Participants flooded into Johnson City’s Pavilion at Founders Park to try a multitude of beers from near and far, armed with tiny tasting glasses and pretzel necklaces.
“We are kinda just celebrating the craft beer movement in general. Over 80 percent of our brewers are from within a 200-mile radius of Johnson City, so we're celebrating not only the craft beer movement but our local craft beer movement,” said Andrew Felty, one of the Thirsty Orange organizers.
Area breweries included JRH Brewing Co., Depot Street Brewing Co., Elderbrew, Gypsy Circus Cider Company, Little Animals Brewery and plenty more. Food trucks, local vendors and breweries set up tents, ready for the crowds.
The group event is organized by SuperFly Fabulous events and this year’s title sponsor was Ballast Point Brewing Company. Stephanie Sutton, the Tennessee state manager for Ballast Point, said that what brought the brewery there was its beginnings as a small brewery in San Diego. The festival is good promotion for their business, but she knows there are a lot of home brewers who come to Thirsty Orange and it’s good to “in a sense, give back.”
“We've always had that mentality at Ballast Point that a rising tide lifts all ships, so we always want to be helpful in fostering that environment and making sure it survives,” said Sutton.
There were plenty of small breweries’ beers to support and explore throughout the festival. Some are small from Johnson City, some are larger like Yee-Haw Brewing Compay, and others whose beers aren’t available yet, like the Watauga Brewing Company.
“This is a great way to get beer known in Johnson City,” said Ted Catron, brewer at Watauga Brewing Company. “This is a great way for everyone to kind of express themselves as far as beer goes, so it's been really neat.”
For the four owners of Watauga Brewing, Randy McVeigh, Ted Catron, Ed Martin and David Andrews, these festivals are the a great way to get their beer out there and encourage some word-of-mouth advertising. They’ve attended several beer festivals in the past few years and next on their list is the goal of opening up their own tap room, which they plan on achieving at a spot on West Market Street at the end of the year or early next year.
The festival has grown with the draft beer scene, becoming something that people in the area return to year after year.
One lively group was an ensemble of five co-workers from the Johnson City Eye Clinic, Deana and Matt Morganstern, Tony Turner, Renee Powers and Katrina Greer, who donned bouncy beer-mug headbands. This year marks the group’s 6th year in attendance, having missed only the first one.
“It’s a tradition!” said Matt Morganstern, drawing an echo of agreement from the rest of the friends.