New taproom to have 64 beers on tap while offering daytime peace and quiet [photos]

A new craft beer taproom named Barley is due to open in a couple of months downtown at the corner of M.L. King Boulevard and Houston Street a few blocks from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Barley will have 64 beers on tap, a focus on locally-made brews and, during the daytime at least, the quiet ambience of a library.

"You can do your homework here," said Olivia McDermott, who'll help run the tap room along with her husband Cameron Hamner, who's the business' operating partner. "It's not like a bar."

Barley is modeled on Loosa Brews, a Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based tap room that opened in 2014. Loosa Brews' co-owner, Brad D. Lee, is the other partner in Barley. He said the state of Tennessee's recent move to allow sales of high-gravity beer outside of liquor stores and restaurants was one reason he chose to expand here.

"That was a big deciding factor," said Lee, whose pre-beer career included working in investment banking and commodity and currency trading.

Barley will move into a cluster of three old storefronts that have been vacant for at least five years. They're in the same block as JJ's Bohemia, a hole-in-the-wall alternative music bar that books local bands. One of the storefronts that Barley will inhabit used to be home to Big Ben's Bar-Be-Cue, a staple for decades at the corner of M.L. King and Houston.

"This brick in here is gorgeous," Lee said of Barley's interior, which is getting a makeover with oak and granite fixtures.

Built in 1893, the building has been home to a florist, cafe and liquor store over the years, said Bill Raines, owner of the Raines Group, which restored the building and will rent three two-bedroom, two-bath apartments upstairs.

"Those are some of the things I know of," Raines said, adding, "A long time ago, it used to be residential upstairs."

In addition to selling beer on tap, Barley will offer a variety of bottled beer, including German and Belgian brews, for consumption on premises or for carry out. The city of Chattanooga will improve the sidewalk out front, Lee said, and that will make room for outdoor seating for 40 people.

The taproom will be the third craft beer-related business to open on M.L. King Boulevard near UTC's campus. Oddstory, a microbrewery and "indoor beer garden," opened on New Year's Eve in a long-vacant building at 336 M.L. King Blvd. on the corner of Foster Street. Hutton & Smith Brewing Co. opened in the summer of 2015 at 431 E. M.L. King Blvd. Four new microbreweries are slated to open in various Chattanooga neighborhoods in 2017.

Lee said he'll make room for every local brewery's beer at his new taproom, pointing out that craft beer brewing has had huge resurgence in the United States.

"We just passed the 5,000 mark in the U.S.," he said.

The Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, reported that there were 5,005 U.S. breweries as of Nov. 30, 2016. That's the most since the 1870s, when small breweries began to consolidate, the association says.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or or 423-757-6651.