Last Saturday I finally got around to doing something I have wanted to do for a very long time. Drive to Sparta Tennessee and visit my friends Dave and Don Sergio at their incredibly awesome brewery, CalfKiller.
Calfkiller Brewing Company is a 20 minute drive from Crossville, or approximately and hour and forty minutes from Knoxville. It’s named after the nearby Calfkiller River that runs through Sparta. I originally drove right past it. It’s out in the middle of the country and It looks just like a house and a workshop, which in all reality it is. Don, his wife Kelly and their children all reside on the property.
I pulled into the driveway and was greeted by Kelly, who was outside painting a table. Introductions were made and she pointed me towards the door of the brewery. I walked in and was immediately greeted by the guys. “Good to see you, glad you could make it.” was followed almost immediately by “Let’s have some beer.”
You can’t buy beer at Calfkiller due to state and local laws, but that doesn’t keep it from pouring. The brothers are very generous with their samples. I tried several different beers and with each, they spoke enthusiastically about the style and recipe formulation of each one. These guys truly have a love of craft beer. The conversation got around to sours and they asked if I wanted to try something. I said sure. They told me this story of a keg of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager that was several years old and and spent time in many people’s garages. By the time someone had brought it to them, it was funky. They cooled it down and hooked it up so they could bottle the contents. They have no idea what happened to sour the keg, but I got to say as far as infected beers go, this was a pretty good sour! The guys were full of stories like this, such as a friend of theirs who had found a keg of Abita Turbodog that had spent a few years in the ocean, having ended up there from Hurricane Katrina. Looking around the brewery, there were many empty bottles of various beers that I can only assume were from parties and bottle shares. I even spotted a couple of empty bottles of my Brew Mob friend Andy “Big Hop” Atkinson’s home brews.
A few minutes before 2pm, other people started trickling in. They do official tours every Saturday by appointment. A FedEx truck also arrived with a fresh shipment of hops.
At 2 o’clock, the tasting room was full and it was time for the official tour. They started out by making sure everyone had a full tasting glass. Dave spoke about the brewery’s beginning, and the trials and tribulations of growing and building their brewery from the ground up. Eventually we moved into the brew house area. Calfkiller brews on a 7 barrel system they had cobbled together from various equipment. I put together the video below from the tour, but the quality isn’t that great. My phone kept overheating and the battery kept dying, so not much was recorded.
The whole time they gave the tour, they made sure to keep the samples flowing. I progressively asked for smaller and smaller samples since I knew I’d have to drive in a bit. Like all good things the tour came to an end. Many people who had made the drive asked if they could buy growler fills. The brothers had to politely decline, explaining that due to the laws, they could not sell beer on premises. They did however, let people know which of their local accounts in the area could sell. They were happy to give directions to these local bars.
They can’t sell beer there, but that does stop visitors from being able to buy some really cool Calfkiller merchandise such as shirts, glassware and hats. So when you go check them out (and I highly encourage you to do so), make sure to bring extra cash to pick something up and support these small batch brewers.
I really want to thank Dave and Don for everything. I was so glad to check out this little gem of a brewery and would be more than happy to go back, repeatedly. In the meantime, make sure to follow them on facebook and twitter. They also are present at many local beer festivals, such as the upcoming Kingsport Oktoberfest.
Enjoy the pictures below, click on them to enlarge.