The Liberation of Georgia Breweries and the Renaissance of Beer, Friends and Family

A little over 30 days later, the feeling of walking into a Georgia brewery and grabbing a pint still holds a special moment. The environment just feels different – it feels free. It feels like home. Every brewery has experienced a renaissance in the way that they operate, the way that they brew and how they plan for the future.

A few days before the historic day where Georgia breweries would experience this liberation that  surrounding states have long had, I went out to speak to the owners and brewers about what they had planned for the big day. Interestingly enough, the resounding answer was “not much, we don’t really know whats going to happen”.

Granted, every brewery had to create menus; whether printed or displayed on TV screens, come up with pricing and some breweries, like Jekyll Brewing, out of Alpharetta, GA went through major renovations in their taproom to make space for the hopeful increase in visitors. Jason Santamaria, brewer at Second Self Beer Co. in Atlanta said, “we are shifting how we brew and making sure we constantly have something new”. They have actually dedicated one of their tanks to creating one-off beers for this reason. Others, like Ryan from Arches Brewing are “planning it conservatively rather than planning aggressively” because they are so small and their staff is still limited, but that hasn’t stopped them from releasing their first batch of cans – one being the Southern Bel‘.

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New Menu at Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, GA

 

What New Beer Can Do for You

Prior to the passing of Senate Bill 85, consumers were not able to walk into a brewery and purchase a single pint. I’m not going to go into all the details again, but you can read that article here. With the law passing, it meant breweries in Georgia would have to prepare for more consumers and inevitability more revenue, but it also meant hiring more staff. When talking with Nathan, Packing Manager at Southern Brewing Company about the changes, he said that “if the brewery makes more money, we’ll be able to invest in more capital and make more beer”. And as a consumer, I couldn’t be more happier!

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Nathan wasn’t the only one to respond this way about the new law and as avid craft beer enthusiasts, sometimes we only see one side of the coin. Honestly, I was excited to see long lines form for limited released beers and one-offs, but Chris of Creature Comforts believes this law will do more than just provide beer for the people. He really had a introspective mindset about what an increase in revenue would do. Meaning, it would do more for the brewery than just “making us 2.5 times more profitable”. He found it extremely important to reinvest back into the people that work in the breweries.

“Yea, its great to make a little more money in the taproom but its about what that money can be used to do and how we can reinvest in the people” Chris says with an almost fatherly countenance and voice. He cares about his team, his people and the beer that they serve. 

We are going to hire more people for the market, for accounting and finances. We will have money to invest in people way beyond what we could do before. Chris Herron

Chris Herron, VP of Craft Brewers Guild for Georgia and CEO/ Co-Founder of Creature Comforts

 

 

The Black Friday of Lines

Another exciting aspect of Georgia breweries being able to sell directly to consumers is the ability to make more beer, but also, more small batch. Which means, some one-offs and unique beer that will be hard to find. A month later, we are already seeing the likes of Three Taverns, who had lines out the door for the critically acclaimed German Chocolate Helm’s Deep, Reformation Brewery, who put out a special released Barrel Age Jude and Wild Heaven, who had bottles of the Peach Sour – Fortress of Sourtude. Lines were out the door for all of these and the majority of breweries felt the lines were uncomfortable for their fans.

On opening day, September 1st, Spencer, head brewer at Reformation Brewery, seemed to be very calm under his cherry red trucker hat with the branded R logo of their brewery. As we continued to talk, I could tell there was something uneasy about his countenance. His eyes wondered and traveled up and down the line while we spoke.

“Unfortunately, we have a crazy long line and I hate that the experience is not what we were shooting for… the line is good for business, but the experience for the customer isn’t great”. Spencer Nix

This seemed to reoccur in my visits and conversations with those that work at the brewery. Brian Purcell of Three Taverns expressed similar frustrations about their opening day. They released Helm’s Deep and opened the taproom for regular business and had lines out the door, down the street and around the corner – “we were not expecting this”, says Brian.

In response to these frustrations, Brian Cain, who joined in the conversation at Reformation said this, “If the product wasn’t worth the wait, you wouldn’t have a wait”. I hope that gives Spencer and other breweries some peace about the lines. The beer is worth the wait.

When Taprooms Become Home

Long gone are the days of “sorry, I can’t take your money” when someone from out of town comes to a Georgia brewery to buy a case of beer. There is freedom of choice for the consumer now. Wild Heaven’s Nick Purdy, responding to what he was most excited about said this – “We open taprooms because we want to invite people into our home, give them a wonderful experience and there has been constraints on the experience that we want to provide. It’s exciting to me that we can uncap our vision here and really let our imaginations run a little more wild”.

And thank you Nick for the uncap plug.

But he’s right. The taproom is home and when you walk into his brewery, you feel that sense of community like never before. And like any home, anytime you have company over, you better get it cleaned.

With additional days and new hours connected to the brewery, the production team is learning how to flow into the earlier hours of operation. Just know if you are going to Wild Heaven or any brewery with an open taproom and production facility, you might hear some clanging in the kitchen.

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Nick Purdy pouring a pint of their new Bestie Pub Ale

 

Beer for Everyone

If you’ve heard of Scofflaw Brewing Co. out of Atlanta, GA, it’s either for their phenomenal IPAs or the f*ck you attitude, but honestly neither of those are who they are at the core. They are family, they have families and they treat their customers like family. Jonathan, one of the guys at Scofflaw said, “We want to make beer for everyone. We don’t put out the word (on limited releases) because we want everyone, especially our regulars, to have a chance at it”. This approach is unique, appreciated and shows how they value those in their inner circle, their family. 

In response to what beer Scofflaw would release for September 1st, JP, director of sales, said “We don’t have anything new for September 1st – the only reason why is our anniversary is September 16th. So do we have new shit for our anniversary? Yes”. And boy did they save some of the best beer for that celebration. The excitement at the brewery that day was unreal and the lines were insane.

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One-Year Anniversary of Scofflaw Brewing Co. | September 16, 2017

 

If you haven’t noticed, the pulse of Georgia breweries have changed and each one has the wherewithal to produce a beer that we now have the liberty of choosing. Only time will tell what is on the horizon for Georgia beer, but one thing is true, these breweries are going to take care of home first, they are committed to taking care of family.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Chris of Creature Comforts, “We miss the lifestyle breweries. It’s not as much as I’m trying to become the next regional brewer as it is, ‘I love making beer and I think I make good beer’. A lot of them don’t have any interest beyond making beer out of their four walls, but that’s where some of the greatest beer comes from”.

And I’ll add, the greatest beer is coming from Georgia.

 

 

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