By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA
Last month, Abridged Beer Co. launched a food truck, offering a new twist on the brewery’s popular burger.
Jesse Bowers, Founder and Co-Owner of Abridged, said he and his partner Joey Trott had wanted to start the brewery with a food truck component. But the zoning code for their area near Bearden didn’t allow for a stand-alone brewery. They had to be designated a brewpub.
When Abridged opened in August 2017, the idea was to sell beer and have a small kitchen offering snacks and some food. Trott had a background in cooking and would be the head chef. “We shifted the food truck idea to having a kitchen onsite,” Bowers said.
But what Abridged has become is a slightly different focus, with the Abridged burger quickly becoming a go-to item on the menu. “We’ve really shifted toward more of a restaurant,” Bowers said.
The new food truck was custom-made for Abridged. Right now, the only location where the truck has permanent rotation is at Xul Beer Co. The truck will offer burgers, but in a slightly different style from the traditional menu. Bowers said the food truck will make twin patty smash burgers, as well as offering chicken, turkey, and Impossible Burger meat.
“It’s different, but the same,” he said. “It’s going to be a cool thing for our regulars to have a little bit of a twist.”
After saying no to catering opportunities and office lunches for years, Bowers said he hopes the food truck will enable Abridged to expand its business. Even at the original Abridged location, the food truck can help expand services for the brewery. Bowers said that since they originally planned to have more of a beer focus than a food focus, the kitchen onsite is small. The restaurant can only offer lunch on certain days because the staff doesn’t have the space to prep and do service at the same time. With the food truck, they can make the food on location, but in a different kitchen.
“As we’ve grown into more food sales, there’s been some challenges involved,” Bowers said. “We can couple the beer with the food truck and offer a quicker option for lunch.”
Bowers is hoping the truck will be able to do lunch services at Abridged during the day and then go to a different location for dinner. He plans to keep social media pages with the truck’s whereabouts up to date for customers. Trott will start on the truck full-time to learn the ins and outs of the space before training other staff to work there. He’s also hoping they will eventually be able to have the trucks at events, or catering for weddings.
“There are all kinds of things we can get into once we get going,” he said.
Bowers first got into craft beer around 2011, after taking trips to Asheville, NC, with friends to see the brewery scene there. Bowers has a science background, using chemistry to help maintain golf course grass for 13 years. After visiting Asheville, Bowers decided he wanted to try home brewing his own beer. A few years later, he also decided he wanted to start his own business but wanted to leave lawn care behind. He decided to pair the two.
“I spent the first half of my career trying to kill fungus and the second half trying to grow it,” he joked.
When Bowers first started planning for Abridged, Knoxville’s craft beer scene was just starting. Both Alliance Brewing Co. and Crafty Bastard Brewery opened in 2015. It took two years of planning and one year of construction to open Abridged. Though a large portion of the funding came from his and his wife’s personal savings, Bowers said it would not have been possible without investment from family and friends as well as a start-up loan from the Small Business Administration.
Two years after Abridged opened, Bowers said the brewery began looking for a storage location for beers. That idea blossomed into the brewery’s second location, the Oak Room, which Bowers says is his baby.
In this location, Bowers offers more experimental brews, where each of the products they make has been aged in a barrel. He said he wanted to open this location for more niche beer lovers, and that he is particularly passionate about barrel-aged beers himself. The Oak Room opened in the fall of 2019.
The second location has a different atmosphere as well. While the original Abridged location has a family-friendly feel, Bowers said the Oak Room “serves as more of an alter-ego,” a getaway space for those same parents.
At the end of last year, Abridged expanded the menu at the Oak Room to include wine, an extensive bourbon list, and a full cocktail menu. What’s special about the cocktails Bowers said, is that every drink has a component that was barrel-aged in-house.
Learn more about Abridged, the Oak Room, and the new food truck here.