Rocky River Brewing Company Sevierville, TN

Rocky River Brewing Company Sevierville, TN

Ron Downer
Rocky River Brewing Company
Sevierville, Tennessee

The restaurant and its brewery were just months old. It was the very first batch of Bear Bottom Stout, a simple, from-the-book knockoff of Guinness Stout. The stout and several other of Rocky River Brewing Company brewer Ron Downer’s beers were on their way to the 1998 Great American Beer Festival in Denver for fest tasting and a nation-wide competition. Right out of the starting block, Bear Bottom Stout was awarded the gold medal in the Irish Stout category. What a way to start a new job?

Though he had homebrewed a little in college, mostly out of necessity, it was really about 1972 when Ron first began homebrewing on a regular basis. A professional fireman in need of a hobby, he was a regular at Knoxville’s first homebrew supply store. With guidance from Fred Eckhardt’s influential book, Treatise on Lager Beer, he left cider-tasting sugar-enhanced extract kits behind for good. Specialty-grain recipes were much more challenging and enjoyable.

By 1994 Ron was operating his own homebrew supply store, the Brewhaus, which specialized in mail order business. Referred by a customer to a local group interested in opening a brewpub in downtown Knoxville, Ron gave up 21 years of seniority in the Knoxville Fire Department to install the brewhouse at Smoky Mountain Brewery. Serving as the Gay Street brewpub’s first brewer, he deftly converted his homebrew recipes into fifteen barrel batches. Unfortunately, excessive startup costs and cash flow problems led to Smoky Mountain’s quick demise. Ron was without work for over a year, but, being resourceful, he already had a back-up plan.

During that brewing furlough he wrote a letter to Mike Chase, owner of the Copper Cellar restaurant group in East Tennessee. As fate would have it, Mike had just been to a restaurant trade show in Chicago and was infatuated with the concept of brew-on-site brewpubs. Chase’s interest increased when he discovered that there was an experienced brewer in the neighborhood. Ready and willing, Ron took signed on with Copper Cellar. He twice visited California brewpubs, taking time to apprentice at Redondo Beach Brewing Company.

Satisfied that he knew what he wanted, Ron placed the order for Copper Cellar’s brewing equipment and installed it in the new Calhoun’s BBQ & Brew on Kingston Pike in west Knoxville. Again, his homebrew recipes served as the basis for the brand new Calhoun’s beers. It didn’t taken long for Ron to become disappointed with the owner’s insistence on “lightening everything up,” i.e. no bold flavors or hop character. Luckily, Ron got in touch with a group of investors that were planning a microbrewery/restaurant in Sevierville, Tenn. and was offered the position of Brewmaster. Seventeen months later, Ron once again found himself jobless. He had been replaced by Marty Velas, a California brewing consultant whom Ron had hired to assist with Calhoun’s brewery commissioning.


The owner of the proposed microbrewery told Ron to brew anything he wanted as long as it sold, which is every serious brewer’s dream. Instructed to purchase a 20-barrel brewhouse, Ron had a $500,000 with which to equip the new brewery. Though he spent the first seven months doing grunt work in the company’s winery, once the roof was up on the new building at Governor’s Crossing, Ron began installing the brewhouse in the center of the magnificent $7 million brewery/restaurant complex.
His first Rocky River beer was served in June 1998, five months prior to his first gold GABF medal. Twelve months later, in Denver for the 1999 festivities, Ron’s seasonal Winterfest Ale took silver in the Strong Scotch Ale category followed in 2000 by another gold, this one for Golden Eagle Lager. A certain amount of luck is involved in any competitive endeavor. Ron not only has had more than his share of luck, but he’s also brewed his share of great beer.

Ron’s favorite drinking beer, his personal session beer, is Ten Point Ale, Rocky River’s biggest seller because it’s light enough to compete with budmillercoors. In the Munich Helles style, brewed with German yeast, hops and specialty grains, Golden Eagle Lager requires three months of cold conditioning. Though some GABF judges deemed it too hoppy for style, Golden Eagle took gold nonetheless. At 5% abv, Heidelberg Hefeweizen utilizes Weihenstephan weizen yeast for a true to tradition big Bavarian wheat beer, banana and clove tastes intact. Heidelberg Hefeweizen won bronze at the 2001 GABF in the German-style wheat ale category, third best out of 84 entires in that category.

Copperhead Red Ale is currently the brewery’s biggest seller to off-premises keg accounts (Rocky River is technically a microbrewery with a wholesale license, the only one in the state). This brew of malty complexity falls somewhere between the Irish Red and German Alt categories. Billed as an India Pale Ale, Mad Wolf IPA is, Ron now feels, closer to an Extra Special Bitter. Even with Northern Brewer and Kent Goldings hops, it’s “not dry enough to compare with a California IPA.” Closing out the brewery’s regular selections, Bear Bottom Stout is a straight-up Irish Dry Stout. Its made with flaked barley, roasted barley and two-row barley, the basis of all of Ron’s recipes. Although some brewers believe that you can’t brew authentic English-style ales and stouts without using British Pale Ale malt, Ron tyhinks that success lies more in using the correct specialty grains and brewhouse procedures. All of Ron’s recipes call for multi-temperature step mashing. Heidelberg Hefeweizen requires five stops, Bear Bottom gets three.

Rocky River’s seasonal beers include the ‘99 silver-winning Winterfest and Highland Dew Scottish Ale. Both are brewed only once annually in Ron’s steam-heated DME brewhouse. He double batches almost everything to utilize six 40-barrel fermenters. One 40-barrel and six 20-barrel bright tanks provide conditioning time and facilitate kegging. Since Rocky River is a wholesaler, everything is kegged for distribution, even beer designated for the restaurant’s three bars, waiting just on the other side of thick glass walls. Distribution covers other bars and restaurants in Morristown, Nashville and Greenville, South Carolina. Bottling is now being considered by the brewery’s new owners in order to broaden distribution opportunities in Tennessee and adjoining states. Brewing pace in 2002 is about the same as the previous year, producing about 900 barrels. The brewery’s capacity is 4,800 barrels per year.

Nestled near Pigeon Forge, home of Dolly Parton’s country theme amusement park, Gatlinburg and the gateway to the Smoky Mountain National Park, Rocky River is well-situated in East Tennessee. From its Cracker Barrel-like gift shop to a cavernous dinning area and plentiful bar seats, this friendly facility is well equipped to handle the masses. Interior decorations are rustic with plenty of exposed wood, stonework and mounted wildlife. An enticing menu ranges from wood-fired pizzas to Black Angus Steaks.

In the midst of what once was a dry county – as in NO ALCOHOL – Rocky River Brewing Company provides a beer oasis away from the bright lights, honky tonks and flavorless beer. Ron Downer has made all the difference.

Rocky River Grille & Brewery
1444 Hurley Drive
Sevierville, TN 37862

The Beers

New Bottle Release from Wicked Weed




Wicked Weed Brewing is set to pre-sell and release the second offering in the Angel Series; Golden Angel Saturday, May 2nd at 12pm (EST) via Brown Paper Tickets. Aged for a total of 10 months, this American sour rested on a total of one metric ton of apricots over the course of its life in the barrel. Deep golden with a bright fruit haze and stone fruit tartness, this ale pulls inspiration from traditional Lambic fruits and showcases the depth and range of apricot flavors.

“Each Angel is crafted specifically to work with the fruit we chose,” states, Head Blender, Walt Dickinson. “Apricot has such great musty, earthy characters that also play so well with the bright, acidic fruit notes. Golden Angel is a very dry, tart, beautiful expression of what Apricot flavor is and it’s a great beer to be drinking coming into spring. This bottle is one that’s going to age really well in people’s cellars.”

For the pre-sale of Red Angel (the first Angel Series release) in late February, cases sold out online in under a minute. In light of this unexpected result, Wicked Weed plans to allot a larger quantity of bottles for the online sale of Golden Angel.

“We just didn’t expect the beer to sell out in a minute,” explained, Dickinson. “People were dedicated enough to put the time in and be committed to us so we need to make that commitment back to them and make the beer more accessible online by offering more.”

The sale will follow the same form and function for the remainder of the Angel Series. Pre-sale will allow for one purchase per person of a minimum of 6 bottles and a maximum of 12 bottles. Purchase of a full case (12) will include a Golden Angel glass and an 8oz pour of Golden Angel, while purchase of a half case (6) includes a Golden Angel glass. Purchased bottles will be available for pickup in person during two sessions; May 23th and 24th beginning at 12pm both days at Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. Golden Angel is scheduled for a 12pm tapping on Saturday and Sunday in the Funkatorium Tasting Room with Golden Angel glassware available for purchase.

The on-site bottle release and sale is currently scheduled for the opening weekend of Asheville Beer Week, Sunday, May 24th at 12pm at $18.95 per bottle with a 6 bottle per person limit.

For all official rules and details regarding the pre-sale and bottle release sale please visit


Wicked Weed Brewing is based in Asheville, North Carolina. Opened in December 2012, the original brewpub consistently hosts 25+ beers on tap including hop forward, West Coast style ales, open fermented Belgians, and barrel-aged sour and wild beers. With the opening of the second location, The Funkatorium, in October 2013, Wicked Weed is striving to become the largest producer of barrel-aged beers in the Southeastern United States. Wicked Weed Brewing was awarded a gold medal for both 100% Brettanomyces Serenity in 2013 and Mompara Honey Ale in 2014 at the Great American Beer Festival. In addition to these beers, Wicked Weed is known for producing Freak of Nature Double IPA, Coolcumber Ale, Tyrant Double Red Ale, Hop Burglar Blood Orange IPA, Black Angel Cherry Sour and Oblivion Sour Red. Most recently, Wicked Weed announced plans to open a 40,000 square foot production facility by fall 2015. Learn more at and on Facebook at


Mad Boar India Pale Ale

Mad Boar India Pale Ale

This IPA has a nice floral nose from the large amount of finishing hops used. Medium to full bodied, with a strong and complex hop character.

Original Gravity: 1059 (14.9 P)

Yield: 5 U.S. gallons

All Grain version

2 Row – 7 1/4pounds
Pale Ale 3 1/2 pounds
Crystal 10 9 ounces
Crystal 20 3 ounces
Crystal 40 1/2 pound
Carapils 1 pound
Red Wheat 3 ounces

NOTE: You can generally substitute 1 pound of XL Dried Malt Extract for 1.9 pounds of 2 Row base malt grain if your mash tun can not hold the more than 10-12 pounds of grain.
Mash grain at 151 F for 60 to 90 minutes

Extract version substitute:

5.3 pounds XL Dried Malt extract OR 6.6 pounds XL Malt syrup for the 2 Row and Pale Ale malts

Extract version – in boil pot, steep specialty grains in water at 150F for 30 min. Remove grain, then add malt extract,fill kettle to 6 US gallons and bring to a boil. Look for a target gravity of 1049 (12.4 P)



Cascade – 3/8 ounces 90 min for 9 IBU
Erocia – 1/2 ounces 90 min for 20 IBU
Columbus – 1/8 ounces 90 min for 11.1 IBU
Cascade – 3/8 ounces 30 min for 4.6 IBU
Erocia – 1/8 ounces 30 min for 4.1 IBU
Nugget – 1/8 ounces 30 min for 4 IBU
Chinook – 1/4 ounces 0 min for 1.8 IBU (at end of boil)
Cascade – 1 1/3 ounces 0 min for 4.5 IBU
Columbus – 1/2 ounces 0 min for 4.1 IBU

Yeast – cool wort as quickly as possible and pitch:

So4 dry Ale yeast or White Labs 002 English Ale

Ferment at 68 F until Kraeusen drops and leave in the fermenter for 2 more days before transferring to a secondary carboy (6 – 8 days total). Age 1 to 2 weeks and bottle/keg.

Mad Boar Restaurant & Brewery, North Myrtle Beach, SC | The Lost Beers

Buckhead Brewery & Grill Hefeweizen

Buckhead Brewery & Grill Hefeweizen


Cloudy gold in color due to being unfiltered, this hefeweizen has a banana, clove and mild nutmeg aroma imparted by the yeast.


OG 1048 (13.5 P)
IBU 13
Yield 5 U.S. Gallons

All Grain Version

  • 2 Row malt 11 1/3  pounds
  • Wheat 5 pounds 3 ounces

Extract version – substitute for the Wheat and 2 Row base malt 3.3 pounds Extra Light malt extract syrup  AND 3.3 pounds Wheat malt extract syrup
OR 2 pounds 10 ounces XL DME AND 2.5 pounds Wheat DME

MASH grain at 150 F for 60 min.

Extract version – in boil pot, steep specialty grains (use ¼ pound of each base malt to enhance the brews flavor profile) in water at 150 F for 30 min. Remove grain, then add malt extract, fill kettle to 6 US gallons and bring to a boil. Look for a target gravity of 1040(10 P)

Hops – total boil time is 60 min

  • Czech Saaz 2/3 oz for 60 min for 11 IBU
  • German Hallertauer ¼ oz for 15 min for 2 IBU

Yeast – cool wort as quickly as possible and pitch:
Wyeast 3068 German Hefeweizen
For Ale yeast start fermentation at 68 F until Kraeusen develops and leave in carboy or fermentation vessel until all signs of fermentation are complete. (6-7 days total).  Rack to a secondary carboy and cool temp and age for 2weeks before bottling or kegging.


Buckhead Brewery & Grill Tallahassee, FL, Cumming and Stockbridge, GA | The Lost Beers

What’s Happening at Wicked Weed this week?



On tap at Wicked Weed

  • Don’t Tread on Maize: A beer brewed with all American hops and corn, proceeds from the sale of this brew will be donated to Pints for Patriots.  This organization helps homeless veterans.
  • Melisseus: Named after the Greek god of beekeeping & honey making this beer is made with honey and lavender
  • Freak of Nature DIPA will be back! (phew)
  • Hop Burglar IPA
  • Lil’ Heresy Brown Ale this time around brewed with English yeast
  • Poperinge Saison: a dry hopped saison

Wicked Weed Running Club

Wicked Weed will be hosting a running club at the Funkatorium every Thursday evening starting on April 23rd.  This will consist of a three mile run followed by a 30 minute ab class in the barrel house (BYO mat).  There will be a beer special for runners.

Next Bottle Release

The Golden Angel PRE-SALE (online only) will be on April 24th!  Same deal as Red Angel.


New Menu will be on for the spring starting on Monday, April 20th

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