Johnson City brewer on Brewly Noted Beer Trail: "We're all in this together"

Tony Casey • Updated Oct 14, 2015 at 10:31 AM

Upon hearing the international news that two of the largest beermakers, InBev and SABMiller, could become a single entity that would collectively take over the vast majority of the U.S. beer market, nine local craft brewers, area Chambers of Commerce and Convention and Visitors bureaus Tuesday announced a new tool in their arsenal to sustain the regional craft beer movement.

The Brewly Noted Beer Trail crosses into Tennessee and Virginia and gives craft beer lovers, and what brewers hope will be future craft beer lovers, reason to make the rounds to all the area’s breweries.

Unlike those large international beer makers, the local brewers spoke Tuesday about how they are in this regional movement together, bringing business to each other.

“We’re all in this together,” said John Henritze, co-owner of Johnson City’s JRH Brewing, which is expected to open up around the beginning of 2016.

He talked about collaborating and teaming up with his peers to benefit all of them. With the Brewly Noted Beer Trail, JRH is one of nine Tri-Cities breweries to be include on the Trail Log. Participants are encouraged to go to the trail’s website and register. T-shirt and beer glass swag can be purchased along with an empty passport Trail Log booklet, which can be filled out with stops to each location. Once all nine breweries are marked off in the log, the thirsty traveler earns herself or himself a “Brewly Noted Beer Trail” T-shirt.

Henritze assured this is a great way to get new people into craft beer, which boosts the local economy. He specifically plugged his Boone Time Belgian Blonde ale as a perfect transition beer for those trying to get out from the shackles of macro breweries like Budweiser, Coors and Miller and try something produced locally.

Aaron Carson, with Superfly Fabulous Events that helped put the trail together, said the craft beer movement in this region is bigger than any other time in the area’s history.

“That is a testament to the major growth we have in the industry,” Carson said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a rebirth of craft beer, because that implies it’s never happened before. For the Tri-Cities, this is certainly the golden age.”

Along with JRH, Johnson City breweries include Yee-Haw Brewing Company and Johnson City Brewing Company. In Bristol, Bristol Brewery, Holston River Brewing Company and Studio Brew are the three stops on both sides of the state line. In Kingsport, trail stops include Triple B Brewery and Sleepy Owl Brewery. Depot Street Brewing, the oldest remaining of the lot, is the only stop in Jonesborough.

Michael Foster, Depot Street’s founder, remembered back to 2004 when he first opened and was somewhat shocked that there weren’t any others in the area.

Now finding himself in a coalition of nine area breweries, Foster isn’t surprised that it’s really taken off.

“It was only a matter of time,” Foster said.

Depot Street’s Loose Caboose lager is the beer Foster recommends as the brew that most new craft beer drinkers will drink to get introduced to the world of craft beer.

Brenda Whitson, with the Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, announced to the crowd of media members and local civic leaders that seeing the success of craft beer tourism in Western North Carolina gave good reason to put together the Brewly Noted Beer Trail.

“We’ve seen our neighbors across the mountain make significant strides in this market and they have created tremendous economic impact in the community and we feel confident that we will as well,” she said. “By supporting local brewers, we are promoting job creation, the entrepeneur spirit and the quality of our life for the region.”

The name of the trail comes from the area’s rich musical history, and Whitson asked rhetorically what compliments some tunes better than a cold craft beer.

Andrew Felty is the director of the trail. He points to the tools craft breweries have compared with their their much larger counterparts in continuing to win over large numbers of beer drinkers. Specifically, Felty said, it’s their individuality, creativity and ability to cooperate with each other that sets them apart. Merger aside, he said you’d never see big beer brands working together the way craft brewers do on collaborative beers, or even on something like the Brewly Noted Beer Trail.

“That’s the cool thing,” he said. “Everyone here is going to make the rounds to the other brewers. They’re not all making the same beers and they all want to try something new.”

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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