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Don’t float the mainstream: A visit to SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta

October 08, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Memphis, you’re in for a treat. Sometime in the next year or so, hopefully sooner than later, SweetWater Brewing Company plans to start distributing its beers in the Buff City.

SweetWater’s brewery in Atlanta has been undergoing a major expansion this year and will be able to distribute a half million barrels of beer annually once complete. In Tennessee, SweetWater is already available in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Memphis is next, or last, depending on how you look at it. But SweetWater’s beers, from the Georgia Brown to 420 Extra Pale Ale to IPA, are well worth the wait.

I had a chance to visit the brewery recently, enjoying samples of SweetWater’s offerings and taking a tour of its  massive craft brewing facility.

SweetWater - exteriorSweetWater was founded by Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney, former roommates at the University of Colorado, who wanted to open a West Coast-style brewery in Atlanta. SweetWater opened in 1997 and moved to its current location in 2004.

SweetWater - lineTours at SweetWater are quite popular, as you can see from the line. The tours are free, but $10 gets you a souvenir SweetWater pint glass, plus six tickets for 5.5-oz samples of SweetWater’s brews.

SweetWater - beer boardSweetWater’s year-round beers are Blue, IPA, 420 Extra Pale Ale, Exodus Porter and Georgia Brown. The Brown and IPA are among my favorites. The IPA, which is like a grapefruit explosion, is particularly good.

SweetWater - beer tapsSweetWater got its name from the Sweetwater Creek, which is in a state park just west of the original brewery. The company’s motto is “Don’t Float the Mainstream.”

SweetWater - crowdTours can get particularly crowded, so be sure to grab a good spot. About 2,000 people visit the brewery each week.

SweetWater - tourWith its expansion, SweetWater is growing from a capacity of 100,000 barrels of beer a year to 500,000 barrels, a 400,000 barrel increase. In 2010, for example, SweetWater sold 77,000 barrels.

SweetWater - Dank TankDank Tank is a series of small-batch beers released just a few times a year. The latest is SweetWater’s Ich Bin Ein Lager.

SweetWater - fermentersSweetWater’s Catch N’ Release Brews are seasonal beers and include Motor Boat, Road Trip, Happy Ending and Festive Ale.

SweetWater - packaging - 2SweetWater beers are currently available in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

SweetWater - insideThe brewery is expanding from 26,000 square feet to 114,000 square feet.

SweetWater - packagingSweetWater’s 420 makes up 16% of total sales for the Atlanta brewery.

SweetWater - 420 sixersFor the latest news on SweetWater in Tennessee, follow @sweetwatertenn on Twitter. SweetWater’s main handle is @sweetwaterbrew.

Happy in Hoplanta: A visit to Georgia’s Red Brick Brewing

September 13, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

Red Brick - sign

On a recent visit to Atlanta I had the pleasure of stopping in at Red Brick Brewing, the oldest operating craft brewery in the state of Georgia.

Red Brick, originally known as the Atlanta Brewing Company when it was founded in 1993, produces a number of beers that hit the Memphis market just one year ago. As a fan of Red Brick’s Blonde, Laughing Skull and the Brick Mason series of special beers, I was really excited to check out the brewery.

Red Brick Brewing - exterior Red Brick moved to its current Atlanta location on Defoor Hills Road in 2007.

Red Brick - outsideRed Brick’s patio is a nice place to enjoy pints of Red Brick beer!

Red Brick - patio Red Brick has public tastings each Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (5 p.m.-8 p.m.) and Saturday (2 p.m.-5 p.m.)

Red Brick - bandRed Brick even features bands on the patio.

Red Brick - insideA view of the tasting room at Red Brick, with windows that look into the brewery.

Red Brick - Laughing Skull pint glassFor $10, you get a tour of the brewery, a souvenir pint glass and four pours of Red Brick beers. I’m pretty excited about my Laughing Skull glass.

Red Brick - barAmong my favorite Red Brick beers is the HopLanta, a citrusy American IPA, which you can now get in liquor stores in Memphis.

Red Brick - tour guideRed Brick’s excellent Blonde Ale was a 2007 Gold Medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival in the Golden or Blonde Ale category.

Red Brick - fermentation tanksEarlier this year, Red Brick celebrated a milestone, brewing its 500th batch of beer. Here’s to many more!

Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Co. distributing again in Chattanooga after hiatus

May 25, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer

Sweetwater 420 Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company announced today that it’s returning to Chattanooga with a new distribution agreement after a 3-month hiatus. Sweetwater is available in Nashville, but it’s still not in Memphis.

Here’s the press release from SweetWater:

SweetWater Brewing Company is pleased to announce its return to Chattanooga this May after a three-month-long hiatus from the market. The second-largest craft brewery in the Southeast will be bringing its brews back to its neighbors in Chattanooga, first rolling out 420 on draft, and then bringing six-packs of 420, IPA and Blue later this summer.

The return to market is a result of a new distribution agreement with the Budweiser of Chattanooga wholesaler being assigned the rights to distribute SweetWater’s lineup. The transition became official on April 20, coincidentally the anniversary date of SweetWater’s flagship 420 Extra Pale Ale and 8th annual SweetWater 420 Festival, celebrating Earth Day.

“We are thrilled to be back in Chattanooga and further serving the South” said SweetWater Brewing Company Director of Sales Dave Guender. “We’re excited about our future with Budweiser of Chattanooga as it will give us the ability to stretch our legs in this market, deliver broader coverage and more efficiently align our wholesaler network within the state of Tennessee.”

SweetWater will be rolling out 420 on draft in restaurants and pubs throughout the city followed by core styles of six-packs in the off-premise channel later this year with Chattanoogans looking for SweetWater’s lip smackin’ lineup to feature 420 Extra Pale Ale, SweetWater Blue and SweetWater IPA.

Recently named in the Top 25 craft breweries in the nation by Brewers Association, SweetWater is also recognized as an environmental advocate and a champion for clean water throughout the Southeast. Through their regional Save the Waterway campaigns partnering with Waterkeeper© Alliance members, SweetWater has donated more than $500,000 to help patrol, protect and preserve waterways throughout its markets.

With their return to Chattanooga, SweetWater hopes to continue to grow partnerships with local environmental causes, festivals and community events, in addition to serving up locals with a taste of SweetWater’s samplings. To learn more about SweetWater Brewing Company, visit www.sweetwaterbrew.com.

Atlanta beer tour: Hop City Craft Beer & Wine

April 10, 2012 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Travelin'

Hop City - exterior

On my visit this weekend to Atlanta, my first stop was Hop City Craft Beer & Wine, Atlanta’s premiere craft beer store that boasts one of the largest selections in the country. Hop City, located at 1000 Marietta Street, Suite 302, sells over 1,700 different beers, 1,000 different wines and a full range of homebrew equipment and ingredients.

Hop City - Growler TownHop City’s “Growler Town” has 60 beers on tap available to take home with you. The selection of beers is constantly changing.

Hop City - growlersHop City sells both 64-oz. and 32-oz. growler jugs for just $4.99, and you fill them for the cost of the beer.

Hop City - beer shelvesMy haul from Hop City included: Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA, Sweetwater IPA, Sweetwater Georgia Brown, Terrapin Hop Karma IPA, Terrapin Hopzilla, Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA, French Broad 13 Rebels ESB, Fort Collins Incredible Hop and Lagunitas Farmhouse Hop Stoopid.


Coming soon: More from the Atlanta beer tour, with visits to Red Brick Brewing and Sweetwater Brewing Company.