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Sesquincentennial Beer

Words and Photographs by W. Kenneth Medley II; video by Jared Bentley • Apr 5, 2019 at 12:00 AM

The industrial chic design of Johnson City Brewing Company’s downtown taproom is subtly interwoven with history just like their new beer, Blue Plum Lager, brewed to commemorate the 150th birthday of the city.

Blue Plum Lager is described as a German-style lager with plum puree by Johnson City Brewing Company co-founder Eric Latham. He was on hand for Thursday’s launch, and was seen toting in crates of two new beers. He said that the new labels had just been placed by hand onto the bottles.

“What is special about this beer,” Latham said, “what is really special, is that this is a community brew. A couple months ago we invited the community to come and make this beer with us. They came out to our facility, put in some grain, put in some hops, pitched some yeast and made this really nice lager beer, which we are here enjoying it today.”

Approximately 35 people, including a couple from New York City, came out to try the beer within the first hour and a half of its release. The beer was well received as many complimented the crisp and refreshing qualities. Latham said some ingredients for the beer are sourced directly from Bavaria.

“This one started as a finished lager,” Latham said, “then we added the puree, the plum puree. Plums do not add a whole lot of color, but uh … it is hard to see through there. It made it a little hazy and cloudy in there.”

The origins of brewing with plum for the company came from plum ale they once made for the Blue Plum Festival. Latham said that it has been a year, give or take, since the company made a beer with plum and this was an opportunity to revisit the ingredient. Latham and James Davidson, head brewer, began making this beer Jan. 31.

Latham said it is stressful waiting for a beer to age properly. With ale, he said, one can drink the beer within two to three weeks, lager takes six to eight weeks. That means that the company did not know if this beer was drinkable for that amount of time. Latham said the company really wanted to do something to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Johnson City.

Johnson City Brewing Company is the city’s oldest brewery, according to Latham, and one that grew out of community. One gets a quick sense of his dedication to the principles of community within minutes. Latham owns the company with his wife and others.

“I’m one of the co-founders of Johnson City Brewing,” Latham said. “My wife and I, we started it five years ago, which makes us the longest-running brewery in Johnson City. We are also kind of unique because, we are community owned. My wife Kat and I, we own the majority of the business here, but there are about 30 people within the community that actually have a piece of this business.”

The people who helped Latham follow his hobby of brewing beer came from his community. According to him, he began inviting people to his house to try his latest home brew. That group grew and people began to bring other home-brewed beer and food.

“Essentially we were inviting people over to try my home brews and we never claimed that I made the best beer in the world, but we really enjoyed bringing people together around home brewing and home-brewed beer,” Latham said. “We (Latham and his wife) said to ourselves, ‘what if we actually gave it a go and started our own brewery?’ Believe it or not that group we had together … were essentially our phase one group of people, friends and family, that helped us raise the initial money that we needed to get started.”

To try the Blue Plum Lager, visit the downtown taproom on Main Street in Johnson City.

For a full review of the Blue Plum Lager, and other Johnson City Brewing Company beers, check out the beer reviews in future additions of Mountain Mischief in Monday editions of the Johnson City Press.

For more stories like this follow @kmedleyjcpress on Twitter and Facebook.

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