Calfkiller Brewing – Featured Brewery

As breweries become more of a fixture on the urban landscape, it’s refreshing to find one that’s close to home but situated smack dab in the middle of a picture perfect vision of bucolic Tennessee.  Located in Sparta, which is just about an hour and a half from Knoxville and almost due south of Cookeville, our featured brewery for April, Calfkiller, is a backyard operation that’s been patched together in a fashion that’s the stuff of storybooks and beer loving dreams.

Sparta is one of those places in Tennessee that probably doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, though in the 1830’s it was an important spot on the wagon trail to Nashville, and it’s still the home to the Sparta Rock House, once an important inn, tollhouse, and rest stop that’s part of the National Register of Historic Places. Lester Flatt lived there for a spell, and the city hosts an annual bluegrass festival in his honor.  Sparta came close to being our State’s capital, but, according to legend, it lost to Nashville by one vote – and that vote was sold for a drink of whiskey.  Perhaps it’s ironic or merely just that another thirst quencher has helped Sparta reclaim some of its luster.

Calfkiller, named for the river that flows nearby (which, according to one legend, is named for a cattle loving Cherokee chief), is the passion child of brothers Don and Dave Sergio.  Located in the back yard of Don’s house, the brewery was constructed and equipped mostly from reclaimed and recycled materials and gear, though it’s as picturesque as anything you might plan.  And it was put together and grew as the brother’s expanded what originally was “an aggressive home-brew hobby” that they started around and about 2001.  It wasn’t until 2004 that Don and Dave commenced brewing Calfkiller proper, and they’ve spent the ensuing years honing their craft, ramping up production and distribution, and making a name for themselves.

But the fact of the matter is that the trappings of the building and the burdens of marketing are secondary concerns or, perhaps, just necessary evils to these modern day Spartans – their cause in love, peace, and perhaps battle, too, is a frothy class of “Beer free of the tyranny of stylistic oppression.”

That’s a pretty good fight to fight – at least as we see it.  The beer is good and has the added value of being made by loving hands in a beautiful part of the world that you can visit in about the same amount of time it would take you to get in and out of Turkey Creek on a holiday weekend.  You can visit their website to schedule a tour or buy some groovy Calfkiller merchandise that will brand you as real beer lover and a smart one, too.

We’re featuring 4 of their brews – maybe some others, too – so you’ll want to hurry on down and see what it’s all about:

Wizard Sauce

It’s an American style IPA that the Sergio boys describe as, “An ode to summer, an ode to magic, an ode to 13 years of brewing Wizardry…the Calfkiller Wizard Sauce. Some things DEFY explanation! Taste the Magic!”  5.3% ABV

Scorned Hooker

This American Style Amber ale gets a colorful description, too: ” ‘She may be a little bitter, but she ‘s still so sweet!,’ describes this hooker to a ‘T.’ Its bright whole-hop flavor is balanced perfectly with a smooth, malty backbone and notes of caramel and honey.”  5.7% ABV


“Traditionally untraditional. An ‘oatmeal and brown sugar entire,’ precursor to the porter. This beer is well balanced, dry, faintly roasty, slightly chocolatey, moderately warm and heavily drinkable!” 6.0% ABV



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