The art of liquor distillation has long been integral to the unique culture and history of East Tennessee. It all began when Celtic immigrants fled to the Appalachian region to escape religious persecution at the end of the 17th century. They didn’t just bring their religion across the Atlantic but also their folk traditions, music, and, naturally, their whiskey-making methods. However, when the federal government imposed an expensive tax on whiskey and later made all liquor production illegal during Prohibition, many Scots-Irish distillers chose to continue their work in the secrecy of the night. Hence, the term “moonshiners” was born!
At last, Tennessee state law legalized the production of moonshine in 2009. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains region continues to thrive as a leader in the adult beverage industry, catering not just to moonshine aficionados but to whiskey-lovers and beer enthusiasts as well. If any of those terms describes you well, come prepared with this checklist of Great Smoky Mountain moonshine distilleries and breweries!
Start at a Craft Brewery in Pigeon Forge
When it comes to tastings, you usually want to start with the lightest sample and move to the darker or heavier ones. True to this fashion, start your adult beverage tour of the Smokies with beer before moving on to liquor. You’ll find a wide selection of local craft beer between these eccentric pubs and the most renowned brewery in Pigeon Forge.
Smoky Mountain Brewery is the oldest craft brewery in East Tennessee. Since 1996, they have perfected their brewing process to bring six flagship beers to life, such as the English-style brown “Black Bear Ale,” the light and mildly hoppy Munich-style lager “Helles,” and the fruity American-style “Cherokee Red Ale.” Depending on when you visit, you could also catch their four seasonal beers or brewmasters’ specials. These small-batch brews are continuously rotating, so remember to come back the next time you’re in town. Swing by either location in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for a post-hike IPA break or a post-ski trip stout tasting. Smoky Mountain Brewery also carries a full menu of burgers, pizza, sandwiches, steak, and chicken entrées, as well as a busy event calendar of trivia, live music, karaoke, football screenings, and more.
Local Goat is not a full-scale brewery in Pigeon Forge, but rather, a restaurant known for its craft beer selection. Dig into a massive plate of chicken wings, ribs, steak, or burgers, all made from scratch from sustainably sourced ingredients, and pair it with your favorite draft beer. Expect to see local breweries on tap like Gatlinburg Brewing Company, Hi-Wire Brewing from Asheville, Schulz Bräu Brewing Company from Knoxville, and TailGait Brewing from Nashville. In addition, Local Goat offers their original take on an American light lager, brewed right here in Pigeon Forge. Local Goat is proud to provide beer lovers with options from up and down the Southern region!
The Casual Pint is a beer enthusiast’s heaven. Sit down and explore their wall of rotating taps, where you’ll be introduced to original beers you’ve never even heard of before. If you’d rather take something to go for a picnic, mix a six-pack of interesting canned and bottled beers. Or fill up a growler of your new favorite craft beer to take home as a souvenir. Whether you’re in the mood for a summery pilsner, a perfectly bitter IPA, a fruity sour, or a warming stout, the expert bartenders at the Casual Pint can recommend the right match for the occasion.
Sample Smoky Mountain Moonshine & Whiskey Flavors
The Smokies are one of the most renowned places in the world of craft distillation. The small mountain towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are where you’ll find that classic Appalachian taste you’ve been longing for. In addition, you’ll get acquainted with some of the more creative takes on liquor, opening your mind to the possibilities of cocktails. From tours to tastings to souvenirs for at-home enjoyment, these distilleries will take you on an adventure through the best of Smoky Mountain moonshine and whiskey.
As a community-oriented business providing a space for authentic Appalachian storytelling and live music, Sugarlands Distilling Company is one Gatlinburg moonshine distillery you can’t miss. Hang out any day of the year at their barn-house location in the downtown area for an evening of entertainment and spirits tastings. After your free distillery tour, stay for a sampling session that includes award-winning moonshines and whiskies, plus cocktail ideas, tasting notes, and a $5 voucher toward their Trading Post. You can’t go wrong with flavors like Maple Bacon Moonshine, Mark & Digger’s Rye Apple Moonshine, Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey, or the Daytona International Speedway Limited Edition Whiskey.
Junction 35 Spirits is a place where locals and visitors alike can find community over shared food, drink, and live music. This railroad-themed distillery concocts a range of different rye whiskies, bourbons, moonshines, rums, gins, and vodkas. Stop by the counter for a specialty cocktail infused with one of their original liquors, like Raspberry Whiskey, Honey Lavender Vodka, Peach Moonshine, or Caramel Apple Whiskey. Their bar also serves tastings that rotate each day. Come back again tomorrow to try more new flavors, and bring a bottle of your favorite home with you!
You know you’re in for an authentic experience at Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distillery, Ole Smoky Moonshine & Whiskey. This Gatlinburg moonshine distillery can be found at two different locations on the Parkway. The Holler is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a guided tour of the original distillery, plus a 13-sample tasting of moonshine and whiskey. Meanwhile, the Barrelhouse, where you’ll get to hang out and try up to 7 samples, is ideal for the whiskey-lover in your group. You also can’t miss their barn-themed Pigeon Forge location at the Island, where all their signature flavors are currently produced. Don’t be surprised when you leave with arms full of Moonshine Cherries, Blueberry Pancake Moonshine, Butter Pecan Moonshine, Mango Habanero Whiskey, and Root Beer Whiskey.
Just a short drive away in Sevierville, Tennessee Legend Distillery is a family-owned and -operated business that draws inspiration from the local legends of the Smokies. From tradition-rooted stills and deft artistry comes moonshine, whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, and cream liqueur flavors you can’t experience anywhere else. Treat yourself to some Canebrake Bourbon Whiskey, with a finish that is as dangerously smooth as the timber rattlesnake it was named after, or a bottle of delicious Crème Brûlée Cream Liqueur, Smoked Apple Whiskey, or Hammershine White Lightning Moonshine. The eccentric spirits of Tennessee Legend Distillery are perfect for sipping while sitting around the campfire and telling old Smoky Mountain myths!
From Smoky Mountain Brewery in Pigeon Forge to a Gatlinburg moonshine distillery like Sugarlands Distilling Company, a comprehensive bar crawl allows you to discover centuries-old Scotch-Irish distilling traditions and hyperlocal craft brew. The unique variety of creative flavors opens your eyes to a rare new side of moonshine, whiskey, and beer that you’ve never before experienced. As you embark on this delicious tour of the authentic Smokies, you’ll come to love those distinct Appalachian flavors for yourself!
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