Yee-Haw Brewing now calls Knoxville 'home'

Knoxville has always been Yee-Haw Brewing Company's largest market for beer sales. It only makes sense the Scruffy City is now its home.

Yee-Haw, one of the most recognizable beer brands in the state, told Knox News it plans to create close to 100 jobs here.

It will open a brewery and taproom with a restaurant and new outdoor space this spring at the former Elkmont Exchange brewery in North Knoxville.

Although the corporate team is still working remotely, "Knoxville is where we consider home," Yee-Haw CEO Jennifer Podhajsky told Knox News in an email.

From Johnson City to regional distribution

Yee-Haw's products can be found on grocery store shelves and at craft beer markets throughout East and Middle Tennessee.

The brand opened its Johnson City facility in 2015 and, since then, the company has been working to grow its distribution. It also distributes in Greenville, South Carolina, the home of its only out-of-state taproom.

Elkmont Exchange was in business roughly three years with limited distribution before closing in 2020 and leaving its state-of-the-art brewing equipment behind.

Charles Ellis, general manager of what will be known as Yee-Haw Brewing Knoxville, said the Knoxville brewery will have one of the largest barrel operations in East Tennessee.

"We're really focusing on attracting the neighborhood that we are in instead of trying to pull from elsewhere," Ellis said. "This is my neighborhood, and we are in the epicenter of all things brewing in Knoxville. .... It's awesome, and we're super, super excited to be a part of it."

Yee-Haw also has locations in Nashville and Pigeon Forge.

'Different kinds of liquid,' food planned

Yee-Haw has been brewing since March at the facility, located at 745 N. Broadway. Two brewers who previously worked at Elkmont Exchange have joined the Yee-Haw team in Knoxville.

"We'll be producing a lot of different kinds of liquid on site for both on-premise consumption and sending out to our other taprooms as well," Ellis said.

That will include some non-beer beverages, which will be announced later.

Anything on grocery store shelves, including the brewery's signature IPA and dunkel, will be made in Johnson City.

Ellis said the Knoxville operation will focus on limited releases, a barrel-aging program and even a wheat wine, which other breweries simply cannot produce without the special accordion-like mash filter previously owned by Elkmont Exchange.

A familiar face also is behind what will be a full restaurant menu.

Matt Boyd, who worked downtown at Club LeConte before it closed in 2020, has plans to "elevate the food game in North Knoxville," Ellis said.

Ellis said the brewery will be open for lunch daily, with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

"It'll be a hotspot for food in the neighborhood for sure," he said.

Ellis said Yee-Haw plans to transform the atmosphere inside the roughly 9,000-square-foot space.

"It was a little bit darker and more closed off, and you felt isolated when you were in this place," he said about the previous setup. "Now, it's going to be a lot more opened up, brighter, more exciting."

The brewery will have private event space and different areas for different moods — quiet spots for talking with friends, louder areas for watching sports and a new area under construction for people who want to enjoy being outside.

Workers are in the process of turning part of the gravel parking lot into a "beautiful and welcoming" outdoor area with green space and seating. 

Some parking spaces will be retained.

"It will be the nicest outdoor space for gathering in East Tennessee," Ellis said.

Ellis also is general manager of neighboring Central Filling Station. While some ownership overlap exists with the two businesses, he said, Yee-Haw does not own the food truck park.

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"We are definitely going to try to involve both businesses in how people get around the neighborhood," he said. "We want to make it super easy for people to go from here to there and vice versa."

Ellis has been with Yee-Haw since nearly the beginning, working sales and marketing in East Tennessee. He worked in restaurants prior to that and also has attended the local Brewing & Distilling Center to become a certified brewer.

Ellis, who has owned a house in the neighborhood for eight years, said hiring could begin in February.

"We're excited to build a family here in Knoxville, and it's going to be a big family," he said.

While the corporate team will have an office at some point, Yee-Haw's Knoxville leadership is first focused on the taproom.

"We know our fellow brewers and our fellow breweries personally, and we've got relationships there already," he said. "We just want to help foster those relationships and help those guys out getting up to the top while we're going with them.

"We want everybody to do well."

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Ryan Wilusz

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Published December 15, 2021