The Public House in Knoxville. Photo by Clay Duda.Clay Duda
Winner: The Public House
The Knoxville Public House is a popular bar that doesn’t necessarily aim to be populist. When it opened in 2010 on Magnolia Avenue, it was considered to be on the outer fringes of downtown’s renaissance, far away from the Market Square masses. Which suited it just fine. The vibe at Public House is more calm retreat than sensory overload. First, there are no TVs strung up from the ceilings and walls—ESPN’s anchors will not be watching your every move. Second, there’s no live music. Third, there’s no smoking. How can such a bar thrive in Knoxville? Co-owner Laura Sohn’s artisanal interests reveal themselves in everything from the cocktails to the popcorn (Pork rind + black pepper? Sure!) to the spectacular dinner-club events featuring local chefs. It all combines to create a uniquely sophisticated, low-key haven for the discriminating imbiber. (Coury Turczyn)

Runners Up: Preservation Pub, Sapphire, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

Winner: Bearden Beer Market
Most places, sitting outside is an option. At the Bearden Beer Market, it’s just about the only option—the near West Knoxville institution in the making has a tiny taproom and retail outlet, but it’s mostly one giant beer garden, perfect for great weather and still awesome otherwise. The mood is deliberately downscale—the focus is on the beer, and they have one of the best rotating selections in town, on tap and in the bottle, for consumption on-site or off. (Matthew Everett)

Runners Up: Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, Hops and Hollers, Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

Winner: Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria
Tap, tap, who’s there? Barley’s, with 96 varieties. Where else are you gonna find Fort Collins Chocolate Stout, Miller Lite, Foothills People’s Porter, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and Flat 12’s Hello My Name is Amber lined up side by side—and still have several yards of tap to choose from? All this, and tasty bar food, too. Like New York-style pizzas, Tilapia Po’ Boys, and more. The experimental should duly note that Tuesday at Barley’s means half-price pints. (Rose Kennedy)

Runners Up: Aubrey’s, Central Flats and Taps, Sunspot

Bartender Hannah Howard mixes a series of cocktails, from left, a Dirty Martini, Rhett Butler, Sazerac, and Whiskey Smash for customers the Peter Kern Library in downtown Knoxville on Thurs,. Oct. 8, 2015. Photo by Clay Duda.Clay Duda
Winner: Peter Kern Library
On weekend evenings, you might have to wait in line to get into this cozy literary-themed speakeasy-style bar tucked into the lobby of the Oliver Hotel, named after a pioneering 19th-century Market Square confectioner. It’s worth it. They take booze and the service thereof seriously here. Both the cocktails (imaginative originals and flawless takes on the classics) and the atmosphere (self-consciously civilized) are unlike anything else in Knoxville. (M.E.)

Runners Up: Armada Craft Cocktail Bar, The Public House, Sapphire

Winner: Saw Works Brewing Company
With five years of operation under its belt, Saw Works brewery is the grand dame of local brewing. Its regular offerings are a smooth-drinking pale ale, a brown ale, and an “autumn-colored” IPA called Rocky Hop, available at tap rooms and beer markets in Knoxville and other East Tennessee cities. Despite weathering an early name change after its initial Marble City Brewing moniker faced a copyright challenge, Saw Works has developed a loyal following through beer festivals and mill tours. They serve up seasonal beers and small batches of “rough cut” experimental brews in a tap room on East Depot Avenue. (Heather Duncan)

Runners Up: Black Horse Brewery, Fanatic Brewing Company, Woodruff Brewing Co. (Downtown Grill & Brewery)

Winner: Pilot Light
The little hole in the wall that could is still going strong after a decade and a half, and seems, in fact, to be in the midst of a particularly vibrant period, hosting comedy, film, storytelling, and puppet shows in addition to the usual menu of underground and indie rock bands and local experimental groups. (M.E.)

Runners Up: Marie’s Olde Towne Tavern, Toddy’s Back Door Tavern, Toot’s Little Honky Tonk

Winner: Downtown Grill & Brewery
Hard to say which came first: the dedicated crew of downtown workers, Vols, and politicos that frequent DG&B most evenings, or the Happy Hour dedicated to the frugal-but-discerning imbibers. Monday to Friday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m., craft pints are $2.50 and LIT and margaritas $3; house wine $4 glass; free doubles on all well and call liquors. And dare we say they are the original ones to put the Funday in Sunday? ‘Cause all the same deals apply on the day of rest from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., along with free pool. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Central Flats & Taps, Holly’s 135, Preservation Pub

Winner: Bob’s Wine and Liquor
They don’t even seem to notice that they’re in their mid-40s, an age when many of us would start slowing down. Bob (as in Robert Gilbertson, founder), though, still races around lining up liquor and beer and wine specials. All told, Bob’s sell 3,200 wine labels and more than 1,700 spirit labels, and it’s got the staff to help you find any of it, whether it’s Fireball or a wine or liqueur you’ve never heard of and had no idea you needed. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Ashe’s Wine & Spirits, McScrooge’s Wine and Spirits, Toddy’s Liquor
and Wine

Winner: Sugarlands Distilling Company
Open a little over a year and East Tennessee-owned, Sugarlands makes its Appalachian mark with a house-barn workplace constructed from four salvaged area barns and homes as well as on-site storytelling and live music. The moonshine itself offers a few variations that are different from the other guys, including Jim Tom Hedrick’s Unaged Rye and a tasty little Tickle’s Dynamite Cinnamon Moonshine. Also fun: They’re tinkering with a Time Machine Whiskey that could produce the taste profile of a super premium whiskey in less time. We’d like to time travel with them. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Old Forge Distillery, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey

Winner: Fieldhouse Social
If only the Vols were doing as well every week as this new kid on the sports bar block. Fieldhouse Social is right near the UT action (and the sororities) there in University Commons. Airy and tall inside, it has one heckuva four-sided bar dominating the center. A patio for game day, $2 off drafts on Tuesdays, including lots of regional artisan picks, the Knox Trivia Guys on occasion, and 75-cent wings all day Thursday make this a solid sports bar even before its major claim to fame: the largest TV in the Southland. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Bearden Hill Fieldhouse, Rooster’s Bar and Grill, Soccer Taco

Winner: Drink.
Say, this is cool: Drink. boasts “wine dispensing machines” so guests can sip a bit of wine before investing in a bottle or even committing to a glass. That’s just one of the unusual touches at this self-described “midtown lounge” with the exhaustive wine list and attentive and educational staff. Chandeliers, shiny round urban tables so patrons can stand to mingle, small plates from next-door’s Bistro by the Tracks. They’ll even draft a craft beer or designer cocktail if wine at the wine bar isn’t your thing. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Bistro by the Tracks, Cru Bistro and Wine Bar, Knoxville Uncorked, Sunspot

Winner: Knoxville UnCorked
Location, location, location. Along with the wine list curated by the sensationally knowledgeable co-owner Jim West (yes that’s Scott West’s dad), UnCorked has a wine room for large parties, an intimate full bar, a central courtyard, and a patio, all in the center of historic Market Square. The list reads like a dreamy cheat sheet, with lively descriptions of vintages like Black Opal Shiraz and Boom Boom! Syrah 2012; many bottles are in the very affordable $30-$50 range, with only a few choices topping $140. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Aubrey’s, Bistro by the Tracks, Cru Bistro and Wine Bar

Winner: Ashe’s Wine & Spirits
Ashe’s proprietor, Thad Cox Jr., sets the tone here, with a staff that can guide buyers through a purchase of a wee bit of dessert wine or cases of bubbly for a celebration. Tastings are commonplace, and Ashe’s heralds the arrival of seasonals with great fanfare. Nowadays the store features 35 Boars Head cheese, meat, and hummus varieties for take-home, too. Even more fabulous are the Ashe’s-sponsored Naples restaurant wine dinners, with exceptional pairings of wine from a featured vineyard and fare prepared by chef Gary Nicely. (R.K.)

Runners Up: Bob’s Wine and liquor, Downtown Wine + Spirits, McScrooge’s Wine and Spirits