Beer enthusiasts raise their glasses during the Blue Plum Festival's Blue Top Brewhaha event Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
If you brew it, they will come.
They, beer lovers around the Tri-Cities, came out to Saturday’s fenced-off area at the Blue Plum Festival to sample as many as 20 craft beers from 12 different brewers at the Blue Hop Brewhaha. Brewers represented included those from New Belgium, Goose Island, Foothills, Sweetwater, Starr Hill, RJ Rockers, Greenman, Holston River Brewing Co., Terrapin, Shocktop and Ciderboys.
Tickets were $20 each, and the event sold out six days before the tasting was set to begin.
Superfly Fabulous Events’ Aaron Carson said the quick sellout this time around, as well as the success of the record crowds he brought in with the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza at the Millennium Centre in April, was a sign there is a need around Johnson City for more events like the Brewhaha. For those unable to land one of the 250 tickets to the event, many hung onto the railing outside the beer-sampling event inquiring what was going on and if they could get in to talk craft beer with its makers and recipients.
Carson said he doesn’t exactly know how many more will be allowed into the event at next year’s Blue Plum Festival, but said they’ll follow a natural expansion of the event.
“It’s a nice comfortable event,” Carson said. Looking around, he said it held to the family-friendly atmosphere he was looking for.
The atmosphere was perfect for the crowds, filled with local business owners, politicians and beer lovers, but also lots of young professional types. The large number of young professionals is what social events like the Brewhaha can expect to bring in, said one aspiring politician.
Katie Baker, 28, vying for a spot as a commissioner in Washington County’s 4th Commission District, said the atmosphere was perfect for what she sees as the future of the downtown area.
Baker said the easy accessibility to the other local politicians present was evident, and something that’s important to a lot of people.
“This is the perfect event for young professionals,” Baker said. “Look at our vantage point, right in the middle of historic Johnson City.”
Johnson City and Washington County Commissioner David Tomita was also chatting with fellow craft beer lovers, discussing his favorites and taking recommendations.
“This is what makes us a community,” Tomita said. “We should have about six of these a year,” he said, noting that taxpayers pay for the space and he can’t think of a better way to utilize the space than an event to focus on small, expanding businesses in the downtown area during the area’s premier outdoor festival.
Carson’s intention to make the brewers of the beer available succeeded, with many showing up to sample others’ products and talk shop.
Mike Pensinger of the newly opened Holston River Brewing Co. was showing off his beer and also talking the science of brewing with anyone he could. He said he loves talking about beer and isn’t interested in anything but bringing good craft beer to the East Tennessee region.
And that happens to fall in with his own interests as a craft beer lover.
“I’d prefer drinking one good beer to six bad ones,” he said, in reference to the mass-produced stuff available, hoping to sway some of those people to fall in love with his craft beer.
Justin “Bicycle” Tipton was one of the volunteers working the Brewhaha on Saturday. He said he and his fellow “pourers” were well prepared on how to carry out the day’s serving. They weren’t to serve to anyone who appeared too intoxicated, though he said that’s never an issue with similar events like the Brewhaha that he’s attended in the past, and each server should always have their state Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses handy.
From what he could tell, the event was a perfect fit for Johnson City and the festival.
“It’s more of an experience than it is something used to get drunk,” he said. “It’s better than the usual ‘everybody drink PBR and Miller on the street and get drunk.’ ”
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