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Your Stories: Marty Velas

5:08 PM, Oct 31, 2012   |    comments
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The path that led one man here to East Tennessee is an interesting one. He had a solid career in a stable industry and he gave it all up for beer.

Getting that perfect blend of barley, malt and hops is not easy, even for this brewmaster.

"We are trying to expose people to really fresh, flavorful lager beers," said Marty Velas, brewmaster at Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Marty Velas has been brewing since before he was allowed to drink.

"When I went to Czechoslovakia to visit relatives when I was 17, I got a taste for the beer over there," said Velas. "When I came back to the states I couldn't find any beer like that so I decided I had to make it myself."

And he did just that all through college in California and on the side while he worked in the aerospace industry.

"I made microelectronic circuits for guidance systems for missiles," said Velas. "I was kind of brewing all along the way reading text books and trade journals for the brewing industry, so a little light went off and I decided well, maybe I should be brewing instead of making smart bombs."

So he left his big job behind thanks to encouragement from his wife. "I had a 401k plan. I had tenure with this engineering firm and I was going to take a huge step back in pay and she said 'Well, if you don't do it you'll regret it'."

And Marty hasn't looked back. He worked at several breweries in California, but it was a consulting job that took him all over the world.

"There was just a great demand for someone like me that had an engineering background and had been brewing for years and years and knew how to design recipes," he said.

He helped set up breweries in Japan, Namibia, Hungary and he came to East Tennessee to consult Smoky Mountain Breweries.

"I found myself flying to Knoxville more and more and my wife and I decided we wanted to start a family, and we were looking for a place to settle down," said Velas.

He and his wife started that family here in Knoxville. They have three kids and Marty now works for Smoky Mountain Brewery full-time.

"With four production breweries, I run around a lot, so I am in the mountains a day or two," said Velas. "This here Turkey Creek is my second home. We do half of all our production here. We've got bottling. We do little five liter mini kegs."

His inspiration is still that first beer he had all those years ago in Czechoslovakia, a taste he says he has done a good job recreating here at home.

"It has to be the Bohemian Pilsner because that's the beer I tasted back in 1978 and just couldn't get enough of," said Velas.

So what is it about beer that keeps Marty going?

"I like the fact that it's a convivial beverage, it's a social elixir they call it, and it's really something that people reward themselves with," he explained. "Plus it tastes really good and the bubbles tickle my nose."

Marty Velas, an engineer turned brewmaster, turned East Tennessee enthusiast.

"I've been all over the world as I've just told you, and I think it's one of the most beautiful great places to live on the planet," he said.

One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.

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