published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Cook: Quite filling, tastes great

Reason No. 1,352 that Chattanooga is good and becoming great?

Beer.

"Aside from the fact that beer is delicious, craft breweries are extremely desirable from an economic development standpoint,'' writes J. Katie McConnell of the National League of Cities.

These days, you can't be a real city without some sort of beer presence. We have Our List: downtown, the outdoor scene, tech-entrepreneurship, a growing creative class.

And our breweries.

"They contribute to place making, are growth-oriented exporters and attract tourists,'' McConnell continued.

With every new attempt at place making here, beer has followed. Downtown? Matched by Big River Grille and Brewing. Main Street? Terminal Brewhouse.

North Shore, St. Elmo and Ashland Terrace all have breweries. New Belgium Brewery nearly chose the U.S. Pipe and Wheland site for its east coast facility before looking elsewhere (curse you, Asheville).

On average, a new brewery opens nearly every day somewhere in the nation, according to the Brewers Association. Such big brewing has gotten the attention of Richard Florida, who studies cities and what makes them work.

"Craft brewing is more closely associated with higher levels of happiness and well-being,'' Florida wrote in The Atlantic.

Can Homer Simpson make a shoe smell? Of course happiness and beer are connected. Tell us something we don't know.

"In 2005, we had one beer festival and one brewery. Now, we have three beer festivals and five breweries,'' said Tony Giannasi.

You can't swing a bag of barley without hitting something Giannasi's involved in; the former head of local home brew club (Barley Mob), a certified beer cicerone, winner of dozens upon dozens of home-brew awards, the man has now helped cook up a brand new festival.

Saturday, capping off a week of beer-related events, the inaugural Chattanooga Craft Beer Festival begins; from noon till 5 p.m. at the First Tennessee Pavilion, the festival hosts some of the finest craft brewers around (Green Man, Jackalope, Straight to Ale, to name only three).

Food trucks. Six-ounce tasting glasses. Acoustic bands. Attendance capped at 2,000. Quality, not quantity.

The other morning, Giannasi and I hung out in his garage, where the software designer was brewing a batch of New Zealand pilsner.

"I know it's early, but do you want a beer?" he asked.

Man, come on. It's 10:20 in the morning. I have some standards.

(We waited until 10:50).

"Here. Smell these hops,'' he said.

Alongside the flotsam and jetsam of suburban life, Giannasi, 36, married and father of two, has turned his garage into a home-brew heaven. Near the bikes and booster seats are kegs and brew rigs where he cooks up Baltic porters and Russian imperial stouts.

Chipmunks sneak in and nibble his malt. The yard guy killed his patch of backyard hops once on accident. Sam Adams, meet soccer dad.

His only rule? No elitism. I could have told him my favorite beer was stale Duff, and he wouldn't care as long as I liked it. Even his definition of craft beer (briefly, it means small, independent and traditional) was humble and easy.

"If the beer is absolutely delicious, that's craft beer,'' he said.

If the city is good, craft beer could be a delicious reason why.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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