New brewery to be on tap in downtown Johnson City this year

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More local beers are headed to the taps as Johnson City’s 5th microbrewery is set to open by the end of the year.

Like many brewers, owner Chris Cates’ passion for brewing started with a few homebrews and a dream for his very own taproom. He and his wife took a detour, though, and began running a brew supply store about four years ago. 

The pair bought Ozark Brewing Supplies in 2014, rebranded as Edisonian Brew Shop and got their feet wet with running a business before going all in with the dream of a brewery. 

“It was sort of a foot in the door to the brewing industry,” Cates said. “We knew we wanted to turn it into a brewery from day one, but we didn’t know when the timing would be right to do that.” 

The transition from brew shop to brewery has been in the works for the past three years, but Cates said there have been a couple of roadblocks along the way – including the 35-day government shutdown a few months ago. 

The shutdown postponed the brewery’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau permit process – just one step of many that new breweries must take before brewing begins. 

“We were kind of dead in the water there for a whole month,” he said. “Now we just have to tie up some loose ends with construction and aesthetics and we hope to open by September or October of this year.” 

When doors open in the fall, Cates said he plans to have about eight brews ready to go.

Little Animals Brewery follows Johnson City Brewing Company, Yee-Haw Brewing Company, JRH Brewing and Great Oak Brewing in Johnson City and is another addition to a growing brewery scene in the region. 

Cates acknowledges possible oversaturation of breweries in the area, but he said he doesn’t believe the Tri-Cities is in danger of hitting that point just yet. 

He added that the goal of breweries over the past couple of years have changed – where the focus was getting as many bottles and cans on grocery-store shelves in the past, micro-breweries are switching up the game to operate through a local lens.

“The shift is to be smaller and more localized and I think if people do that and focus on that . . . it becomes a community thing, you’re servicing your own community and region,” he said. “In that way, a lot more breweries can survive.

“We’re not here to get our beer out as far into the state as we can, we’re just here to sell beer to our local market, our community and people that want to come in and enjoy our taproom here on Main Street.” 

Edisonian Brew Supply will continue its operations as Little Animals Brewery prepares to open its doors. Cates said he plans to continue running the supply store alongside the brewery. 

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