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Craft beer the perfect tool for the revitalization toolbox

June 5th, 2014 9:45 am by Tony Casey

Craft beer the perfect tool for the revitalization toolbox

I like craft beer. I have a lot of friends who also like craft beer.

Craft beer can be abused just like all other forms of alcohol and drugs, but the kind of drinking we do, dare I say, does nothing but benefit everyone involved. It’s safe, thoughtful, downright fun and often linked to weekend adventures.

Horseshoes and Bocce ball, I’d contend are somewhat enhanced when your non-throwing hand is wrapped around a cool beverage. It’s hard to deny what’s happened in Asheville in recent years and even harder not to give Western North Carolina’s craft beer industry some credit for the success of Asheville, which has been dubbed Beer City, U.S.A.

Small mom and pop breweries continue to sprout up in Asheville and the area continues to flourish in its downtown and suburb growth. Why can’t that work across the mountains here in East Tennessee? It’s safe to say we have an untapped, but interested beer-loving community, we just need local options.

A recent trek, or weekend adventure over the state line to the Westside Fest in the western portion of Asheville showed just what’s being done right and how all can benefit. 

The winners were pretty much anyone involved — the local breweries and cider producers, the beer lovers who enjoyed the fruits of their labors, the local restaurants and the people who ate the well cared for meats and vegetables. Small business that supports small and large communities gets the support it needs and customers get connected with products unique to the area in which they live. I was more than happy to do my part and sample some of the finest brews and barbecue the Southeast has to offer, all while mixing craft beer into my overall active lifestyle, like many others. 

I know, it’s tough preparing for these columns. Hula-hooping and responsible drinking can be a wonderful combination and these are things that are appreciated by beer festivals. Cornhole tournaments get taken to the next level, as do impromptu cartwheel contests. And this is all before mentioning the social atmosphere that surrounds such events.

What’s most fun is to be able to have a safe social event where like-minded people can discuss everything from what works in small business to what it was like to, coincidentally, pass through each other’s hometowns.

A discussion my festival partner and I had with the owner and founder of Noble Cider revealed a long-term plan he had for his business and putting out the best possible product he could. There are some roadblocks in front of him, state regulations and dealing with his growth responsibly. The product is there, there’s no question about that, but what’s important about this conversation, as good as it is, is that the owner of the company was in arm’s reach on the other side of the conversation. 

We had his ear to discuss anything we wanted to and only because he made his ear and cider available to us. And he wasn’t the only one, all the brewers and chefs were on hand to field questions.

You don’t get that just anywhere, but you get that with beer festivals and with the owners of small businesses. So, why not have this in Johnson City and why not support small business this way? 

I know for a fact there are people, like the organizer of the Westside Fest, who want to see the craft beer market flourish and help downtown Johnson City flourish along with it. It’s already started, there have been local beer festivals, highlighting the delicious brews from the region and more are on the horizon, but they’re rather few and far between. 

People see an active area with social people and want to live and invest in these areas, it’s almost as simple as that. 

Can I hang out here? Yep. Does that make me want to live here and ultimately invest in this area? Yep.

Johnson City has already made a big step with plans to bring in one brewer, the Johnson City Brewing Company, to the downtown area and hopefully that will be the catalyst for more, but the public support needs to be there for them to do well. 

Responsible drinking and a no-tolerance policy to drinking and driving are always and should always be topics at the forefront of the beer festival discussions, and those are the biggest words being spoken against celebrations around local beer.

I don’t know what it is, but craft beer fans tend to be interesting characters. One gentleman we met might have had a Homer Simpson quote on the back of his beer festival T-shirt saying that he would kill everyone in the room for a drop of sweet beer. I’d be willing to bet you a six-pack of your favorite craft beer that he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

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

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