BY ANNA HUGHES
February’s AMA Knoxville meeting took place after hours at Hexagon Brewing Company on Feb. 21, 2018. With beer in hand, Co-owner Matt McMillan walked the audience through his experiences of starting the brewery with his business partner, Stephen Apking.
The Hexagon Story
The business started out with the name Underground, which came from Stephen’s method of brewing the beer under his porch. He quickly ran into the issue of “Underground” already being used by another brewing company.
Rather than fight to keep the name, Stephen and Matt decided to move on and find something more unique to their story. Through the process of trial and error, the two came up with the name “Hexagon,” which has many interesting ties to the duo.
Stephen was an avid beekeeper, which of course includes the hexagonal honey comb structure. Also, while looking through some of his grandfather’s old bamboo fly rods, Stephen came across an autographed book from the maker of the rods. Stephen came across a passage about how the rods were constructed using a hexagonal structure. He took this as a sign from his grandfather, and the name Hexagon was chosen.
The Hexagon Mission & Brand
Hexagon strives to focus on local partnerships. This has led them to partner with many local chefs, restaurants and foods trucks. He explained that ties between food and beer are “ever more prevalent, especially with the demographics that we are selling in.”
People want both great food and great beer. In order to cater to its market, Hexagon is working on building a small kitchen on site to provide food to patrons, in addition to the free popcorn that is already offered.
Hexagon differentiates its brand by focusing on quality and unique flavors. Matt explained their success in the craft beer business by saying, “We’re excited to be alive and making great beer.”
He is not only involved in Hexagon’s business, he is also on his fifth year of coordinating the Knoxville Brew Fest. He is also heavily active in the Knoxville Area Brewer’s Association (KABA). This group, which started in 2015, is a collection of breweries, retailers and individuals in the industry. This group helps to “define the landscape of the craft beer culture in Knoxville.”
In order to better promote the industry and “cater to locals and tourists alike,” KABA produced a map of all breweries in Knoxville in partnership with Visit Knoxville, known as the Knoxville Ale Trail. Matt explained this as a great way for Hexagon and other breweries to market themselves in the area.
Knoxville’s craft beer culture has grown from being well under the average number of breweries three years ago to 20 breweries today. Matt stressed the benefits of the craft beer industry to the local economy. By catering to their demographics and working in collaboration with other local breweries, they are able to grow the craft beer culture in Knoxville while also growing the local economy.
The AMA Knoxville event concluded with a tour of Hexagon’s impressive brewing facility.