Local brewery invites your taste buds in for a try

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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By Angela Cutrer
It used to be a gas station back in the day, but now it houses a place to relax, renew and recharge, thanks to one man’s dream of having his own ale brewery.
“We are not the same as a big brewery,” Appalachian Sun Brewery LLC owner Jamie Kerr said. “I mean, I do make a brew that tastes like [well-known beers], but we have all kinds of ales we make. I can’t give out trade secrets, but all brewers make all kinds of different choices by using spices and … well, I can’t say more.” Kerr gives a belly laugh about protecting his valuable secrets.
Kerr threw wide the doors of his new business at 221 South Sycamore St. on Black Friday with a soft opening for friends and family. The next day, he invited the public for a chance to experience their very own local brewery. And experience they did.
“Those first two days were our biggest yet,” Kerr said. “We’re now open Thursday through Saturday, and those three days together usually equal those opening days. Things are going well.”
Kerr said creativity and interpretations shape each brewery in creating different gustatory perceptions for people’s varying tastes. In other words, Kerr’s place is where you can try out different ales to see which is your new go-to, but it’s probably not going to be found anywhere else.
“We get a lot of people who say ‘but I don’t like beer,’” Kerr said. “So, we have seltzers and ciders, too. We offer tastings as well, using little shot glasses so customers can experience the different flavors, spices and other trade secrets we use.”
This can lead many a taster to find out beer should be on his or her menu from now on; that is, if they get it from Appalachian Sun Brewery. That’s because each brewery is different — all depending on the interpretation of the brewer.
“We want people to enjoy themselves,” Kerr said. “We have the tasting opportunities because we don’t want our customers not to like the ale they chose. That looks bad when someone leaves a full glass of ale on their table — that’s not what we want. So, we invite customers to try different things to see what works for them, and we want them to know their family can come along, too. Everyone is welcome.”
That’s because Appalachian Sun Brewery is not a bar; it’s a family friendly business that’s set up like a den, where visitors can experience an ale, enjoy conversation with others, have the whole family along to be together, and learn new things about ale and maybe about each other.
Though Kerr’s day job at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin has occupied him for 21 years, it was around 2011-2012 when Kerr visited a small brewery and got the idea to do the same in Elizabethton. “I like how it was intimate and open at the same time,” Kerr explained. “I travel around to Bristol, Johnson City and Asheville to visit small breweries. It’s a destination — a place to go to try new things.
“That’s what we wanted with our brewery. A town might have shopping, antique stores and restaurants, but most don’t have a brewery, so people make it a destination and end up visiting the other offerings of a town. That’s how we want it to work for our brewery — come visit us and visit the rest of the town, too.”
Kerr’s plans started to solidify when, in 2020, he bought the old gas station, which had been built in 1938. They took it down to a shell to rebuild it to update its windows, sewers, floors and electrical services. “It took a lot of work,” he says.
The brewing operation is situated in the part where the garage was located and where gas pumps used to reside. Pea gravel makes a nice foundation for a patio boasting tables and chairs lit by string lighting.
“Someone said that the style of the brewery is ‘Industrial Chic,’” Kerr joked. “I do think it looks nice from the road.” Stainless steel tanks add to the theme, as does a half wall separating the brewery from the tap room.
Though the brewery doesn’t provide food, food trucks do arrive for your choice of a meal. Inside the brewery, there’s a Touch Tunes jukebox for your listening pleasure and there are children’s games available for the little ones.
The family business includes Kerr’s wife, Traci, and their children: Arran, Daegan, Caeden and Kiarra. Family friends Hannah and Corey round up the rest of the working crew.
Appalachian Sun Brewery’s theme is naming ales after historical places in Carter County. For example: The Bonnie Kate Kolsch is “a crisp-tasting German ale that tastes like a lager.” The Stemwinder Saison is a “Belgium-style farmhouse ale” and the Sycamore Shoals Stout is “a very dark, chocolatey roasty tasting ale.”
These choices reflect the intimacy and individuality of small breweries, Kerr said. “I could give a recipe to someone else, but how they interpret that recipe will make their ale different from mine,” he explains. “And I could take a recipe and follow it, but it will end up different from someone else’s. That’s why people make destination visits to different breweries — they are all different.”
The brewery is open from 5 p.m. to 9ish Thursdays and Fridays and from 2 p.m. to 8 or 9-ish Saturdays. (Kerr says he is very much an “ish” person and they would never throw anyone out just to close up shop.)
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/appalachiansunbrewery/, call 423-895-0950 or email appalachiansunbrewery@gmail.com.

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