Friday, August 26, 2016

The Guys Behind Southern Brewing Company

The Guys Behind Southern Brewing Company
SBC's Brian Roth & Rick Goddard

Southern Brewing Company
Keepin' It in the South
Story and photos by Owen Ogletree

It's fair to say that Southern Brewing Company's co-founder and brewer Brian Roth has suffered from an intense craft beer obsession for the past several years. He's toured 515 breweries, homebrewed since 1993 and produced almost 400 test batches of beer on his impressive home system known lovingly as "Gratis Brewing." Many of these early recipes can now be tasted during a tour of SBC's popular facility in Athens, Georgia, and the Gratis equipment currently serves as the pilot system at SBC.

Brian, along with co-founder Rick Goddard, began construction of SBC in July of 2014. Rather than install a brewhouse in an existing building, the business partners made the ballsy decision to build an 11,000 square feet brewery from scratch on 15 acres of purchased land near Athens Technical College. SBC opened its doors on May 14, 2015 with a sparkling new 30 barrel brew kit. "We're the first modern craft brewery in Georgia to actually construct its building," notes Brian. "We wanted a large brewhouse that would allow for future growth, and the land around our brewery makes a great space for art, gardens, our bike trail, amphitheater and building expansion."

Homebrewing History

Brian's passion for personable beer began in his days as Craft Beer Manager for the Leon Farmer beer distributor in Athens. 15 years ago, when Brian found it difficult to instill an appreciation of craft beer in the distributor's salespeople and drivers, he started a program of taking the employees on brewery trips around the country. Brian recalls, "During these trips, I took about a billion photos of grain handling, piping, taste sheets, lab sheets, brew systems, brewery layouts - just about everything. I used these photos for ideas for SBC."

Leon Farmer employees were also invited to Brian's home to brew on the Gratis system. The strategy worked extremely well and had the fortunate side effect of creating a desire in Brian to brew on a larger scale. "We've taken some of the crazier moments at Gratis and are revisiting the recipes at SBC," Brian explains. "Look for playful stuff like Green Tomato Carrot Kolsch, Maple Bacon Coffee Imperial Stout, Beet Kolsch, Watermelon Tart andGingernaut with chocolate and gingerbread."

A Southern Flare

Rick Goddard served in Washington, DC as an advocate for commercial breweries and met Brian Roth at a wholesaler's meeting. The two became fast friends, and Rick soon brought up the idea of creating a craft brewery with a Southern personality. "12 years ago, many Georgia drinkers were just learning about craft beer, and I wanted to come up with interesting beers that people in the South would definitely embrace."

With a desire to include true southern DNA in their beers, Brian and Rick isolated wild yeast strains from Georgia wild azalea and Cherokee Rose blossoms that are now actively fermenting at SBC. Brian adds, "We've worked with 35 scientists from local colleges, cultured 42 wild yeasts and even ran the genetics on eight strains. Wild yeasts change with each generation, and the wild azalea strain lost its sour properties after ten generations, so we had to figure out a new propagation process to create a starter from the original yeast in three days rather than 16 weeks."

Both Brian and Rick point out that one of the most rewarding aspects of owning SBC comes from having great relationships with neighboring breweries. "When our glycol chiller broke down in June when it was 110 degrees outside, we called our brewer buddies for help," notes Brian. "If we ran a car dealership, I couldn't call the dealer down the street for advice. The guys at Terrapin, Creature Comforts, Wild Heaven, Max Lager's, JailHouse and many others have been huge friends to SBC. We're not competitors - we're all part of a craft beer community."

Thinking Outside the Six-Pack

More than 20 innovative beers flow from the taps in the SBC tasting room where touring visitors also enjoy live music and spicy boiled peanuts. The gorgeous tasting room bar, a collaboration with a local carpenter who's also a craft beer fan, is made from reclaimed wood and a few scorched boards from Athens' burned Georgia Theatre. The Georgia blue granite countertops were donated by a local geologist who had them in storage for 30 years.

SBC acquired a handsome oak foeder from Missouri's Foeder Crafters of America. Brian explains, "Right now we have 50 barrels of saison aging in the foeder for three months. 30 barrels will be released, then new beer will be fed on top of the remainder to keep the microbes going. We primary ferment with a saison yeast, then six different yeasts go into the foeder."

An extensive barrel-aging program is underway with a wide array of beers now "in the wood." SBC also installed a 113-gallon puncheon barrel and four 60-gallon, hand-thrown, clay amphoras for fermentation. "Some breweries work on one basic beer style for years shooting for perfection, but I like variety," Brian relates. "I never homebrewed the same beer twice, and this taught me creativity. Without creativity, what's the point of perfection?"

Rick adds, "Brian and I came into this business as two friends, and now we're family. Our greatest reward for all our hard work is seeing people enjoy our beer at local pubs and restaurants. We love the South, and it just wouldn't make sense to sell SBC beers in California, New York or Canada, so we'll keep it local and keep it in the South."

- Article published originally in Southern Brew News -

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beer Bloggers Conference 2016 in Tampa

Owen and The Beer Wench had the good fortune to share a weekend in Florida with a crowd of other beer journalists from around the country at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Tampa on July 8-10. 
Highlights of the annual event included a stirring introductory address from the Brewers Association's Julia Herz, an update on the craft beer industry in Florida, a delicious reception hosted by Green Flash, seminars on increasing engagement in social media, a writing discussion from Bob Townsend and Carla Jean Lauter, visual content tips from Deschutes' Gina Schauland, and a sour beer tasting with the guys from Petrus in Belgium.
Live, speed rotation beer blogging is always a blast at the event, along with Sunday's seminars on building a beer community and growing beer tourism. The post-conference bus excursion to St. Pete and Clearwater was filled with amazing beer and useful networking. 
If you dabble in beer blogging, consider attending next summer's conference to be held in the classic beer town of Milwaukee! Here's the LINK for more information.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Southern IPA Elite 8 Results

Owen Ogletree set up eight American IPAs that were poured at last April's Classic City Brew Fest in Athens in an "IPA Elite Eight" blind tasting bracket. All the IPAs were produced in breweries from the Southeast, and the beer judges chose a beer from each pair that seemed to have the most impressive IPA character and hop profile.
The tasting panel was comprised of Owen Ogletree, Steve Holzman, Aaron Wallace of Highwire Lounge and Trappeze Pub, Daniel Pittard, Richard Miley from Catch 22 Gastropub, Dean Graves, Gail Graves, Pete Dasher and Ian Meents of Southern Brewing Company.
From the BJCP American IPA style description...
American IPA: A decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties. The balance is hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean, supporting malt allowing a creative range of hop character to shine through. 
Vital Statistics: 
OG: 1.056 – 1.070 
IBUs: 40 – 70 
FG: 1.008 – 1.014 
SRM: 6 – 14 
ABV: 5.5 – 7.5%
Here's how the blind brackets went down, with Southbound Brewing's Hop'lin IPA taking "best in show"...
Our Bling Tasting Notes:
SweetWater IPA
Light hop aroma; citrus; kiwi; a hint of lemon; well-balanced; light, lingering bitterness; pleasant; subtle.

Foothills Hoppyum

Piney; hops are upfront; hoppy finish; good malt balance; hint of pepper; hint of malt sweetness; hop flavor is restrained; woody hops; citrus and grapefruit emerge after a bit; tasty.
Red Brick HopLanta - RUNNER UP
Slight fruit nose; metallic hint; pine-like bitterness; citrus hops; spicy hops; grassy; herbal hint; bright and crisp; bold hops.

Monday Night Slap Fight
Earthy hop note; nice, lingering bitter finish; herbal, tannin-like hops; hints of citrus; hops are in background behind malty character.

Highland IPA
Light pine tannin hops; very drinkable; a touch earthy; great color for style; hops are pleasant but light; soft, appealing, moderate carbonation.


Sweet, malty notes; pineapple; hint of alcohol warmth; balanced malt/hop profile; guava; fruity; wonderful after-taste; light piney hop note; medium body; a touch murky with chill haze; delicious.

Jekyll Hop Dang Diggity
Clear and bright; tropical fruits; kiwi; earthy hint; light bitterness in the finish; smooth hop notes; mild bitterness; pleasant balance.

Lonerider Hoppy Ki Yay
Hop aroma is mild; slight metallic flavor; hops and malt seem restrained; lots of fruity esters; seems malt-forward with interesting fruit complexity.
Photos by Gail Graves

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Owen Ogletree's Articles from "All About Beer" Over the Years

AUTHOR: OWEN OGLETREE, All about beer magazine

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    October 20, 2014 - Everards Brewery team leader Mick Trevor and Terrapin Beer Co. brewmaster Brian “Spike” Buckowski unlatched the lid of the Everards mash tun and peered through steamy haze at the thick, gooey grain bed containing 10% sticky rye malt. Draining the sweet wort from this glue-like porridge was proceeding slower than Trevor had anticipated. Seemingly unfazed,...View Article
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    Sidebars - Travel Features


    September 1, 2011 - For those who can’t plan their own events, here’s a list of established happenings… Tri-Beer: The Triangle Beer Meetup – Beer gatherings and special events in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. Lagunitas Skunk Train – Annual beer train through the redwood forests of northern California. Good Beer Lunches – Australian group bringing craft...View Article
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    Full Pints - Travel Features


    September 1, 2011 - Twenty craft beer lovers, all wearing the same T-shirts, walk into a bar. No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke―it describes an organized pub-crawl for charity. Across America, people are realizing that craft beer can form the impetus for switching off the TV, getting off the couch, heading out of the house and bringing...View Article
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    Full Pints - Travel Features


    March 22, 2010 - With sheets of rain blanketing our SUV, windshield wipers pounding out a mind-numbing rhythm, a stream of crimson brake lights ahead to the horizon and two stressed-out beer reps in the back seat on their Blackberries, all I could think was, “Man, I really need a beer.”
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    Culture - Live Beer - Sidebars - Travel


    November 1, 2007 - Unfortunately, several southern craft breweries of the early ‘90s were perhaps ahead of their time and not able to survive. New Orleans’ Acadian Brewing (closed in 2002) produced a crisp, hoppy pilsner for a time and offered a pleasant beer garden for visitors. A delightful brewpub that featured live jazz, Port City Brewery in Mobile,...View Article
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    Culture - Live Beer - REVIEWED_POSTS - Sidebars - Travel


    November 1, 2007 - Here’s a handful of distinctive brews you can find only in their home region. Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, Terrapin Beer Co., Athens, GA Medium gold in color with a crisp American hop nose and flavor. Finishes dry with touches of rye spiciness and light bitterness that fade quickly, leaving a clean palate.
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    Culture - Full Pints - Live Beer - Travel


    November 1, 2007 - While Oregon and Washington, Colorado, Maine or California amongst others saw explosive craft brewery growth, the Southeastern states seemed trapped in light lager culture and a persistent prohibitionist mindset. Beer remained stuck at sports bars and tailgating parties.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Golden Beer Styles Bingo - April 2016

Owen Ogletree gathered 22 craft beer fans on April 30, 2016 to taste eight mystery golden beers and try to match each one to a BJCP style. Even though each beer offered different aroma and flavor notes, matching each to its style turned out to be quite a challenging task. 

At the conclusion of the tasting, before each beer name was revealed, participants voted on their picks for "best of show" - a favorite beer that was close to perfection, based on its style description.

All these wonderful ales and lagers were poured at our 2016 Classic City Brew Fest in Athens, Georgia.

FIRST PLACE: Ritterguts Gose
A well-carbonated, slightly dry, fruity, pleasantly sour wheat ale with light notes of coriander and salt. Not bitter and hoppy at all. Reminiscent of sweet tarts and light citrus.

SECOND PLACE: Gnomegang 
Belgian Blond Ale
A moderately strong, Belgian ale with wonderful fruit, spice, clove and malt character. Fermentation character from Belgian yeast strains is appealing, and the finish is medium dry. Offers lemon hints and slight initial sweetness.

THIRD PLACE: Foothills Torch Pilsner
Czech-style Premium Pale Lager (Bohemian-style Pilsner)
Golden pilsner malt backbone supported by hefty doses of floral, spicy noble hops. A lingering hop finish and clean, non-fruity lager character. Beautiful hops and good bitterness for style.

Mother Earth Endless River
A crisp, light ale with appropriate malt/hop balance, light fruitiness and pleasant floral German hop bitterness. Offers a dry and refreshing finish.

Foothills Pilot Mountain Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
A beautifully balanced, hoppy pale ale with light fruity esters and citrusy, piney American hops. A classic example of the style.

Weihenstephaner Original Premium
Munich Helles
A classic, lightly malty German lager with a smooth, light malt sweetness, honey-like undertones and a soft, somewhat dry finish. Light spicy, floral/herbal hops keep the balance toward malt, but not too sweet. A gorgeous session lager.

Mother Earth Weeping Willow Wit
Witbier (Belgian White)
A refreshing, complex, elegant, light ABV wheat ale with wheat cereal grain notes, orange peel, coriander and subtle Belgian fermentation notes. This beer exhibits a wonderful balance of all the appropriate aroma and flavor components.

Lonerider Shotgun Betty
A wonderfully drinkable version of the classic German-style wheat beer with soft, creamy mouthfeel, moderately dry finish, and banana, clove and light bubblegum yeast complexity. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I Feel the Need - the Need for MEAD

Owen Ogletree gathered fellow beer lovers Sachin Patel, Ian Meents, Ashton Smith, Dean Graves, The Beer Wench, Mark Hall and Lizz Berstein to sample and comment on ten different meads. Meads are a type of wine made from fermented honey, and they offer a surprising range of aroma and flavor components...
1. Fox Hill Meadery Special Reserve
Marshall, NC
Off-dry with buckwheat honey, 16% ABV
Offering a deep amber, bourbon-like color, this mead provides hints of cereal, spicy rye, honeycomb, alcohol, golden raisins and toast with butter and honey. With a rich, honey flavor with hints of cinnamon, sherry and apricot jam, this selection comes across as warming but not extremely complex.

2. Monks Mead
Avondale Estates, GA
Carbonated mead with wildflower honey, 12.9% ABV
This local mead contains a hint of CO2 sparkle and is a bit reminiscent of a light sparkling wine in the aroma. Notes of cane syrup, muscat grapes, demi-sec champagne and slight spices give way to a somewhat bitter, but pleasant, finish. Color is golden, and the mead is quite clear.

3. St. Ambrose Meadery Rosé Ambrosia
Beulah, MI
Medium-dry with 33% grapes, 67% honey, 12% ABV
This mead pours a deep ruby red color with aromas of Pinot grapes, butter and grape jam on toast. Sweet red wine notes on the palate lead into an overall character of mixed berries, jam, red currants and pomegranate.
4. Redstone Meadery Pumpkin Nectar
Boulder, CO
Melomel with pumpkin, 8% ABV
The nose picks up French vanilla, clove, plastic, higher alcohols and light solvents. Flavor notes of nori seaweed and phenolic honey produce a unique profile in this clear, light straw colored mead.

5. Preissl Neuburger Met Extra Spezial
Imkermeister Preissl - Neuburger, Austria
Mead with cherries, 13.5% ABV
Chosen as SECOND PLACE (tie) by our panel.
This mead offers deep, dark amber/copper hues that are almost brown. Aroma and flavor tones of oak, wood, brown sugar, sorghum, vanilla, sweet port, dark cherries, nuts and papaya make for an extremely complex, satisfying dessert mead.

6. Nectar Creek Honeycone 
Corvallis, OR
Hop session Mead, 6.9% ABV
There's a definite hoppy note and resiny hop profile to this slightly earthy, medium-sweet mead with flavors of floral hops, kiwi, light tropical fruit and mild hop bitterness. Quite quaff-able and refreshing. It sports a pale straw color with a hint of fizz.

7. B. Nektar Dwarf Invasion
Ferndale, MI
Cherries and hops, 6% ABV
Chosen as SECOND PLACE (tie) by our panel.
Slight sour cherries and hops highlight the rustic fruit wine character of this mead, along with notes of strawberries and a clean, lactic acidity. Hops come through more in the aroma than the flavor in this dark red honey wine.

8. Alaska Meadery Batch #73
Anchorage, AK
Clover honey mead, off-dry, aged in bourbon barrels for nine months, 15% ABV
Chosen as THIRD PLACE by our panel.
This mead is packed with flavors of honey, vanilla, oak, alcohol, butter, clove, nutmeg, biscuit crust, rum and clover flowers. The appearance is clear, golden and attractive, and the overall impressive seems like a vanilla butter cookie dipped in honey.

9. B. Nektar Necromangocon
Ferndale, MI
Mango, black pepper, 6% ABV
Chosen as FIRST PLACE by our panel.
Mango, black pepper, cantaloupe, peppercorns and honeysuckle nuances highlight the lingering, pleasant pepper zing of this light golden mead with just a hint of carbonation. Also look for notes of blood orange zest and pine turpentine. 

10. B. Nektar Black Fang
Ferndale, MI
Blackberry, clove, orange zest, 6% ABV 
Notes of clove, ozone, sulfur and fruit mingle in the earthy aroma. Flavors of sangria, blackberries, gunpowder and rose hips are balanced by hints of black cherries, smoke and light citrus. This warming mead offers ruby/garnet hues and is brilliantly clear.