We wanted to test out our sleeping set up in the bus on the first night so we would have an opportunity to make any corrections if necessary. I'm happy to report that we all three woke up without frost bite and fairly rested. We have accommodations for over half the trip already lined up, but we wanted to have a back up plan if things didn't go the way we hoped. After starting the bus and packing up the sleeping gear, we headed to Bojangles to use the bathroom and get breakfast and then we set the GPS for WJHL Channel 11, a local TV station that services the Tri-Cities area.
I have to admit, starting the day off with a TV interview is a great way to wake up. Everyone is so smiley and chipper. They asked us who wanted to go on air and Matt said, "I'll give it a whack." Him and I sat there with the host talking about the trip both wishing we had brought some breakfast beers to share. We took a selfie with the crew and we were on our way to the first official stop.
It was beautiful drive through the state's oldest town, Jonesborough. We turned onto Depot St. after crossing over some rail tracks and in that moment I felt I had a pretty good idea where Depot Street Brewery got their name. We were greeted by the beer garden pup and then by their head brewer, Devin. Depot Street has been open for 13 years! The building that they are now located in, used to be the owners art studio that he hand built himself and pieces of his work can be found throughout. The overall look and feel was so comfortable and relaxing we didn't want to leave. If you are a serious Bocce Ball enthusiast, I could argue that they have the best court in the state.
Next on our itinerary was JRH Brewing Co.. It is a large beautiful red building stuck right between downtown Johnson City and ETSU. John and Jill are the owners and I believe it's their story that sets them apart. After Jill was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, John was inspired to quit dreaming and start doing. To them, time is valuable and they were inspired to chase their dream of starting a brewery. Jill is currently cancer free and we raised a fresh pint of pale ale brewed by John in celebration. Encouraging folks that anything is possible is in the DNA of JRH Brewing Co. Next time you are there ask about the "dawn wall" a place they have set up to celebrate such accomplishments.
I knew our third stop of the day was going to be unique because we were warned it had elements of new and old. Johnson City Brewing Co. originally began in the back corner, down a hallway, near an elevator, of the King Building right in the center of downtown. It was tiny! So tiny that they would brew during the day and would shove all of their equipment into a closet and set up a comfortable tasting room in the same space for the evening. Recently they have expanded to a new building across the street and the "pack-n-play" brew house is no longer necessary. Because of their small brewhouse they specialize in unique one-offs and they are pretty much willing to try anything, even a corn dog beer. When I asked them, "What do you hope people take away from their time here?" Kat didn't even hesitate to respond, "I hope people feel they belong." I can't argue with that and I hope for nothing but continued success for what they are building.
Our next official stop was at Yee-Haw Brewery but I convinced Matt we had time to squeeze in a DETOUR. We headed over to Atlantic Ale House to grab a pint, put our feet up, and maybe get a bite from a local food truck. When we arrived we met with Jacob the owner. They pride themselves in making sure they always have a local focused beer selection. If you want to try all of the local breweries in one spot, Atlantic Ale House has you covered. This wasn't my first time there and it definitely won't be the last.
Our last and final stop of the day was the biggest brewery we have visited yet. Yee-Haw Brewery had all of the bells and whistles and I was excited about getting behind the scenes. Jeremy Walker, The Director of Exponential Mayham (official title) met us with a big hug and few beers already in hand. We headed to the back where is showed us there gear and talked about how their Dunkel has quickly become their flagship beer even though that wasn't originally anticipated. After that we played Skee Ball, Hoop Fever, and grabbed some epic tacos from White Duck Taco which is attached to their tasting room. The huge fire pit on the patio offered warmth on a cold January night. The best way to describe Yee-Haw is grown ass man's playground.
After Yee-Haw Brewery we were spent. We headed to Pal's next to our hotel to get a late night burger because Pal's reminds Matt of his childhood and Jessica had never been to one before. When we got to out hotel we found out that the local CVB in Johnson City reserved three separate rooms for us. We set a time to leave in the morning, hugged it out, and went our separate ways in hopes to get a good nights sleep and hot shower to prepare us for the next day.
For those that made it to the bottom of this, thanks for reading and thanks for caring. More to come soon!
Zack, The Brew Bus Guy