I saved the most interesting brewery from my time in Knoxville for last, mostly because I’m such a fan of the design that I wanted to gush over it without letting it overwhelm the subsequent reviews. The coolest thing about this place is that it is styled to look like a castle, even down to the exterior walls (more on the design shortly). Seriously, go look up pictures on their website to get an idea of how awesome it is, then put on your lederhosen, grab a stein of your favorite brew, and join me as I review this Bavarian brewer’s dream.
- Beer – The owners of this brewery are German by heritage and it shows in their beer stylings. They craft traditional German beers that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot beer purity laws, even going so far as to import grains from Germany to be as authentic as possible. The final product is a slew of very good German style beers that reflect the love and nostalgia the owners have for their family history. What gives me pause is the lack of creativity this archaic law by nature imparts to a brewery. The strict interpretation of what makes up a beer allows for very little in the way of experimentation with other styles and flavors (no house IPAs? In Oregon? The horror!). They attempt to ameliorate this by offering an extensive guest tap list with enough variety to make anyone happy, but it does not give the brewer a chance to show off their skills. While it would be neat to see the brewers experiment a little more outside the box, I understand their goals and desire to maintain an authentic business. Oh, and one last thing: you can order beers in 1-liter steins so make sure you plan accordingly for getting home at the end of the evening! Score: 3.5/5
- Brewery – It’s a castle, with actual walls and a great hall! When I saw the outside, I was hoping the interior would match the medieval theme without going over into the garish and I wasn’t disappointed. When you walk in, you enter a tastefully decorated great hall with a huge bar and tons of seating at tables and couches. There is even a balcony overlooking the great hall for you to enjoy. What is even more amazing is the size of the biergarten. The outdoor area takes up most of the rest of the brewery and has extensive seating with several trees overshadowing the courtyard, providing ample shade. I counted at least a half dozen televisions for watching sports (I caught a few March Madness games while there) and a pool table for entertainment. While they do not have a kitchen yet, you can find a different food truck there every day, each one offering a different style of food. To top it all off, you can often find live music at the castle, making for an even better experience. This place gets high marks for the sheer creativity that went into designing this brewery and for providing a well-rounded tap room to enjoy. Score: 5/5
- Ambiance – I loved the feeling inside this place. Everyone was cheerful, happy, and having a great time. The combination of the biergarten, plenty of things to do while drinking, the food trucks, and just how cool the place looked created a place that I wanted (and did) to spend a few hours hanging out in. A lot of thought went in to creating a customer-centric experience designed to show off the owners love of beer and their heritage. Score: 4/5
- Location – Not much to see in the area surrounding the castle. Located in a more run-down side of town, there are not many offerings within walking distance. There is ample parking in the street and in surrounding lots and the downtown area is a short ride down the street, if for some crazy reason you want to leave. Oh, and you can’t miss the building when you are driving up since, you know, it’s a castle! Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – I’m not sure how grumpy I would be if I had to wear lederhosen all day while serving customers, but the bar keeps here sure took it in stride. From prompt service and a cheerful attitude, to a continuously refilling glass, everyone who worked here did a great job. More importantly, there were enough people on staff so that when it started getting busy later in the day, no one was kept waiting at the bar or for their drinks. Score: 4/5
Total Score: 19.5/25
Final Thoughts: Did I mention Schulz Bräu is designed to look like a castle? I would recommend going to check it out just for that alone (unless of course the beer was sub-par) but the other aspects make it worthwhile to visit. Next time you find yourself in Knoxville, step outside the downtown area and stop in for a stein or two and enjoy some sun in the biergarten!