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Local breweries and businesses untap more than two dozen events for Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week

Tony Casey • Mar 27, 2016 at 4:18 PM

If you live in the Tri-Cities and love craft beer and hard cider, you should probably clear your social calendar for the beginning of April.

Accompanying Tennessee Craft Beer Month, which takes place every April, is Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week from April 1-9. More ore than two dozen brew-related events are scheduled in all corners of the area. Johnson City Mayor Clayton Stout will help kick things off with the unveiling of this year’s Keg of Greatness at 1 p.m. on the first day of the month at Johnson City’s JRH Brewing, 458 W. Walnut St.

This decorated keg acts as the official mascot of Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week and will be featured throughout the week at various events.

When Stout takes part in the presentation, pouring of the Tri-Local II collaborative beer will commence at many Tri-Cities locations, including the tap rooms of the collaborators. This year’s batch is a White IPA with tones of citrus. The brew was worked on by the vast majority of the Tri-Cities’ head brewers, symbolizing the teamwork and collaborative effort of the craft beer artisans to advance the popularity of their work.

Another binding force for those involved with craft beer in the area has been the Brewly Noted Beer Trail, a program sponsored by the area Tri-Cities’ three Convention and Visitors Bureaus to give beer lovers across the Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia region a reason to visit each brewery, having them fill out a trail log as they move through the options.

Andrew Felty directs the trail. He said the program’s sole purpose is to get as many people out to these places as possible, and give exposure to the breweries and their individual personalities. The number of breweries continues to grow in the Tri-Cities, and he’s enjoyed seeing the market grow organically.

“There's been growth, and its natural and interesting growth,” Felty said. “I think that there are more places and more venues for craft beer drinkers in the Tri-Cities.”

Felty and the area’s brewers are also joined by the Tri-Cities Pro Brewers Guild. This entity helps the beer and cider makers collectively decide on issues that come up in their lines of work, including mass orders, laws and ordinances and anything else related to local craft beer and cider.

The guild’s participants include Depot Street Brewery, JRH Brewing, Yee-Haw Brewing Company, Johnson City Brewing Company, Holston River Brewing Company, Bristol Brewery, Sleepy Owl Brewery, Gypsy Circus Cider Company, Studio Brew, Wolf Hills Brewing, Damascus Brewery and Old Glade Brewery; along with the soon-to-be Great Oak Brewing Company in Bristol.

Craft beer has been on the rise in recent years, having proved itself as a viable industry in other parts of the country, even hitting as close as Asheville, North Carolina, for massive expansion, but East Tennessee and the entire state sat on the sidelines while other states prospered. That changed when craft-minded folks decided to force the issue and prove the craft beer industry, produced on the local level, is a force to be reckoned with.

State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, saw the writing on the wall in early 2015 and decided to push for April becoming Tennessee Craft Beer Month. He accomplished that, and said he likes what he’s seen in just one year’s time.

“The industry itself has really moved along and is developing even more,” Lundberg said. “Craft beer is an art form, and is made by artisans.”

The evidence lies in the results, and with each of the Tri-Cities having several craft breweries and the state’s first cidery in Gypsy Circus Cider Company in Kingsport, Lundberg doesn’t expect to see any slowdown in the momentum.

Lundberg’s reference to pourable artwork is spot-on for one special event taking place during Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week and throughout the month. Gypsy Circus Cider Company owner Aaron Carson named Lindsey Farris as the director of Art Untapped, a fundraiser for nonprofits, in which 10 Gypsy Circus Cider Company kegs were given to 10 local artists.

On these containers, the artists are in the process of performing their own craft; some welding and some painting, but all creating a final product that will auctioned off to raise money for a respective nonprofit.

These pieces of art will be showcased in East Tennessee’s biggest craft beer festivals, including the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza at the end of Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week, Knoxville’s Brewhibition and the Johnson City Blue Hop Brew Haha that will also be taking place in Founders Park.

Farris agreed with Lundberg that art goes into craft beer and craft beer festivals are a great place to showcase all kinds of art.

Downtown Johnson City’s Atlantic Ale House, a beer-focused place where food, drink, people and events often mix, will be one location for several happenings during Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week. Typically closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, Atlantic Ale House will be open on Tuesday, April 5, for a special night where a brewer from each of the Tri-Cities will talk about beers with the customers.

Nearby JRH Brewing and the Johnson City Brewing Company will hold special beer-related events, too, throughout the week, with a Mario Kart Tour Tournament, Masterpiece Mixers event, Farm to Firkin Crawl, a Food Truck Roundup, Tug-of-War tournament and much more.

Yee-Haw Brewing Company will pair up with Tupelo Honey Cafe for a Honey Hop event, featuring special beer and food pairings on each side of the intersection of West State of Franklin Road and Buffalo Street. 

Margaret Stolfi, marketing director for Yee-Haw, said it’s a great time to be involved with craft beer in the Tri-Cities.

“Yee-Haw can’t wait to celebrate Craft Beer Week,” she said. “It’s such a great chance to highlight the amazing craft beer culture that continues to grow in the Tri-Cities.”

Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week will conclude with the biggest event of them all — the 5th Annual Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza on April 9 at 1 p.m. in Founders Park. It was named as one of the Top 5 beer festivals in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015. There will be more than 150 craft beers available for participants to sample, along with food, music, entertainment and a safe environment. The festivals will also contain the Tennessee Championship of Beers, which will occur in its second year, honoring the top brews in the entire Southeastern portion of the U.S.

For a full listing of Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week events, go to www.tricitiescraftbeerweek.com/events.

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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