Driving down Magnolia Avenue, you’d be liable to miss it if you don’t keep your eyes peeled, but do not be fooled – in what appears to be a small, plain storefront is actually Last Days of Autumn Brewery, a family-owned and operated brewery and taproom.
A little place known for its big heart, Last Days’ backstory is rooted in two things: new beginnings and passion.
Three years ago, proprietors Tracy and Mike Frede decided they wanted to open a brewery
after their two sons moved away from home to college.
“We were empty-nesters, and we were just sitting there, and he convinced me to go see a brewery up in Colorado. We had seen about 120 breweries up until then, and [Mike] had been trying to convince me,” Tracy said.
“For us to just, all of sudden, ‘Let’s just change the course of our life and open up a brewery.’ It was kind of crazy. But we did it.”
The name Last Days of Autumn finds its origins in two places – one being the title of a song by the Frede’s favorite band, Leftover Salmon. The other is rooted in an old analogy from Tracy Frede’s grandmother which links the cycle of life to nature.
“My grandmother always told me that there are four seasons of life,” Tracy Frede said. “Autumn is when you’re empty-nesting, and you are pursuing your second half of your life.”
Once inside, guests are immediately surrounded by a hand-painted mural of the Great Smoky Mountains and forest-green walls. Most of the furniture, which is a mix of different styles, was sustainably sourced and up-cycled from antique stores. A large metal leaf hanging from the ceiling was actually the senior project of a UT student, given to the Frede family.
A few of the larger wooden tables and the bar itself were made from scratch wood sourced from a felled pine tree.
“We did the flooring ourselves, everything…we didn’t actually build the bathrooms, but we stained all the wood,” Tracy said.
Although the building is humble, the brewery is often bustling with activity. From monthly comedy nights, to bi-weekly jazz jam sessions, to bands hosted each week and summer festivals, Last Days is a place to go not just for craft beer, but entertainment.
Through being a venue for up-and-coming artists and amateurs, Last Days also gives back to the Knoxville community, primarily through donations to Cure Search, a children’s’ cancer charity, and holding charity events for the Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee.
“We believe in giving back, because we have always been community-based. We have always been very fortunate, very blessed to be able to open a business. So, we have always given back since day one,” Tracy Frede said.
Last Days specializes in both traditional brews and creative ones. The Juicy J brew is
made from leftover hops, meaning each new batch is imbibed with a new flavor every time – it’s the Mystery Flavor version of beer.
The brewery specializes primarily in IPA’s, with Biff’s Best being their flagship beer and Pardon my Garden having recently won out as a Knoxville favorite in March Mash-ness, hosted by Beer+Food Weekly.
“I’ve tried all of them. That’s one of my goals, to try as many beers as possible. I’m up in the thousands,” craft beer enthusiast Ed Pritchard said. “Pardon My Garden is definitely one of my favorites … I don’t give five stars to any beer, save for a couple, but it’s close.”
However, Last Days has also become known for its food as well. “They have got some of the best food in town, for a brewery. They’re not the only one, but they are pushing the envelope on the good food,” Pritchard said. “I usually come on Fridays for the shrimp boil.”
But that’s not all – every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, and there are often Sunday specials and themed festivals featuring food from different cultures, such as gumbo during Mardi Gras.
As part of Knoxville’s prominent craft beer scene, Last Days brings an extra touch of family ingenuity to the craft beer experience, complete with a tight-knit feeling of togetherness and liveliness within its walls. Smiling and full of humor, Tracy Frede is thankful have created the experience with her husband.
“Some people call it a mid-life crisis – I don’t…My husband had this hobby for 20 years, of home-brewing…so I always say that I bought him a really big kitchen now, and it’s a really big hobby now, but it’s a lot of fun.”