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May 24th, 2014 9:21 pm by Joe Avento
BRISTOL — If you brew it, they will come.
That’s what the folks at Holston River Brewing Company are hoping.
The Tri-Cities’ newest microbrewery opened this weekend and the beer started officially flowing Friday night.
The Daugherty family took their business acumen and love of brewing beer at home and put them together. The product is the new brewery and tap room, located half a mile from Bristol Motor Speedway.
“We’re very, very excited,” Sue Daugherty, one of the brewery’s owners, said Friday as customers began flocking in for a grand opening that drew a crowd estimated at 1,000 people. “We had a vision and it looks like that vision has pulled together, so we’re very happy.”
The brewery had a “soft opening” last week, inviting about 75 people to do a test run on everything the business entails.
“We wound up with about 200,” Daugherty said. “That’s when it hit me. It’s very exciting.
“We’ve had people just stop by at random, too. And all the people have told us how great the beer was.”
A ribbon cutting was held with the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, and the grand opening was held Friday. The brewery has more than 3,400 “likes” on Facebook.
“It’s amazing how many people knew about it before it even opened,” said Jimmie Daugherty, Sue’s stepson and one of the owners.
The family had run several successful businesses in the past, but none had anything to do with brewing beer. Jimmie was a home brewer, so his interest in beer ignited the idea.
They brought in brewmaster Mike Pensinger, who has more than 20 years experience, most recently at the River Company Brewery in Radford, Virginia.
“Mike loves brewing,” Sue Daugherty said. “Brewing is very, very technical, very precise and can easily be messed up. A brewmaster is kind of like a top chef. They can take all these wonderful ingredients and make it so much more than just you and I could do.”
Holston River Brewing Company has deals with distributors in Tennessee and Virginia to have its beer served in local restaurants and bars.
“I’ve had so many restaurants calling me saying ‘When can we get it?’ ” Jimmie Daugherty said. “They are embracing the local part of it. The distributors have a roll-out plan. They think it is going to be big.”
Micro breweries have been popping up all over the country and the Daugherty family could sense the need for one in Bristol. Wolf Hills Brewing Company has been thriving in Abingdon, Virginia, and the Sleepy Owl Brewery recently opened in Kingsport.
Earlier this month, plans for a brewery in downtown Johnson City were announced.
According to the Brewers Association, there were 2,483 craft breweries in the United States last June, an increase of more than 500 in two years.
“We thought Bristol, the birthplace of country music and all the arts and crafts, didn’t have a microbrewery,” Jimmie Daugherty said. “We thought it really needed one.”
Live entertainment is on tap many nights and there’s an outdoor area with tables. The tap room will be open Tuesday through Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday from noon-9 p.m.
“We’re not a bar,” he said. “I don’t want to stay open until midnight. That’s not the establishment we want.”
Another reason for the early closing time, Jimmie Daugherty says, is to not compete with their distributing clientele.
“We want to work with the restaurants,” he said. “If they want to come in here and set up food, they can, but we also want to distribute. We want to be seen as working with them, helping them, not competing.”
The brewery is housed in a renovated warehouse that used to be home of a trucking company. The family also owns the adjacent campground.
The bottom line, Jimmie Daugherty says, is the product in the customers’ glasses.
“Everybody likes our beer,” he said.
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