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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.

Atlanta beer run brings home the SweetWater

April 29, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Travelin'


While I was enjoying a week in California, Sara headed to Atlanta to be with her folks for Easter.

But like all good travelers, she also made it a beer-cation.

She went on a tour of SweetWater Brewing Company (post coming soon) and brought home a heck of a lot of beer that you can’t get in Memphis.

At the top of the list were four six-packs of SweetWater’s IPA, which is one of my favorite beers these days. Closest you can get it to Memphis is Nashville. But in Atlanta, it’s even fresher!

Here’s what else Sara brought home:

• One six-pack of Hopsecutioner IPA from Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Ga. Coolest label ever.

• One 22-oz. bottle of Mean Joe Bean, an imperial porter from SweetWater’s Dank Tank series.

• One six-pack of Red Brick Brown Ale from Red Brick Brewing Company in Atlanta.

• One six-pack of 400 Pound Monkey, an English-style IPA from Left Hand Brewing Company.

• One four-pack of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. Dogfish Head has pulled out of Tennessee, so it’s good to have a few 90 Minutes in the fridge again.

• One six-pack of Smuttynose IPA, which hails from my second home, New Hampshire.

A great haul, if I do say so. I’ll try to review as many of these beers as I can. Thank you, Sara.

FuzzyBrew’s Favorites for 2010

January 10, 2011 By: jeff Category: Craft beer, Opinion

After checking out all the end-of-year beer lists for 2010, we thought it would be cool to share each of our top five favorite beers of the year. We drank a lot of good beer in 2010, so this was a fun trip down memory lane.

organic ale

Jeff’s picks

1.  Estate Homegrown Ale – Sierra Nevada.  This beer explodes with resiny, grapefruity, wet-hopped goodness.  The well-balanced, smooth malt backbone makes this a beer I could drink all night.

2.  Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale – Stone Brewing.  Whatever you want to call it – Black IPA, Cascadian  Dark ale – it doesn’t matter.  Roasted, chocolatey grains that you would expect in a stout or porter combined with the pine forest, citrus hop flavor of an IPA, resulting in a beer that is bad ass and unique.

3.  Sorachi Ace – Brooklyn Brewery.  The  Sorachi hops are front and center for a lemony take on a Siason,  a style known for bracing bitterness, spicy notes and a crisp dry finish.  This beer was killer.

4.  30th Anniversary Brewers Reserve: Oak-Aged Ale – Sierra Nevada.  Weirdly enough, of the four anniversary beers released this year, I was least excited to try this one. That’s why I’m learning not to trust my instincts.  This beer is a blend of their Oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale and Pale Ale.  They combine to make a tasty blend of oak, malt and hoppy goodness.

5.  Sue – Yazoo Brewing.  An imperial porter that has an incredible blend of chocolate and smoke.  I was blown away the first time I had this at the Cooper Young Regional Beerfest.

Honorable mention: Odell IPA – Odell Brewing.  Thank you for saving me my own bottle, Mr. Erskine.

Mike’s picks

1. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale – Bell’s Brewery.   A really well-balanced AIPA that would be my everyday ale if I could buy it in Memphis.

2. Sweet Water IPA – Sweetwater Brewing. An explosion of grapefruit taste and floral aroma packed in a beer that goes down easy.

3. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – Flying Dog Brewery.  The late Hunter S. Thompson graces the bottle’s label and proclaims, “Good people drink good beer.” And this is a really good Baltic porter: rich, roasted malt flavors with hints of molasses and a hell of a kick from the 9.2 ABV.

4. Odell IPA – Odell Brewing.  A mix of citrus and piny hop flavor and aroma with a decent dose of malts. It does not disappoint.

5. Schafly Coffee Stout – The Saint Louis Brewery. First coffee stout I’ve ever tried and loved the smoky, rich coffee flavor with notes of sweetness from the oatmeal stout base.

Grant’s picks

Modus Hoperandi1. Modus Hoperandi – Ska Brewing. Fantastic IPA I found on a trip to Colorado this past summer. The closest it’s available to Memphis is St. Louis. I made a decent clone, which started me on my quest to brew the perfect IPA. This is where the bar is set.

2. #9 – Magic Hat. I don’t actually remember when I had my first one of these, but it quickly became one of my favorites during this past summer’s ridiculous heat wave. It’s a tasty and crisp craft brew you can drink no matter how high the mercury rises. I made a pretty good clone a few months ago and have another in secondary fermentation right now.

3. Old Glory American Pale Ale – Great Dane Pub. Malty, hoppy totally drinkable brew from Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a British-style pale ale with American hops, whatever that means. Wish I could get it around here.

4. St. Vincent’s Dubbel – Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. Jeff gave Mike and I each one of these. Loved the crisp and sour taste. Luckily Mike cracked his open first to share so I still have one.

5. Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale – Lazy Magnolia. Really tasty brew from Mississippi (where homebrewing and over-5% ABV is illegal. WTF?) Also, fun to give people with nut allergies. This is why there is now an Epipen in the kitchen cabinet.

Honorable mention: Dry-hopped APA – Schlafly Beer. The first couple I had were fantastically hoppy but not too overwhelming. Unfortunately, sixers I’ve bought since indicate it doesn’t have a great shelf life, as the hop taste is muted. This is something we’ve noticed with our homebrewed IPAs, too.

What were the best beers you tried in 2010? Leave a comment below.