smooth, clean finish. Also usually available is the Kingston Pike Porter.

Billing themselves as "Tennessee's Best Ribs & Bar-B-Que", this formula might not work in other parts of the world but the full house here indicates that it is working in Knoxville. For red meat eaters, the reputation is well-deserved. The ribs are very tender and the BBQ real lean with well-rounded flavors. Can't get enough? The "Taste of Tennessee" BBQ sauce is available "to go". Speaking of "to go", 1/2 gallon growlers are also available. This is welcome news for local beer drinkers not easily satisfied by the abundant selection of flavorless light lagers prevalent at most retail establishments. Not enough time to try a pint of everything? Order a sampler that comes in a stylish pedestal of six 5-ounce tasters.

Calhoun's BBQ & Brew
6515 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - May, 1997
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