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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Photos or tap descriptions used in this blog may not be misrepresented as your own. Photos may not be used for financial gain whatsoever, as the uniqueness of the photo would unfairly associate a seller's product and reputation with this site. Tap descriptions may be used word for word as long as this blog is cited as the source, and a link is provided to this site.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tap Handle #518: New Knoxville - Mild Ale

Tap size:  11"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

The brewery changed to a more
natural looking bear in 1997.
This New Knoxville tap is so old and scarce, it belongs on my "cream of the crop" list. The cartoonish bear, dressed in an English top hat and scarf, dates the tap to between 1996 and 1998, when the brewery first opened. They stopped depicting bears in English clothes on their beer labels and switched to more natural-looking bears in 1997, and the taps followed suit (see photo to right). The tap has suffered some paint loss in places but there is no damage. The bear sits on a barrel while enjoying a cold one, and the barrel is sitting on a block of wood. The wood block has the brewery name and variety of beer burned into it. This version of the New Knoxville tap is scarce - I have never seen another,

Click through to read more about New Knoxville Brewing, their award-winning mild ale, and to see more photos of this classic tap...

New Knoxville Brewing Company was founded in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1996 by Ed Vendely and Al Krusen. Vendely, a banker and financial planner, started homebrewing beer in the late '80s. As his expertise grew, he eventually met up with Krusen, a forester and fellow homebrewing enthusiast, and together they decided to open a brewery. The name came from an older brewery founded in Knoxville in 1886 that closed during Prohibition. The old brewery building was long gone, torn down to put in a freeway overpass, so they located the new brewery in a building that once housed the region’s largest industrial saw blade sharpening company, Wallace Saw Works. It featured a unique 25 bbl brewhouse that utilized insulation via two layers of brick. They focused on English-style ales, treating the water that they use in their beer with minerals to mimic waters used in parts of England. All the grains and hops came from Britain, as well as the strain of yeast used.

The brewery immediately ran into marketing problems. Their first beer was named Swanky, taken in part from the old 1886 brewery. "Swanky Temperance Brew" had caused the old brewery to close in 1910; the owners had tried to pass it off as near beer, but it still had a significant alcohol content, and Federal revenuers shut the brewery down because of it. Unfortunately the present day incarnation also failed, in large part because people didn't like the name, nor the labels that featured cartoonish bears dressed in English clothes. New Knoxville changed the label to emphasize that it was a local brew, giving the bears a more natural, unclothed look. With the new labels and a host of new varieties, bottle sales tripled, and at the 1997 World Beer Championships, both their IPA and Mild Ale took silver medals. However, the brewery never sold well in its hometown, and they had to search for sales outside the region, as far as Virginia and Florida. 

Despite steady growth, the brewery had been under-capitalized from the start, and didn't have the funds to grow the company. Even though 1999's production marked a significant increase over the prior year, and 2000's production surpassed 1999's by 50%, the brewery was $350,000 in debt. In 2001 new Knoxville attempted a joint venture with a local restaurateur, pursuing the acquisition of Great Southern Brewing Company, a brewpub that had closed earlier that year. Vendely hoped to use the brewpub’s cash flow to support New Knoxville, temporarily. But the deal fell through, and New Knoxville, unable to pay its bills and to place orders for necessary ingredients, was forced to shut down brewing operations.

Vendely then turned to city leadership for help to create a revolving fund for entrepreneurs. Through grass roots efforts, pledges for contributions and loans began to come Vendely’s way, providing enough money to get the brewery running again. New Knoxville beers hit the streets about two months after the lights had seemingly gone out, and Vendely developed plans to initiate a Direct Public Offering to attract more investors. But Vendely and Krause disagreed on the direction of the brewery, some of their investors pulled out, and the brewery shut down operations once again as creditors foreclosed on them.

In 2004, Vendely made one more try at brewing sucess under the New Knoxville name, buying it back from creditors and re-starting production. However, by 2006 he was forced to call it quits, and this time the brewery was shut down for good. Creditors auctioned off the building and equipment to a new brewing company called Marble City Brewing (which is now known as Saw Works Brewing). Krusen went on to brew beer for Downtown Grill and Brewery in Knoxville.

New Knoxville's Mild Ale was a light bodied, deep amber-red English mild ale with very light hop bitterness, a slight hop aroma, and a full, balanced nutty caramel flavor that finished clean and slightly sweet to the taste. It won a silver medal at the 1997 World Beer Championships, which gave it top honors, since the low number of entries submitted (nine) resulted in no gold medals awarded that year. 

Ratebeer weighted average:  2.58 out of 5
Beer Advocate:  no entry

Since New Knoxville is no longer in business, no address or website is provided.

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