Thousands of craft beer lovers to converge on downtown Johnson City for 6th Annual Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza

Tony Casey • Mar 30, 2017 at 11:32 PM

When many of the region's most knowledgeable and passionate craft beer lovers converge on downtown Johnson City for next weekend's Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza, one thing is sure: home brewers and professional brewers will be bringing their best and most interesting brews for sampling.

In fact, that’s the brewers’ ticket in the door, said Stephanie Carson, who is heading the festival for Superfly Fabulous Events this year.

The event takes place in Founders Park on April 8, beginning at 1 p.m. for those who purchase special “first pour” tickets, which are $60 until the day of the event. Carson expects those to sell out quickly.

“Grand Tasting” tickets get craft beer lovers through the gates at 2 p.m., with a current cost of $45. If tickets are still available, the cost will go up on the day of Thirsty Orange, with “Grand Tasting” tickets then costing $50.

The party goes on until 6 p.m., with 150 beers to sample, lots of food to eat and company and entertainment to enjoy. Last year, approximately 2,500 people were present. This year, 3,500 people are expected to join in on the sampling fun.

ShockTop is the event’s title sponsor.

In both the home brewing section and the professional brewers’ area, each brewer has been asked to bring their boldest and most interesting creations for craft beer lovers to try.

“We’ve been lucky to be able to make that demand that they have to bring something special,” Carson said. “We don’t want them bringing something that people could just pick up at the grocery store.”

Carson co-owns Kingsport’s Gypsy Circus Cider Company, which is Tennessee’s first craft cidery. Like the other brewers, they’ll be bringing some special ciders for Thirsty Orange guests.

Specifically, Gypsy Circus will be serving up a New England Pantomime — a New England-style cider, aged in oak and blended with maple syrup — and a smaller batch of their Marionette — aged for a year in Jack Daniel's barrels.

Carson said because the craft beer and craft cider scene is so strong and getting stronger in the region, festivals like Thirsty Orange keep getting better and better. That’s what craft beer lovers are so often looking for, an ever-changing list of beer options.

Thirsty Orange isn’t just appreciated by the people of the East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina regions. For the past two years it’s been rated a top-five beer festival in the U.S. by Beer Yeti magazine.

And, there’s more than just a friendly competition taking place within the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza: Tennessee’s best beers will be determined in the Tennessee Championship of Beers. There’s also an Iron Brewer Challenge.

Timothy Jenkins, a well-trained and sought-after craft beer judge, is one of the organizers of this competition. He said there are dozens of varieties to be judged by 45 to 50 judges, with all brewers seeking to win a gold, silver or bronze medal.

Jenkins said after each category gets its winner, they’re put in a “best of show” competition that allows for one brew to reign supreme over all the rest.

He’s excited about the adventurous brews that professionals and home brewers concoct.

“The breadth of beer that’s going to be offered is going to be unlike anything you’ll be able to get at a grocery store or anywhere else,” Jenkins said.

Along with these standard and not-so-standard craft beers, there will also be plenty of infusions, which will have brewers mixing chocolate, fruit and other ingredients with their suds. A Free Beer Photobooth will be present, as well as tunes spun by DJ Allen Rockhouse.

With hydration being key to alcohol consumption, Culligan Water will be giving out a bottle of water to each ticket holder.

Thirsty Orange is the last event in a week filled with craft beer events, collectively called Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week, which is part of Tennessee Craft Beer Month in April.

To order tickets or learn more about this event, go to www.thirstyorange.com.

Email Tony Casey at tcasey@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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