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JRH brings brews to West Walnut

Nathan Baker • Jan 30, 2016 at 5:17 PM

A new microbrewery debuted this weekend, but received a macro-response from the thirsty public.

JRH Brewing owners John and Jill Henritze held a soft opening Saturday, giving Johnson City a taste of the newest craft beer offerings to flow into downtown.

The 458 W. Walnut St. taproom bubbled over with curious patrons, perhaps a few more than the select group of friends, family and supporters the Henritzes originally expected, but spirits were high and the four brews flowed free.

Starting Saturday with a chocolate-tinged stout — on standard carbonation and nitro — a citrus-y IPA, an Irish red ale and a seasonal blend of extra strong bitter and English brown ale, Henritze said he aims to fill out the rest of the 12 available taps with his own creations by the brewery’s grand opening, expected near the end of February.

A physician’s assistant-turned-brewmaster, Henritze plans to add a few more staples to the regular lineup, including a blonde, a brown ale and more IPAs — Henritze’s favorite style. He also plans bring experimental brews and flavors to the remaining taps.

The new small business owner began brewing at home in his basement almost seven years ago, and admits he probably never would have made the blind leap from private to commercial beermaking had it not been for cancer diagnoses for his wife and two close friends. The medical struggles reminded him that life is fleeting, and inspired him to pursue his interest in beer.

Jill devised a motto for JRH: “Dedication. Determination. Delicious Beer.” and though Henritze said he thought it cheesy at first, it kept him focused through the difficult process of starting a brewery.

“There were a lot of times when giving up looked pretty good to me,” he admitted. “Then I thought about those words, and I realized I couldn’t quit until I at least got the doors open and started serving beer.”

With the soft opening under his belt, Henrizte plans to open for limited hours beginning Feb. 11. The hours will be posted on the brewery’s website, www.jrhbrewing.com.

In the taproom, customers can buy pints, half-pints and flights, and purchase glass growlers to take home. Henritze said he expects to make distribution decisions, whether to distribute himself, which would mean offering his brews only in Washington County, or to contract with an established distributor, in February.

For now, Henritze said he’s still learning the process of keeping kegs full and transporting them to local taps.

JRH joins the city’s two other established beermakers, the Johnson City Brewing Co. and Yee-Haw Brewing Co., landing squarely in the middle. Its 10-barrel system puts its production capacity above Johnson City Brewing’s one-barrel system and below Yee-Haw’s large-scale bottling facility.

Next to the century-old Model Mill, which has caught the eye of well-known developer Joe Baker, and on the West Walnut Street Corridor, currently being considered by city planners for new regulations, JRH is well situated in an up-and-coming area.

As the neighborhood grows, Hentritze said he hope to continue serving his craft beer to thirsty patrons for years to come.

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