Craft beers gain head in beer market

Growth in 2013 beer sales

* Overall beer: 1.9 percent

* Craft beers: 17.2 percent

Beer sales in 2013

* Overall beer market: $100 billion

* Craft beer market: $14.3 billion

Source: Brewers Association

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The Casual Pint, a craft beer retailer based in Knoxville is bringing its craft beer experience to Chattanooga this fall and opening two locations in Hamilton County. Franchise owners Bryan and Kelly Hamilton plan to open the first location Oct. 1, at 163-B Cherokee Blvd. near downtown, with a second store opening in 2015.

What Starbucks did for coffee, the owners of Casual Pint want to do for craft beer.

The Knoxville-based retailer of craft beers is moving into the Chattanooga market with a new North Shore retail outlet scheduled to open in October and another new store planned near Hamilton Place mall by January. The new outlets are similar to four Casual Pints in Knoxville, which offer more than 500 different packaged craft beers and growlers for retail customers and 22 different beers on tap for those wanting to sample the craft beers on site.

Bryan and Kelly Hamilton, Knoxville restaurateurs who are developing the new Casual Pint locations in Chattanooga, bought the local franchise to tap into the growing craft beer market. Although overall beer sales have been flat in recent years, craft beers have grown from less than 10 percent of all beer sales five years ago to more than 14 percent today, according to the trade group for the industry, Brewers Association.

"The market for craft beers is exploding and Casual Pint has put together a great concept and team to reach the growing interest in these new specialty beers," Hamilton said Friday. "Beer drinkers are becoming more sophisticated and are looking for a different kind of experience, sort of like what you might have at an upscale coffee bar, only with craft beers."

In the Maddox building on Cherokee Boulevard, workers should begin work next week building out the planned 2,600-square-foot retail store and bar, pending approval of beer and building permits. Hamilton said he is still finalizing a site near Hamilton Place for another store, which he said should be open by the first of 2015.

Each of the store features refrigerated cases and shelves of bottled beer, plus plenty of seating at the bar, tables, couches, and patios for customers to enjoy a draft of their favorite beer. Unlike the Knoxville-area locations, which do not serve food, the two Chattanooga stores will offer a small menu of items.

Grocery veterans Nathan Robinette and his father, Jon, opened the first Causal Pint off Papermill Drive in Knoxville three years ago to offer a wider selection of high-quality beers.

Casual Pint claims as a slogan, "If you build it, they will drink." The company began franchising last November. Already, 10 franchise agreements have been signed and more are in the works.

"We want to be a national player," said Roger Flynn, a director of First Choice Franchise Concepts, a Knoxville-based franchise consulting firm that is working to franchise the Casual Pint concept. "This is the first craft beer retailer to franchise and we see tremendous opportunity for growth."

Casual Pint has only one company-owned store in Knoxvill, but it has franchise locations now open in Knoxville Maryville, Franklin and Maryville, Tenn., and is looking at additional sites in Atlanta, Louisville and Cincinnati.

"We're a retail store first, but we also offer you the chance to come in, sit down and sample one of the craft beers at our bar or at one of our tables or couches," Flynn said. "You can come in and purchase you craft beer in a 6-pack or case form or fill your growler and take that home. If you want to sit down, you can have a pint or two to sample a beer on the premises before you decide what you want. We have TVs, Wi-Fi and a very comfortable, relaxed and upscale setting for craft beer lovers to get together."

The typical store employs five or six workers and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.., or later, every day.

The franchises sell for $39,500 each and the typical store costs from $250,000 to $350,000 to build out, Flynn said.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340.