Appalachian Sun Brewery eyes opening date in Elizabethton

Published 5:27 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

A dream roughly five years in the making is starting to become a reality for James Kerr.

Work is underway at the Elk Crossing Shopping Center as Kerr and his wife, Traci, work to bring Appalachian Sun Brewery to Elizabethton. The facility, which is located behind the shopping center on West Elk Avenue, is in the process of being renovated as the Kerrs seek approval from the state to officially sell their product.

“There’s been a lot of cleaning and deciding on where to put different things,” Kerr said. “We’ve also been prepping the brewing area since that’ll be the most important part. The goal is to get it ready so I can start brewing in there. I can’t, officially, brew to sell until I get all the federal permits and everything finalized.”

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As remodeling continues at the facility, Kerr indicated that he can’t sell yet, but he is able to host taste-testing events to get the word out about Appalachian Sun. One idea, he explained, is to get involved in some upcoming events to help spread the word about the brewery, which is expected to be able to sell its product either in late Fall or early Winter.

But while the name of the business brings up the sun, it was actually a trip to the typically rainy area of Washington state that helped spur the idea of the business.

“I never was really a big beer drinker,” Kerr said. “I just didn’t like commercial beer all that much. Where I work at NFS, we do a lot of traveling. I was able to try some different craft beers on the road, and I thought it was different. I liked it.

It was after visiting a brewery near the Seattle area that Kerr knew he wanted to try brewing as a hobby. Since that time, the Appalachian Sun owner was able to make different batches at home, ultimately coming up with around 25 different recipes. Kerr uses a computer system and goes through different ideas when coming up with a brew.

Now the goal is to bring the hobby to the public and be an economic driver for the area, Kerr said.

“I’ve been talking to the city planner for about five years to bring one in,” he added. “The whole process was about finding the right building for the right price. I don’t have any income coming in right now while we wait. The owner of the building, Charles VonCannon, was all about bringing something into this building and helping the town.

Kerr added that the economic impact Johnson City has received from the breweries in the area could easily be replicated in Elizabethton. According to Kerr, the area that he visited near Seattle, which is smaller than Elizabethton, actually has five breweries.

“I would love to be able to start something like that in Elizabethton,” he said. “The area could easily handle more than just one. We’re hoping this will be successful and that people will enjoy the atmosphere.”

And the ability is there to possibly help drive up the numbers for dollars coming into the city.

Bart Watson, Ph.D., is chief economist for the Brewers Association, a national 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade association made up of over 4,100 U.S. brewery members and 46,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association. During a recent event with the Elizabethton Star, he indicated breweries have helped bolster economies from areas across the country.

According to information provided by the Brewers Association, the brewing industry has provided more than 456,000 full-time equivalent jobs, with more than 128,000 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs, including serving staff at brewpubs.

“There are many benefits that come with a brewery coming to an area,” Watson recently told the Elizabethton Star. “It brings an additional business to a community, which equals more jobs and causes a ripple effect by partnering with other businesses. There’s also the ability to bring in outside money and assist with redevelopment of a stretch where it could be located.”

Watson also added that information from Brewers Association, which date back to 2016, indicated Tennessee is one of the fast-growing brewery states with a reported $1.1 billion impact for the state.

For the time being, individuals wanting to learn more about the business can stay up to date by visiting the Appalachian Sun Brewery LLC Facebook page. Kerr stated the page will feature updates on progress of the building and various taste-testing events. A web page is also in the works.