Tri-Cities brewers making special Tripel for April beer week

What are some of the area’s best brewers collaboratively producing for early April’s Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week?

“This is the first of its kind for Johnson City,” said Aaron Carson, who heads Kingsport’s Gypsy Circus Cider Company and the area Brewers Guild collective.

In 2015, the collective brewed its first cooperative beer, the TRI-Local I, a blood orange Belgian-style beer, at Abingdon’s Wolf Hills Brewing Company. Last year, the brewers met at the Bristol Brewery, now named Bristol Station, and collaboratively produced a White IPA. Both were introduced to the public a month later during Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week.

From March 31 through April 8, the Tri-Cities’ breweries and craft-centric businesses will be filled with events to celebrate the blossoming craft beer scene. After the initial tapping of TRI-Local III, it will be available at these businesses in limited supply.

John Henritze, co-owner of Johnson City’s JRH Brewing, works on the collaboration beer he and area brewers are making for Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week in early April.

Carson, whose Gypsy Circus Cider Company will serve the collaborative Tripel beer, said approximately 30 kegs will be produced, and it will go quickly.

The TRI-Local III was started Tuesday at Johnson City’s JRH Brewing under the watchful eyes of many of the area’s best brewers.

JRH co-owner John Henritze looked around and said he didn’t see his competition, but his biggest supporters.

“That’s what I love about this industry, that we can work together and actually help each other troubleshoot issues together,” Henritze said about the collaborative process.

Though they might not be exactly trading their trade secrets or special recipes, they support each other financially — by drinking each other’s products — and in promotion.

Henritze said it matters to JRH Brewing if the brewery down the road makes good beer or not, because Johnson City and the Tri-Cities would get a reputation one way or the other. He said thankfully, they all make great beer and the Tri-Cities area is getting the reputation of a great beer destination in the Southeast.

John Henritze, right, co-owner of Johnson City’s JRH Brewing and brewer Emily Jobe, left, work on the collaboration beer that will be served at the Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week in early April.

“It’s good for the region and it’s good for the craft beer industry,” he said.

To learn more about the upcoming Tri-Cities Craft Beer Week, visit

The week concludes with the Thirsty Orange Brew Extravaganza, which will be held in Johnson City’s Founders Park. Tickets can be purchased at

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at

Police: Man smashed window of downtown Johnson City brewery with rock

A Johnson City man was charged with felony vandalism and public intoxication early Wednesday morning after police say he broke the window of a downtown brewery.

Joshua Heft, 43, 141 E. Market St., was found nearby by city officers at the Johnson City Public Library after they responded to the Johnson City Brewing Company, where a front window was smashed at approximately 12:51 a.m.

A witness told officers he heard glass breaking, then looked toward the business and saw Heft in the immediate area. Police said Heft could not stand very well on his own and his speech was slurred.

The responding officers reported Heft threw a rock through the window, which was valued at more than $1,000.

He was arrested and transported to the Washington County Detention Center, where he was held in lieu of a $10,500 bond. He is scheduled for arraignment at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington County General Sessions Court.

Area craft brewers: Regional disadvantage decreases with Jan. 1, 2017 alcohol limit increase

The Northeast Tennessee craft beer business has been picking up for the past few years, but compared with counterparts just across the North Carolina and Virginia state lines, area brewers have been essentially carrying out their artisan work with one hand tied behind their backs.

On Jan. 1, 2017, that disadvantage doesn’t altogether go away, but a change in state law somewhat evens the playing field.

The alcohol-by-volume limit will increase from 6.2 percent to 10.1 percent, which opens up many  options for new styles and varieties for these brewers to produce.

With the state law change announced in 2014 with passage of House Bill 0047 and its partner Senate Bill 0289, area brewers have been able to plan their 12:01 a.m. New Year’s Day release for some time.

craft-beer-abv-1To this point, nothing Tennessee brewers have been able to produce would be considered “high gravity” by industry standards, and while the 10.1 percent cap does limit production and creativity, area brewers do consider it a big step in the right direction.

This is especially important for the brewers in the most northeastern corner of Tennessee, because craft beer drinkers have a tendency to travel to try new offerings, and will pop into neighboring states if the options are better. Even with that nearly four-percent bump up in what’s allowed to be brewed, Virginia and Kentucky have no cap, North Carolina’s limit is up at 15 percent and South Carolina and Georgia are at 14.

“There is a whole portfolio of products that open up,” said Aaron Carson. “So it breeds a greater creativity and new styles.”

Carson, an author, craft beer aficionado and one of the owners of Kingsport’s Gypsy Circus Cider Company, said the 6.2-percent cap limited brewers to such styles, disallowing proper production of New England ciders, imperial stouts, double IPA’s and barley wines. He sees this bump up as a step in a long journey to the equal brewing laws under which other states operate. Previously, anything brewed in Tennessee above 6.2 percent would necessitate a distillery license.

“The reason the ABV laws matter is because Tennessee brewers have been at a competitive disadvantage, as we haven’t been able to make the products our customers want,” he said. “So they go to other states to get them.”

In bringing in the new year, Gypsy Circus will also bring in cysers and meads to its list of offerings, both at 7.5 percent alcohol. Cysers are made from fresh-pressed apple juice and orange blossom honey, while their mead is made from orange blossom honey, along with local ingredients for a honey-flavored drink. Each are gluten-free and organic.

At the very moment strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, Sam Pettyjohn, one of the brewers for the Johnson City Brewing Company, will be pouring two “high gravity” beers for their customers who’ve been waiting for years to sample them.

The “Cascadian Dark Ale” — much like a black IPA — and the “Hail Sagan” Russian imperial stout, will be the newest offerings.

Those who make the beer at the Johnson City Brewing Company pride themselves as being an adventurous and creative brewery, and did not much appreciate Tennessee’s current ABV laws. Pettyjohn said the increase will allow them to be more adventurous and draw in new customers as they do so.

“Hail Sagan,” named after the famous astronomer Carl Sagan, will push the state law boundary of 10.1 percent, and will be the first in what the brewers hope will be a series of brews bearing the names of important innovators and scientists.

For the momentuous occasion, Johnson City Brewing Company is hosting a New Year’s Eve event. At $20 a ticket, guests will be able to join the lot of people who will legally drink Tennessee’s higher gravity beers for the first time. This event is capped at 40 tickets and it will include a brandy snifter glass to mark the occasion. You can learn more about it on the brewery’s Facebook page.

Eric Latham, one of the majority owners Johnson City Brewing Company, of their nearly 40 owners, said he and his fellow brewers like to be able to brew as many styles as possible. This all works toward the brewery’s mission to bring people together over conversation and friendship.

“We’re not just trying to produce higher gravity beer for alcohol sake, but for the different brewing styles,” Latham said.

More brewing styles could equate to more dollars in the pockets of not only brewers, but also the pockets of businesses nearby.

Latham said if people will now start traveling to downtown Johnson City for its new higher gravity beers, they’ll probably stick around for food and to spend money in the local retail spots.

Devin Rutledge, with Depot Street Brewing, said the ABV increase was a bit of a slap in the face, still capping the creativity and brewing options of people in his position.

Popular brews like Belgian quads are out of the question, as they run between 11 to 14-percent alcohol, typically, he said.

But Depot Street will be rolling out a Double IPA in early January called “Derailed,” which will sit at 8.5 percent.

First available at the scheduled “Brunch at the Brewery” event at JRH Brewing on Jan. 1, will be a Double IPA. Project Waffle will be serving as the event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

John Henritze, co-owner of JRH Brewing, said while the ABV increase isn’t all it could be, he is happy that he can open up his recipe book more than before.

“You can make a lot of great beers at 10 percent,” he said.

He and his fellow area brewers plan to do so.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at

Pick Six

Taps going dark for winter porters and stout beers

When the cold winds blow heralding the oncoming of winter, it’s the dark porters and rich stouts that takeover the taps from the pumpkin ales and oktoberfests of autumn.

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Wild Wing Cafe latest addition to Founders Park area

First, there was Mid City Grill. Then came Founders Park. Next there was the downtown pavilion. Now, there’s Wild Wing Cafe.

Wild Wing Cafe on Wilson Avenue is prepping for its grand opening on Dec. 9.

Wild Wing Cafe on Wilson Avenue is prepping for its grand opening on Dec. 9.

Located in the former Chevrolet dealership at 71 Wilson Ave., Wild Wing is the latest addition to downtown Johnson City’s offerings west of the railroad tracks.

Fitted with a 200-inch television projector, seven large roll-up garage doors and a stage for live music, Wild Wing Cafe set its grand opening for Dec. 9.

Despite all the allure of the renovated building, franchise owner Dave McFarland was insistent the cafe’s primary focus would always be the food.

“It starts with the food, but the atmosphere is a close second,” McFarland said. “Nearly everything we make is from scratch, from the salad dressings to the hand-dipped tenders and wings. We really emphasize our great food.”

Wild Wing Cafe on Wilson Avenue is prepping for its grand opening on Dec. 9.

Wild Wing Cafe on Wilson Avenue is prepping for its grand opening on Dec. 9.

General Manager Louie Trivette said the restaurant offers 33 flavors of wings, and the full menu will include sandwich wraps, salads, burgers and other chicken options, like fajitas.

At 10,0000 square feet, the restaurant’s modern yet vintage atmosphere consists of several grand murals and a distinctive handcrafted bar, forged out of centuries-old barn wood.

The Wild Wing Cafe will bring more than 130 jobs to the downtown Johnson City area, and McFarland, who owns three other Wild Wing Cafe restaurants, said about 70 percent of the jobs were full-time.

“We’re so excited to be downtown and be a part of this growth,” McFarland said. “It’s really exciting. I’ve been looking in Johnson City for years, searching for the right opportunity and this all just came together.”

Wild Wing Cafe owner/operator Dave McFarland plans to upgrade a unique walkway between the building's first and second floors.

Wild Wing Cafe owner/operator Dave McFarland plans to upgrade a unique walkway between the building’s first and second floors.

The renovations have been ongoing for several months after developer Joe Baker, who owns the two-story building, received $269,128 in tax increment financing in March to complete renovations.

The building’s second floor will soon be transformed into a 20,000 square-foot music venue, with a large stage, kitchen and bar.

During an interview with the Johnson City Press in August, McFarland said owners of the Orange Peel, a regional and national music and event venue in Asheville, have helped with design.

“By the end of the year, we’ll have a real good idea on the direction. We still have a lot of finishing touches, but it’s a great opportunity,” McFarland said about the venue.

The restaurant’s doors will open for the first time at 5 p.m. on Dec. 9, with musician Matt Stillwell and Prince tribute band Purple Masquerade providing guests with opening-night entertainment.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at

What are you drinking?

As winter finally sets in, I’m looking forward to sampling the seasonal porters from our region’s craft breweries. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out by the fire pit at Yee-Haw Brewery with friends as we imbibed the Winter Porter. I tend to gravitate toward darker beers, anyway, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a thick, coffee-infused draft porter on a cold night by the fire.

sam-watson-and-friendsLately, I’ve been hooked on the Cutthroat Irish Red at my favorite watering hole, Sleepy Owl Brewery in Kingsport. It’s a full-flavored without the bitterness I’ve found in other reds, and it packs way more punch than Killian’s from Coors. I gave up on most major breweries years ago — I’ll still take a Grolsch Premium Lager or a Newcastle Brown Ale when my choices are limited — so I’m usually looking for a smaller batch product.

From the grocery, a Murphy’s Irish Red almost always makes it into my pick six. Although I’m not much of a pale ale guy, I’ve come to love St. Teresa’s Pale Ale from Asheville’s Highland Brewery. It’s got just a hint of citrus in its malty flavors, nothing too sweet or too sharp. I’ll also usually grab a Yee-Haw Dunkel, my local go-to when the chips are down, although I mush prefer it on draft over the bottled version. I don’t recommend getting the Dunkel in a large growler, either, as it doesn’t hold its flavor for more than a day.

Beth Snapp and Jason Crawford perform on open mic night at Sleepy Owl.

Beth Snapp and Jason Crawford perform on open mic night at Sleepy Owl.

For my tastes, Sleepy Owl is the most consistent and diverse of the smaller breweries in the area, and it offers great live music in an intimate venue, even if the seating is a bit rough on the tailbone. There’s almost always a good food truck out front, and on clear evenings, the side patio is the perfect place to grab a sandwich or a slice while you sip a few pints with friends by the railroad tracks.

Most recently, I finished off a night of listening to Beth Snapp and Jason Crawford at Sleepy Owl with the brewery’s own Hefeweizen, a German-style yeasty wheat that paired perfectly with a chicken waffle from the Waffle Project food truck.

I’ve made it my next mission to get up to Bristol, Virginia, to try a few beers from the tap. I’m thinking the Mischievous Solstice, a British-style old dark ale, will be my first choice.

Sam Watson is editor of Mountain Hops magazine.

Tap Houses offer chance to sample beers from various craft breweries

It could be argued that tap houses function as a region’s epicenter of locally crafted beer.

As a “one-stop shop” for regionally-crafted beer, Johnson City’s Atlantic Ale House emerged in 2014 to serve that role in the Tri-Cities.

“We do serve the more regional aspects of craft beer,” said Jacob Grieb, co-owner of the Atlantic Ale House.

David and Jenny Lockmiller and Kelly and Jacob Grieve intend to open The Atlantic Ale House in the former Sevier Cafe in downtown Johnson City by early November. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)

David and Jenny Lockmiller and Kelly and Jacob Grieve intend to open The Atlantic Ale House in the former Sevier Cafe in downtown Johnson City by early November. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)

“We concentrate on a lot of the local craft beers that you can’t get (in Johnson City) like Sleepy Owl and Gypsy Circus in Kingsport. We do try to get as much local beer as we can, but with that we do get a lot of regional-based beers, too.”`

Grieb, his wife Kelly and neighbors David and Jenny Lockmiller opened Atlantic Ale House just as the local modern craft beer scene launched in Johnson City.

“We just felt like this was the one thing that Johnson City missed. It just (didn’t) have a cool little bar that you can go to, have a local pint, see your neighbor, and everybody is just there looking to have good conversation,” Grieb said.

Situated at 111 McClure St., the Atlantic Ale House is now a popular watering hole for many regulars, but it took a bit of hard work to get to that point.

Although the building served as a bar and restaurant for generations prior, it sat empty for nearly 15 years prior to Grieb and Lockmiller opening the tap house.

“It took us a good six months to really figure out what we wanted to do and what we wanted the place to be. But as soon as the ball started rolling, it just went downhill,” Grieb said.

Fresh paint now decorates the tap house’s walls to go along with its new windows, new tables and freshly polished bar.

Situated in downtown Johnson City, the Atlantic Ale House opened up in late 2014 with the goal of sharing local craft beers with its customers and friends.

Situated in downtown Johnson City, the Atlantic Ale House opened up in late 2014 with the goal of sharing local craft beers with its customers and friends.

But one peculiar decoration on the wall is a large picture frame filled with small assorted photographs likely of previous visitors in the 1990s when it was still the Sevier Cafe.

“I guess (the building) had been around (since the) ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. It went through a hand of ownerships. But it had that dive bar feel to it and then when we got in here, we wanted to try and keep some of that ambience. There was just a lot of memories, a lot of history that went into it,” Grieb said.

Grieb said keeping those photos on the tap house’s wall is part of remembering the building’s history.

But it’s not the only thing.

“We’ve had a lot of people (come in) who used to come here all the time. We’ve even had a couple owners come back and talk to us. They’re like, ‘Oh I remember this, this and this.’ It’s always good to see someone who had memories here. They were invested (in this place) and now we’re invested in it,” Grieb said.

As more breweries gradually open in the Tri-Cities region, Grieb said Atlantic Ale House will continue to build partnerships with local brewers and serve their latest trending concoctions.

“A lot of them, just getting the word out, it definitely helps them to be on taps throughout the city. It really helps both of us,” Grieb said.

The Atlantic Ale House is opened at 5 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m.