Thirsty Orange Beer Festival on tap in Johnson City for April

Published 10:37 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

Contributed Photo  Over 3,000 people attended the Thirsty Orange Beer Festival last year at the Millennium Centre in Johnson City which showcased over 200 beers and gave attendees the opportunity to try unusual and innovative infusions and brews.

Contributed Photo
Over 3,000 people attended the Thirsty Orange Beer Festival last year at the Millennium Centre in Johnson City which showcased over 200 beers and gave attendees the opportunity to try unusual and innovative infusions and brews.

Don your pretzel necklace and grass skirt and take up your sampling glass — the beer festival that has outgrown its venue for four years straight has scheduled its prolific fifth event for April 9 in Johnson City’s Founders Park.
In its first year, the Thirsty Orange packed the parking lot of Mellow Mushroom on Roan Street with brewers and visitors from all over the Southeast. From there the event grew to the Millennium Centre and now to Founders Park. In 2015, attendance numbers officially tripled the first year — exceeding 3,000 people who came to sample beers from around 25 commercial craft breweries and numerous home brewers as well.
The festival ranked fourth in the nation by Beer Yeti for showcasing more than 200 “rare, obscure and amazing craft beers.” Thirsty Orange is also the host of the 3rd annual Tennessee Championship of Beers, which is a professionally-judged competition that awards medals to expert brewers.
“The point with all events is for people to enjoy beer in a way they’ve never done before and in a way they can’t do in their local grocery store,” said Stephanie Carson, director and media coordinator with SuperFly Fabulous Events, the festival organizer.
As the festival has grown, it has caught the national eye, and Carson said brewers are anxious to be a part of it.
“Every year we have more local folks,” said Stephanie Carson, listing the new JRH and YeeHaw Breweries in Johnson City as well as the Gypsy Circus Cider Company of Kingsport which will make its debut Friday night.
Just a few of the 27 confirmed breweries include Depot Street, Johnson City Brewing Company, Saw Works, Blind Squirrel, Damascus Brewery, Highland, Black Abbey and Green Man.
Saturday morning on April 9, the day kicks off with a 5K Run For The Booty race at 11 a.m., which will segue into the festival with hula hoop, costume and dancing competitions.
“First Pour” ticketholders get premium access an hour before every one else beginning with a 1 p.m. Grand Tasting. General admission ticketholders will join at 2 p.m., and festivities will continue till 6 p.m.
This year, the event will feature a “Hawaiian luau” theme, and Carson encouraged everyone to come dressed appropriately.
Aside from visiting various brewers’ tables for sampling, attendees may join in a complementary beer tour in groups of 10-15 which will be a more informative experience and will feature one-on-one information sessions with brewers.
Additionally, staff from Universal Wine and Spirits will man a mixology station at which attendees may add ingredients to their beers to experiment with flavors, like adding orange peel to an India Pale Ale.
Three mobile infusers will demonstrate the process of infusion and provide samples of infused beers. Carson said through a partnership with French Broad Chocolate Factory, they will have cocoa shells which are used to infuse various beers like a coffee porter or strawberry lager.
“We also want to use this to help people learn what pairs well with certain beers,” said Carson, adding jalapenos are always a popular infusion item.
Holy Taco and the BBQ Shack will provide food throughout the event, and vendor applications are still being accepted.
Carson said volunteers are welcome to apply to help with either setup or pouring. An ABC license is required for pouring, and Carson said, “You’re everyone’s hero if you’re the one pouring the awesome beer.”
DJ Allen Rockhouse, a Johnson City musician with a national following, will provide entertainment.
The event will be the official closer for Tri-Cities Brew Week for the second year in a row. The eight-day event showcases regional brewers with a variety of events, further promoting tourism and highlighting local businesses.
So rapidly growing is the brew-culture in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, that a Tri-Cities Brewers Guild has formed to focus on promoting the craft and companies of the region.
From this was born the Brewly Noted Beer Trail, a network of eight breweries which joined forces to promote “beer tourism” by offering incentives for those who complete the trail by visiting all eight breweries.
“With these events and organizations comes a great economic impact by raising awareness in the Johnson City and Kingsport area,” said guild member and Brewly Noted Trail Director Andrew Felty. “Attendance at these events translates to people enjoying our restaurants and bars and staying in our hotels.”
Not only does it bring it visitors, but Felty said it provides economic stimulus locally.
“At the end of the day, these guys are starting businesses, renovating buildings and employing brewers, servers and others,” he said. “These guys are economic drivers right now.”
He noted the recent opening of the YeeHaw and JRH Breweries in Johnson City, which both occupy formerly empty buildings.
“They’re investing in the revitalization of our downtown areas,” said Felty.
For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, visit A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Trout Unlimited, a stream conservation organization.

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