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Great Oak Brewing Company taps first keg

Hannah Swayze • Updated Feb 4, 2018 at 12:39 PM

After a year of work, the Great Oak Brewing Company finally has its first beer on tap.

Part of the Stir Fry Group, the brewer is at the rear of the Southern Craft BBQ restaurant on Spring Street in downtown Johnson City.

"It’s great to be in Johnson City. There are so many good breweries here and we're really honored to be a part of that, said Justin Carson, Great Oak's chief brewer. “And they've been really, really receptive and open; it's just a great brewing community on top of a great community." 

The brewery will debut the rest of its six signature beers over the next couple of weeks. The beers are brewed specifically for the Stir Fry group restaurants, especially Southern Craft BBQ.

The beer types cover all the bases, including a wit ale, brown ale, a cream ale, an India pale ale, or IPA, and an amber ale.

But the first to debut at Southern Craft was the King's Coffee Porter, an approachable, "robust porter," brewed with Ethiopian coffee beans.

Carson said the selection of beer is meant to be traditional and cover all the bases. There's one of everything for all the beer lovers.

"We're not doing any crazy wacky brews. We're doing more traditional. I really like English styles, American styles and German. So, our brewhouse is kind of modeled after an English brew house," said Carson.

The brewery itself pays homage to a lot of regional history.

The ‘Great Oak’ was named after the Pemberton Oak in Bristol, where the Overmountain Men gathered then went over the mountains down to King's Mountain and won the battle that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.

Most of the beers' names are also a nod to local history. The "Tigers Wit Ale" is a reference to the legend of James "Tiger" Whitehead. And the Frankland Amber Ale is a call back to one of the proposed name for the Tennessee before it was a state.

All the beers while traditional, have their own flare.

Although the brewery is inspired by history and uses traditional means to produce its beer, the inspiration doesn't keep Carson from putting his own West Coast tweak on recipes. This is most apparent in the taste of the brewery's IPA.

Originally from Bristol, Carson began really learning about brewing when stationed Alaska. He served in the Air Force for 10 years, working as a SERE — survival, evasion, resistance and escape — specialist. While living in Fairbanks, he was an intern at the Silver Gulch Brewing, the northernmost brewery in the United States.

After his time was up, Carson decided to return home to follow his passion of brewing.

The Kings Coffee Porter can be found on tap at Southern Craft BBQ. All beer will be available at all the Stir Fry Group restaurants such as Label Restaurant, Stir Fry and 620 State.

Great Oak Brewing Company can be found on Facebook at greakoakbrewing/.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Carson’s name and stated that he graduated from East Tennessee State University. Carson completed his degree at the University of Alaska while stationed in Alaska with the U.S. Air Force.

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