I’m always on the lookout for a new brewery to try (go check out/follow my Untappd). On our way up to Tellico Plains, TN and Hidden Lake Campground (which you can read about here), I made sure we took the scenic route, and it paid off in beautiful views and Buck Bald Brewing! Part of traveling is the back country driving, small towns, unpopulated roads, and gorgeous scenes you get to experience that you otherwise wouldn’t by sticking to the path more traveled (read interstate). So, when we passed through the quaint sister towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN on the banks of the Toccoa River (GA) and Ocoee River (TN) while en route to go camping, I knew we’d have to stop by on the way back through. A few days later, we did just that.
As a matter of fact, when we passed through these two towns that sit on the Georgia/Tennessee border, with North Carolina just a few miles away, we were sort of awestruck by how pleasant and laid back it seemed. The river meanders right through the town(s), and while following my GPS I noticed some people sitting outside of what looked like an old gas station drinking beer. About the time I saw the sign for Buck Bald Brewing, my GPS screamed “Welcome to Tennessee!” It threw me off because I didn’t realize that the state line slices right through the middle of the town, literally splitting buildings in half, part of which are in McCaysville, GA and part of which are in Copperhill, TN. I made a mental note, and when we came back through after camping I whipped the Mayflower right in to the front of Buck Bald just on the Tennessee side of town.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Buck Bald Brewing has a lot of character. They’ve truly taken the old gas station property and turned it into something uniquely their own. If you end up being a fan of their beer (and you will), they also have tons of merchandise to take home. Mugs, stickers, posters, shirts, and a ton of other items make a part of the taproom a Buck Bald Brewing souvenir shop.
Now, speaking of their beer, they have a ton of varieties and none of them are your run-of-the-mill IPA’s and lighter lagers. These brews have personality, and though they only can beer once a week, you can take home a growler full of your favorite drink. We didn’t have a ton of time here unfortunately, but I tried a sample first of their Pistol Packin’ India Pale Ale. It was a neat change from your typical West Coast IPA because it was much more malt-forward than most IPA’s. It was a treat, for sure, but another beer on the wall is what caught my eye: the Brawlin’ Brown. You can read about the description in detail on Buck Bald’s Untappd page, but essentially it is a brown ale brewed with cacao nibs, guajillo chiles and puya chiles. Yes, chili peppers! Before you make a face and walk off, let me tell you, this was an incredibly distinct and flavorful beer that I won’t forget. It’s malty, smooth, extremely dark (see the picture above), and it ends with a nice spicy note. It’s nothing crazy hot, just enough to let you know it’s there, and it’s amazing. If we could’ve fit anything else in the Mayflower, I would’ve brought a growler full of this stuff home. It was that good.
There were so many other brews to try, but this just wasn’t the time. We still had a 3 hour drive to get home prior to showing up at the brewery, but I know we’ll be back to this whole area and I’ll definitely be sitting down to try a little bit of everything. This whole place is absolutely a hidden gem, but a quick history lesson: it almost wasn’t. McCaysville and Copperhill almost didn’t survive 40-50 years ago when they were the epicenter of a massive copper mining operation. The mining company would build massive bonfires using the trees from the mountain sides to burn the sulphur off of the copper they were pulling from the earth. This created acid rain which kept any other vegetation from growing, and both towns almost ended up as ghost towns. Someone figured out how dumb this was and a massive reforesting initiative was started, and now the towns and the surrounding environment have completely rebounded to the point where they are considered “pristine.” Buck Bald Brewing and the whole area stands as a wonderful reminder that an old, forgotten world can, in fact, be rebuilt into something amazing.
If you ever find yourself up near the Georgia/Tennessee/North Carolina border, make a trip over to Buck Bald Brewing. If you stay in McCaysville/Copperhill, it’s a great place to come have a few drinks after you go tubing down the river just outside of town. Otherwise, just a quick pint while passing through will leave you making plans to come back!