World's Fair Beer making resurgence in East Tennessee

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - For six months in 1982, the world had its eyes on Knoxville for the World's Fair.

The sounds from the World's Fair are long gone. The sights have mostly left, too, with the exception of a few reminders.

"There's iconic pieces of it that still remain, World's Fair Park and the Sunsphere," said Harrison Collins.

But, nothing triggers a memory quite like a taste.

"Back then, there were a lot of can collectors," Rick Kuhlman said. "So, we kind of got into that whole wave of excitement, and we just capitalized on the souvenir aspect of our product."

Kuhlman worked for a beer wholesaler at the time of the World's Fair. He came up with the concept of World's Fair Beer.

"I knew that the beer might not be the very best beer, but I think people were just buying it as a collector's item, as a souvenir," he said.

Many were bought and never opened. Some still serve as decorations at local downtown fixtures, like Nothing Too Fancy and Sweet P's.

But just as quickly as they hit the market, they were gone. They were only on the market for six months.

"It was like Christmas trees in January," said Kuhlman. "When the World's Fair ended, the beer sales came to a screeching halt."

That is, until now.

"In 1982, I was but a twinkle in my parents' eyes," said Collins.

Collins wasn't around for the World's Fair and certainly wasn't drinking any beer.

"I was like, hey, I missed my chance in '82. I was born in the wrong generation, but not anymore," said Collins.

Collins teamed up with Kuhlman, Rick Kuhlman III (Kuhlman's son), and Chase Wilson to bring the beer back. It's just in time for the 35th anniversary of the fair.

It'll have nearly the exact same look and feel, but Collins said it will taste much better.

"We've developed and dialed in the recipe," he said. "It's going to be a pale ale. I think people are really going to love it."

Each can is a memory, bringing back the sights and sounds of decades ago. It's a pale ale with a hint of nostalgia.

"It's just fun to think about the way things used to be, but also looking at the way things are now and how exciting it is to see our city move forward," said Kuhlman.

The beer is being brewed at Fanatic Brewery under the guidance of Marty Velas, the owner of Fanatic.

World's Fair Beer will be available on draft in several restaurants on April 28. In July, people will be able to purchase the cans. Collins said their plan is to sell the beer for six months, just like in 1982. But, if the demand is still high after six months, they will consider selling it for longer.

The cans will be dedicated to Pat Gleason, Kuhlman's former boss who recently passed away.

A portion of the proceeds from World's Fair Beer will be donated to area nonprofits.

To see where World's Fair Beer will be sold, go to worldsfairbeer.com or follow them on social media at: @worldsfairbeer on Instagram and World's Fair Beer on Facebook.