Fill a Pint. Fill a Growler. Fill Your Mind.
How did a scuffed-up, mid-century gas station in a declining mining town in a poor, sparsely populated area of Tennessee become an enormously popular destination for locals and regional tourists?
Brewing beer successfully can be attributed to good chemistry—proper ratios of water, hops, malt and yeast—and the right time and temperature. But creating a successful destination craft brewery is more like alchemy. Turning beer into gold can be an elusive and mysterious endeavor. So how did a scuffed-up, mid-century gas station in a declining mining town in a poor, sparsely populated area of Tennessee become an enormously popular destination for locals and regional tourists?
Patrick Keenan, owner of Buck Bald Brewing, and his wife Sylvie Jobin-Keenan will attest that the success of this business is nothing short of magical. “I wanted to create a brewery that I would want to hang out in—one with great beer, an amazing atmosphere, and a cool family vibe. What has resulted from our efforts has far surpassed anything I could imagine. I never expected for BBB (Buck Bald Brewing or B3) to take off as quickly as it has. I had visions of me being behind the bar with 10 or 15 patrons at a time on a good day to start then slowly building a following over time. We skipped by that in the first few weeks and have continued to build quickly ever since,” Patrick explains enthusiastically.
Their success is primarily due to the great beer and fun atmosphere, but Patrick also attributes it to being in the right place at the right time. “Copperhill, Tennessee, is perfectly suited for our style of craft brewery. Not only do we have a great group of locals that visit often and share the good word about BBB, but we have so many reasons for people to visit the area. There is rafting, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, motorcycling and just about any outdoor activity you can imagine in very close proximity. We are perfectly located as an easy getaway for people from Atlanta, Chattanooga and Knoxville. People love the small-town feel, the friendly people, and the variety of local activities,” he adds.
You will always find an interesting selection of great beer here. They feature 13 on tap, including popular favorites, season specialties, and new concoctions. Patrick describes their beers as creative classics. “We most often start with a well-known beer style. We try to make the best example of the style we can, and then look for ways to make it better.” While every good brewery has enthusiasts, armchair brewers and regulars critiquing their lineup, Patrick says that he is fortunate to have a team of expert collaborators who have actually brewed together since the beginning in 2018. “Mike, Cro, Tony and I push up our sleeves and brew every batch of beer that’s made at BBB, with Clay and Lee serving customers and creating amazing experiences from behind the bar since the first pour. I don’t think there are many businesses, breweries or otherwise, that can say that the same small group of friends have been there since day one.” Often, they pull beers from history, some that you would be hard-pressed to find in other breweries within 100 miles. “Our English Mild and our Lichtenhainer are perfect examples of this. We also take cues from beers we enjoy from other breweries and try to make them better.”
You can also find an interesting selection of people here on most nice afternoons and evenings: an easy-to-spot, out-of-town bachelorette party enthusiastically lifting their pint glasses; exhilarated rafting guides and kayakers winding down and swapping boulder-encounter stories after a busy day on the nearby rapids; happy kids chalking on the sidewalks and wagging-tail pups making friends and learning manners; thirsty, endorphin-loaded peddlers and paddlers, bikers and hikers coming in off the River Road; aficionados working on their best-brewery bucket list while pondering esters, hops and gravity; and a hub of lively locals/wannabe locals on the large patio planning their next rafting, tubing or kayaking foray on the Toccoa/Ocoee River, plotting the next potluck dinner (birthday party, baby shower or charity fundraiser), or mapping out an upcoming hiking excursion into the surrounding National Forest that usually ends right back here with a celebratory beer.
In this place that once offered windshield-cleaning, tire-pressure-checking full service, “fill it up,” has taken on a whole new meaning. “Fill a pint, fill a growler or fill your mind,” is the tagline adorning the collectible glasses, banners and T-shirts sold here. They could also add “fill your heart.” Bottomland near rivers is known for its fertility. Likewise, friendships tend to flourish in this Copper Basin locale near the banks of the Ocoee. “Our locals, especially our Mug Club members, make everyone feel comfortable. I’ve never seen a place as friendly from top to bottom as BBB. There are a lot of craft breweries that make great beer, but I think it would be hard to top the combination of our delicious, locally brewed, craft beer and our friendly, welcoming atmosphere,” Patrick says smiling. ACLM
Owners Sylvie, Patrick and Alexandra say, “Come on down to B3 for some great beer made with love, friendship and community!”
Buck Bald Brewing
160 Ocoee St, Copperhill, TN 37317
Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday Noon to 8pm
Now open Tuesday 4pm to 8pm