Sunday, April 21, 2019

Beer Styles Bingo - April 2019

Owen Ogletree gathered a group of 15 craft beer enthusiasts and beer judges on April 20, 2019 for another round of Beer Styles Bingo. Each taster was given a list of ten beer styles with short descriptions from the Beer Judge Certification Program (see below). Beers were presented one at a time in blind fashion and in random order, and participants tried to match each beer to its appropriate BJCP style. It seems easy but turns out to be quite challenging when comparing ten different beers...

Russian-Style Imperial Stout
A strong, thick, high alcohol, dark beer loaded with rich malt and roasted, espresso, coffee-like character. Quite viscous and rich with notes of molasses, chocolate, 

American Pale Ale
An average-strength, hop-forward pale ale with light fruity character and citrusy, piney American hops. More sessionable than American IPAs. This version could use a bit more hop character.

British Strong Bitter
A moderate-strength, malty, caramely, deep amber ale around 5-6% ABV with notes of toasted bread, toffee and earthy UK hops. This style is not very bitter or strong by today's standards but quite drinkable and delicious.

Baltic Porter
Malty sweet with a smooth, roasted flavor not as strong as an Imperial Stout. Clean lager character with few fruity esters. Starts sweet, but dark malts quickly dominate with hints of coffee, licorice, caramel, toffee, nuts, molasses, black currant and dark fruit. Notes of molasses, dark chocolate, roasted malt, and caramel candy dominate. 

Gose with Watermelon
A highly-carbonated, somewhat dry, tart and fruity wheat ale with a mild coriander and salt character and low bitterness. Sharp, crisp, smooth lactic acid character reminiscent of pickle juice. Fruit complexity comes from the use of watermelon juice, and watermelon rind notes come through. 

Berliner Weisse
A refreshing, light-bodied, sour, wheat ale with low alcohol and crisp, smooth notes of lactic acid. Like a Gose without the salt and spice. This version is malty for the style. Crisp and refreshing. 

Double IPA
A higher alcohol version of an IPA with impressive malt character and moderately high mouthfeel - all backed by citrusy, piney, American hops. Experimental hops provide hints of earthy, pungent, onion/garlic character. This example is quite clear - not hazy. A delicious and satisfying strong IPA.

Tripel with Spices
A pale, somewhat spicy, dry, strong Trappist-style ale with a pleasant, rounded pale malt flavor and firm bitterness. Quite aromatic, with spicy, fruity, light warming alcohol notes. Spices provide a hint of added complexity. Malt sweetness and clove notes emerge on the palate. 

Wheatwine with Honey
A high alcohol wheat ale with rich wheat/malt character, strong body, spicy/fruity notes, alcohol warmth and a bready profile. Like a wheat-focused Barleywine. The honey provides added complexity and alcohol spice and warmth. Smooth, delicious and dangerous. 

Witbier (Belgian White)
A refreshing, light/moderate strength, effervescent, wheat-based Belgian ale with wheat cereal grain notes, orange peel and coriander. This version could use a bit more orange and coriander complexity.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Exciting CASK ALE List for the 2019 Classic City Brew Fest

Check out our exciting line-up of exclusive, one-off cask ales for Classic City Brew Fest on April 7, 2019 in Athens, GA...
  • Akademia Brewing On The Pull is a low-gravity, sessionable English mild ale with a twist from additions of lactose and vanilla beans. Expect notes of dark malt, mild fruity esters, light bittering hops, and nuances of creamy sweetness backed by appealing vanilla.
  • Alcovy Brewing Patio Beer. Our 4.5% ABV patersbier is modeled after the beer that Trappist monks are rumored to brew for themselves. With notes of clove, peppercorns, mace, and cinnamon, this spicy Belgian-style "single ale" is approachable, complex, and quite refreshing.
  • Arches Brewing Equilibrium Pale Ale - An American pale ale with a grain bill designed to provide a moderate body and excellent head retention. Well bittered with Cascade and Chinook that give notes of grapefruit and spice, this cask was dry-hopped with El Dorado, Cascade, and Comet for a citrus and pine aroma.
  • Athentic Brewing My Naughty Little Pet is a 9.1% ABV Wee Heavy Scottish ale produced with the historic Edinburgh yeast strain. This exclusive cask has been aging with oak spirals and cocoa nibs. Also check out our draft version of the same beer next to the Akademia booth. A collaboration done at Akademia. 
  • Atlanta Brewing Conjuring Cultures with Grapefruit is a mixed fermentation farmhouse ale. Imagine a saison fermented in aromatic bourbon barrels with Belgian ale yeast and two funky Brettanomyces strains.
  • BeeCraft Sweet Mother of Pearls is our nationally-awarded blueberry, blackberry, and black currant Dark Pearls mead sweetened with North Georgia wildflower honey and aged in the cask with Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon sticks. 13.8% ABV.
  • BlueTarp Brewing Purple People Eater is a barrel-aged American sour ale with dragon fruit. This 6.2% ABV ale offers interesting tart notes from the fermentation character, while the dragon fruit provides hints of kiwi and pear complexity.
  • Burnt Hickory Snickers Stout.AKA Snicky Snicks, this rich, dessert stout is named in honor of our beloved taproom guy Snickers. At 10% ABV, this is a malty, boozy "candy bar" in a glass!
  • Cannon Brew Pub Chocolate Cherry Red Jacket. Red Jacket has been our flagship beer at Cannon for 20 years. It's a malty amber ale with notes of caramel. For this cask, we've added cacao nibs and maraschino cherries.
  • Carolina Bauernhaus Plum Gold is our golden sour ale aged on a blend of locally sourced, dried plums. A Mosaic dry-hop was added to this unique cask for a layer of berry medley, citrus, and stone fruit notes.
  • Cherry Street The Lost Boyz - A 6% ABV sour blonde ale fermented with boysenberries and cranberries. Vanilla beans and blueberries were also added to this special cask for an added layer of mouth-watering flavors.
  • Chops & Hops / Southern Brewing Collaboration BAM That's Hazy is a juicy, hazy, IPA with Mandarina Bavaria and Simcoe hops with added complexity from additions of blackberry, apricot, and mango.
  • Coastal Empire Clouds of Pineapple Milkshake IPA is brewed with generous amounts of oats, wheat, milk sugar, and pineapple. All hops were added post-boil, with Citra and Azacca making up the fragrant dry-hops. Aged on Madagascar vanilla, this special cask will be like creamy pineapple soft serve in a glass.
  • Creature Comforts Lemon Verbena DaySpring. Our cask is a version of our award-winning grisette Belgian-style session ale with local wheat and locally grown lemon verbena.
  • Dry County Kope Niu Old 41. We took our gold medal winning oatmeal stout and conditioned it with Kona coffee, coconut flakes and a dash of vanilla caviar for a Hawaiian take on our favorite stout.
  • Eagle Creek Blueberry Ascension of the Kaiju. Kaiju means "strange creature" in Japanese. That's exactly what we created in this satisfying, 4.5% ABV pilsner-type brew with light green tea, ginger, and a pile of blueberries added to the cask.
  • Etowah Meadery Hopped Up OMG is made with Georgia honey, mountain water, mangos, guava and Amarillo dry-hops. One sip of this tasty mead would make Athena start hopping around saying "OMG!"
  • Eventide Kattegat Baltic Porter was cask-conditioned with dark brown sugar, and the residual sweetness accentuates the vinous and chocolate flavors of the beer, while the fine, soft carbonation delivered by cask-conditioning presents a luxuriously smooth mouthfeel and taste profile.
  • Firewater Brewing Super Dry-Hopped Hop Chief. We dry-hopped this brew three times with Citra and Mosaic on top of an already juicy, citrusy, and slightly hazy IPA. Truly the chief of hops, this cask offers massive citrus and floral notes from extra additions of Citra, Mosaic, and Eureka hops.
  • Fyne Ales Sublime Stout (Scotland, UK) - A dark, deep ruby red stout with aromas of roasted malt and a hint of licorice. Mellow sweetness and a malty fruitiness are followed by a smooth, dry finish. Sublime Stout gets hopped four times, including dry-hopping in the cask.
  • Fyne Ales Superior IPA (Scotland, UK) is 7.1% ABV with Citra and Cascade hops backed by aromas of apricot and peach. Flavors of tropical and stone fruits lead to a pleasant, bittersweet finish. Superior IPA is generously hopped at four points of the brewing process, including dry-hopping in the cask.
  • Gate City Sweet Heat OTP is our 8% ABV double IPA with loads of mango, hot chilies, and a dash of lime. The flavor starts with sweet mango goodness, then the heat slowly creeps in, warming you from the inside out. It's like sitting in a hot tub with your soulmate.
  • Good Word Brewing Rocksteady English Mild. This 3.4% ABV classic UK-style ale offers elegant notes of toffee, leather, mild fruit, and malt complexity. It's easy on the alcohol, yet loaded with flavor. Number One of the bad guy English beer duo.
  • Hi-Wire Brewing Hop Circus Berzerkus. We took our fruity, juicy Hop Circus series and crushed it with 4.5 pounds per barrel of Azacca dry-hops. Expect huge tropical fruit notes and a smooth body from the flaked oats and flaked wheat.
  • Ironmonger Brewing Stop! Mango-Guava Timeis a mango/guava Belgian-style wheat beer adapted from our staple witbier, Too Legit To Wit. With additions of fresh mango and guava, this 4.9% ABV cask is bursting with succulent tropical flavors.
  • Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout with Mint. Roasted malt and coffee flavors build the foundation of this creamy sweet stout. The addition of mint will remind you that it's time to order Thin Mints from your neighbor's daughter.
  • Left Nut Brewing Cruisin' for a Blusin'. Our inspiration for this cask came from a beer and cupcake pairing. The cask is Hooch Shootin' NE IPA fruited with blueberries and lemon. Expect juicy hops, with a sweet and sour kick from the fruit. Let them have cake!
  • Lincoln Fill Station / Cherry Street Collaboration Triple Chocolate Chunk is our 12% Russian imperial stout aged in a Belle Meade Bourbon barrel. Three types of chocolate and toasted coconut were added to this extraordinary cask.
  • Lonerider Brewing Addie's Revenge with Tropical Fruit. Addie has taken a wild ride in her search for revenge. Lonerider's limited Citra and Amarillo IPA has picked up three intriguing fruit additions for this one-off cask: orange zest, mango, and watermelon.
  • Macon Beer Company Cherry Chocolate Milkshake Ale. We took a cherry rye ale and blended lactose, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans, creating a cherry chocolate milkshake ale with an additional fresh cherry puree.
  • Max Lager's Southern Passion Hopsplosion. Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic, El Dorado, and Azacca were added at the last minute to give this IPA a luscious tropical character bursting with notes of pineapple, mango, orange, and guava. This cask also contains a dose of Southern Passion hops from South Africa. 7.5% ABV.
  • Monday Night Dark Dessert Matter is thick, roasty, and toasty with chocolate and coffee notes. We decided to play into these elements by adding locally-roasted Batdorf & Bronson coffee, Ghirardelli chocolate, and toasted coconut to the cask. At 12% ABV, this truly is a stout to savor with dessert.
  • Moon River Double Dry-Hopped Cosmic Terror Pale Ale with passion fruit. From the outer reaches comes a juicy, 5.9% ABV, hypnotic pale ale, thrumming with forbidden knowledge of ancient gods. The dark ritual involves untold quantities of Galaxy and Mosaic hops, performed twice for good measure, accompanied by the flesh sacrifice of the otherworldly passion fruit. Seriously, have you ever seen the inside of a passion fruit? Google it.
  • New Realm Reserve Belgian Tripel with Sabro dry-hops and oak chips. We dry-hopped this classic Belgian-style tripel with the new Sabro hop variety that adds coconut and fruity flavors, and then steeped it on bourbon-soaked oak chips. 10% ABV.
  • Oconee Brewing Dukes & Bell's Hey Man Watermelon & Lime Blonde Ale. This 5% ABV golden ale is brewed in collaboration with 92.9 The Game Atlanta Sports Radio. Watermelon and lime were added, creating a refreshing and crushable springtime beer that's fruity but not over the top.
  • Orpheus Native Funk 1 is our one-year Méthode Traditionnelle from a single barrel. Brewed with a turbid mash and aged hops, then cooled and wildly inoculated in our coolships before spontaneously fermenting in barrels for a year, this soft ale offers mild acidity with notes of lemon, cheese, white grapes, and a hint of barnyard.
  • Oskar Blues Double Dry-Hopped Can O'Bliss Tropical. "Trop it like it's hot… and hazy!" It's a paradise of pineapple, mango, and citrus topped off with a mix of Idaho 7, Galaxy, Mosaic, Citra, El Dorado and Azacca hops. For this cask, we added an additional, generous charge of Strata hops to lend dank, passion fruit notes.
  • Pontoon Brewing Maple Chocolate Pecan Pie Porter is a 6.5% porter brewed with molasses, then aged on pecans. This one-of-a-kind, flavorful cask also contains cacao and maple syrup.
  • Queenswood Pub Glitteris is an American farmhouse sour ale with funk and flavor from yeast, bacteria, passion fruit and lychee. The dark purple color comes from the butterfly pea flower Clitoria ternatae that's said to provide antioxidants and slow down premature aging. And, of course, glitter was added. Sparkle on!
  • Red Hare Real Passion. Fresh passion fruit complements this northwest Atlanta version of an English IPA that crossed the pond only to find it prefers the States and wants to be a fruit-forward, new school, American IPA on tour with all its fancy new friends. 
  • Reformation Maple-Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout. Expect complex, deep aromas and flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, espresso, and caramelized sugars in this rich, potent dark ale.
  • Scofflaw Brewing Sucker Punch IPA. This flavorful cask was dry-hopped with Citra and conditioned on mangos and peaches for an explosive profile of citrus and stone fruit intensity.
  • Second Self Jalisco Night is our guava Berliner weisse with fresh blueberries for added tartness and red jalapeño peppers for a spark of heat. 4.6% ABV.
  • Service Brewing Armistice IPA brewed with the crop year 2018 Veteran’s Blend of hops and pink guava. Ekuanot, Mosaic, Cashmere, Simcoe, and Centennial hops make this 6.9% ABV, heavily dry-hopped IPA extremely aromatic and juicy, and the addition of pink guava elevates the melon and papaya notes.
  • Southern Brewing Company Cuchulainn Irish-Style Red Alecomes in at 5% ABV and provides wonderful notes of caramel, bread crust, and light bittering hops for a southern take on a classic style from the Emerald Isle. Made with small-batch Irish malts.
  • SweetWater Brewing Utopian Fuzz is a 100% Brettanomyces fermented golden ale with strawberries and peaches. Look for subtle notes of fruit with a pleasant, dry, complex finish from the Brett. 5.7% ABV.
  • Terrapin Mr. Krunkles. Pull the crumbs out of your mustache for a sip of our Mr. Krunkles cask. This straight-up IPA was inspired by the most famous IPA brewer who ever lived… Krunkles! Packed with Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Mosaic and Zythos hops for over-the-top juiciness.
  • Three Taverns Krispy Kreme Milk Stout is an 8% ABV imperial milk stout with added sweetness and complexity from Krispy Kreme doughnuts. No need to watch for the hot doughnut sign, just make sure the tap is flowing!
  • Torched Hop Outta Control - This double IPA was brewed with the best Australian and New Zealand hops available. Massive notes of mango, peach, passion fruit and citrus jump out of the glass.
  • Twain's Clownbaby British Golden Ale was brewed with 75% Maris Otter malt, 25% Golden Promise malt and rare UK Jester hops, and the style could be considered a UK interpretation of an American Pale Ale. The malt is clean but has substance, the hops are fruity/earthy and in balance with the malt, and the English yeast produces mild fruity esters. 5.4% ABV.
  • Variant Brewing Imperial Raspberry Lemon Gose is a 10.5% ABV tart, salty ale with an extra dose of raspberries and lemon zest in this exclusive cask.
  • Wicked Weed Persistence is an amber sour ale with Montmorency cherries. The brew was aged in wooden foeders for two months and then transferred to red wine barrels for an additional six months to complete its aging and produce layers of complexity.
  • Wild Heaven Double Oaked Eschaton Belgian Quad is a big, malty beer reminiscent of a rich red wine with a drier finish than you'd expect from 10.5% ABV. This Belgian strong dark ale abounds with dark fruit and pit fruit flavors, and the vanilla notes from the oak add delightful complexity.
  • Wild Leap Bourbon Blackberry Creme Brûlée Stout. This is a single barrel Ventured Oatmeal Chocolate Stout aged for a full year in a Jim Beam barrel with blackberries, lactose, and vanilla.
  • Wrecking Bar Vanilla Siberius Maximus Russian Imperial Stout. Our popular high-gravity stout with notes of chocolate, coffee, molasses, and dark fruit. This special cask was conditioned on Tahitian vanilla beans for a decadent finish.
You can't miss this! TICKETS:  

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Georgia Craft Beers Face Off

Photo by Ashton Smith

Owen Ogletree gathered Ashton Smith, Niki Schley, Andrew Borchert, Flavia Costa, Ian Meents, Stacy Stewart and The Beer Wench for a blind tasting of 13 craft beers made in Georgia. The tasting was conducted as a best-of-show panel, with each beer evaluated on its adherence to style and drinkability. See below for notes and awards...

- Roasted malts; burnt bread crust; espresso hints; bitter chocolate; creamy; viscous; not too sweet; good dry finish; pleasant; good beer for the style; medium esters; low hops; nutty quality. Excellent brew.

- An international pale lager style with light malt aroma; low hops; light corn complexity; mild fruity esters; wonderfully drinkable and well constructed.

- This wild, sour specialty brew with figs and dark candy syrup is dark brown in color with a ruby hint; balsamic hint; figs; leather; nice fruity esters; earthy; complex; malty; dark sugar notes; warming; cherry; dark fruit; acetic/lactic finish is pleasant.

- This special wheat beer contains Mandarina Bavaria hops and orange peel; notes of clove; orange zest; banana hint; cereal malt; pleasant; wheat character is nice; refreshing; pleasant fruit and orange complexity.

- This international pale lager style has a clean aroma; citrusy hops; light malt; subtle bitterness; crisp finish with a hint of malt sweetness; good balance of all notes.

- Perfect appearance for style; malty; floral; earthy; aromatic; light bitterness; malty; could use a bit more American hop flavor and aroma; ends a touch sweet but quite drinkable.

- Deep gold in color; murky, hazy; catty hops; sweet melon; malty mouthfeel; sweet finish; honeydew; dank; cantaloupe; rich malt; soft mouthfeel; orange; citrus, floral, honey notes.

- This amber contains orange pekoe and black tea. Toffee hint; caramel note; orange tea; tea makes up for the light hops; tea is quite mild; lightly sweet finish; tannin hint from the tea.

- Earthy aroma; herbal; piney; pear; rich, herbal hop note; perfumy; resins; tannins; needs a bit more clean American hop character and lighter esters; a pleasant, malty brew.

- This porter contains cocoa nibs, chilies, chipotles, cinnamon and cloves. Spice hint is nice; clove note; light chocolate; pepper warmth is mild; light/medium body; dry tannins; appearance is perfect; spices are subdued; could perhaps use a bit more malt for a better body and mouthfeel.

- Grain husk note; tannins; earthy malt; dark fruit; prune hint; might be a touch thin for style; fruity; citrus hint; needs a bit more dark fruit and toffee complexity. 

- This Czech-style premium pale lager contains Mosaic and Cascade hops. Yeasty; bready; mineral note; herbal; grassy; sulfur hint; nice, light pilsner malt; light finish.

- This Belgian-style tripel contains cane sugar. Clove; Belgian spicy fermentation character; spice; white pepper hint; light, sweet finish; pleasant; rich; nice hop balance; ends slightly sweet for style; a robust, tasty strong ale.

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Beer Travel

All About Beer Magazine - Volume 28Issue 5
November 1, 2007By Owen Ogletree

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.

Now, a vibrant beer world flourishes in the Southeast. World-class imports, locally-produced microbrews and specialty brews from the rest of the country have achieved unprecedented popularity in the region. Southerners are realizing that beer can be a varied and vibrant part of meals, social gatherings and life as a whole.

The Bad Old Days

The South’s love affair with robust, old-world beer styles is a relatively new trend that trails other regions of the country. There was a long, bland beer legacy to overcome.

The bad old days of southern beer were pretty bad. The smattering of southern breweries in the 1800s could not begin to compare to the hundreds found in northern parts of the country. German immigrants who founded the early breweries of the Northeast and Midwest never settled in the South in any great numbers, and the oppressive heat of the lower states made beer production extremely difficult.

The modest group of southeastern breweries that existed in the early part of the twentieth century was completely squashed by Prohibition and the Great Depression, and grain rationing during World War II drove many post-Prohibition breweries out of business.

Religion has also exerted a restraining influence on beer in the south. In his book, Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause: Southern White Evangelicals and the Prohibition Movement, Samford University professor John L. Coker explains that prohibitionist sentiment was not popular in the South before the Civil War because the temperance movement was associated with the northern anti-slavery movement. After the Civil War, however, southern Protestant leaders reinterpreted the ideals of temperance and prohibition to be compatible with southern culture. By 1915, alcohol had been officially forbidden by most southern churches.

This Protestant holy war against alcohol never occurred in the Catholic state of Louisiana, which explains many of the state’s liberal alcohol laws. Prohibition, however, was a different matter. Wolfram Koehler, owner/brewmaster of New Orleans’ Crescent City Brewhouse, reflects, “New Orleans, with 22 operating breweries at the turn of the 20th century, was truly a brewing capitol of the South, but almost all were lost due to Prohibition. When I arrived here in the 1980s, Dixie was the only surviving brewery in the Big Easy. When we began Crescent City Brewhouse in January of 1991, this was the city’s first brewery opening in over 70 years.”

Besides the sultry climate and an oppressive church, what other factors held beer back? State laws did not help matters. Microbreweries and brewpubs were illegal in most southern states from Prohibition right up until ten to twenty years ago. And a lack of any ingrained brewing tradition in the South allowed the big national brands to completely dominate the region after Prohibition.

Ironically, even though most southern states outlawed high alcohol beers in the past, strong spirits have always been a staple of imbibing southerners. Whereas barley and hops were scarce in the South, corn and other grains used in the production of distilled spirits have always been readily available. Moonshine was in wide, albeit illegal, production over the past 150 years—especially during Prohibition. It was much easier to hide a still than a brewery, and a small volume of spirits was easier to produce and transport than a much larger volume of beer. Spirits weren’t filling in the heat of the summer and were easier to carry in small flasks to conceal from religious folk. Locally distilled beverages reigned supreme in those days, and the South simply lost whatever taste it had for beer.

Another reason the South trailed other parts of the United States in beer appreciation may have something to do with its early population. Affluent intellectuals settled the Northeast, European immigrants with strong beer backgrounds gathered in the Midwest and adventurous risk-takers made their way to the Northwest. Farmers, laborers and many individuals on the run from the law populated the old South.

Low incomes, long hours of hard work and a conservative, stubbornly traditional nature seemed to help solidify the cheaper light lager preferences of many “old school” southerners. Scott Maitland of the Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, NC adds, “Craft beer is more of a white collar thing, at least in the beginning, and the South has only recently started a transformation from an agriculture-based economy to an informational one.”

Southern Beer Pioneers

In the early 1990s, southern beer culture began to move. An economic boom in the region provided disposable income for people to travel and sample new beers from Europe and other regions of the United States. Many larger cities in the South experienced construction and business growth that brought new jobs and an influx from other areas of the country. People encountered exciting new flavors in wine, coffee and cuisine—a natural progression toward an interest in craft beers.

Glen Sprouse, brewer for 5 Seasons brewpub in Atlanta, has his theory about southern beer drinkers. “I see a combination of three beer subcultures in the South: rigid individuals who stick to the old southern drinking traditions of very light beers, another diverse group who wants to broaden horizons and move on to craft products, and people from outside the South who live here now and have brought beer preferences with them from other areas. The latter two groups have really driven the beer revolution in the South.”

Southern “beer geeks” emerged to lead the charge to change laws that limited the sorts of beers available. Homebrewing was legalized in several states in the 1990s, and the hobby nurtured many of the region’s current commercial brewers.

Grassroots efforts of beer devotees also led to the legalization of brewpubs and microbreweries in every state from Louisiana to North Carolina. Restrictive alcohol limits on beer, usually at 6% ABV (alcohol by volume), have been lifted in all but Alabama and Mississippi. The effort took seven years in Georgia, where beer connoisseurs got the law changed in 2004. North Carolina’s Pop The Cap pushed the change through in 2005. A similar campaign succeeded in South Carolina in 2007, while the Free the Hops movement is still struggling to make headway in Alabama.

Southern beer culture benefited from the efforts of many brewing pioneers in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Uli Bennewitz emigrated to Manteo, NC in 1980. He missed the rich German lagers of his homeland and decided to try his hand at opening a German-style brewery and restaurant. He discovered brewpubs were illegal in the state of North Carolina—worse still, Manteo was in a dry county. Bennewitz immediately began lobbying efforts to change the laws in the state. His campaign succeeded in 1985, and he opened the Weeping Radish brewpub in Manteo in 1986.

Bennewitz is extremely proud of bringing German beer traditions to the region: “In 21 years we’ve never served any other beers but our own, and this has worked well for us. We can’t emulate the big boys—we must stick to a local marking and keep our company’s personality.” In keeping with this line of thinking, Weeping Radish has recently opened a new farm brewery on 24 acres of land in Currituck County about 30 miles from Manteo. Unfiltered beers for both locations will be produced here, along with homegrown veggies. The farm also boasts a 5,000 square-foot butcher shop and smokehouse where a master butcher from Germany crafts artisan sausages and meats.

Abita Brewing Co. just celebrated 20 years of beer production at their microbrewery in Louisiana. In the ‘90s, the company even added a separate brewpub restaurant just down in road. Abita president David Blossman says, “Anybody who thinks the South doesn’t appreciate craft beer needs to come and take a tour of the Abita Brewery. We’re running at full capacity and starting a five million dollar construction project to expand the brewery. As the number one craft brewer in the Southeast, we feel very appreciated.”

In the nineties, Nashville saw the opening of two of the country’s most respected brewpubs. Chuck Skypeck’s Boscos and Dave Miller’s Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery have been extraordinarily innovative in terms of their house beers and menu items. Cask-conditioned ales and special beer tastings are a staple at each brewpub, and Skypeck even produces Flaming Stone Beer, one of the only American beers in the German steinbier tradition, made with hot rocks from Boscos’ pizza oven.

Atlanta’s first post-Prohibition microbrewery was known as “Marthasville” (also the original name for the city). Marthasville lasted for only a few years, but was successful in showing the metropolitan area that a small company could produce flavorful and distinctive beers. Atlanta Brewing Co. started producing Red Brick Ale in 1993 and quickly filled the niche vacated by Marthasville. Atlanta’s director of marketing, Grey Martin, says, “Atlanta Brewing made a conscious decision to eschew the hippie aesthetic, so popular on labels out west, and give our packaging kind of an old school breweriana look. You don’t need to belong to a particular demographic to drink and enjoy our beer.”

Highland Brewing Co. is noteworthy as the first commercial brewery in Asheville, NC, now the state’s most sophisticated beer town. The company is named in honor of the Scottish and Irish immigrants who initially settled this area of the state, and its ales have helped foster a taste for UK-style beers in the region. “Highland has nurtured the local market with as much community presence as possible. Our Gaelic Ale, Kashmir IPA, Oatmeal Porter and other brews have made believers of a previously skeptical public,” says owner Oscar Wong.

Northern Florida had its craft beer indoctrination in 1987 when McGuire’s Irish Pub of Pensacola installed a brewhouse and began cranking out its line of five regular ales and a rotating seasonal. Despite being told that dark or hoppy beers would not be appreciated in Florida, the brewers pushed on with true English and Irish-style beers that have ended up being a hit. “We are rocking at McGuire’s—packed all the time and selling all the beer we can make. We have a good clientele of regulars and beer tourists who seek us out, so we are proof that brewing good beer in the Southeast works,” says Gary Essex, brewer at the Destin location.

Spreading the Word

The new players of the southeastern beer culture include a variety of energetic brewer-evangelists spreading the love of craft beer throughout the region.

Crawford Moran, the founder of defunct Dogwood Brewing Co., is the co-owner and brewer for 5 Seasons brewpub in Alpharetta, GA. “The key to growing our beer culture is continuing education about craft beer,” he says. “We must keep educating consumers, wait staff, restaurateurs and especially the politicians. I brew a vast array of styles, we do a unique cask ale every week, we always have a high gravity beer on tap and we’re aging beers on site in whiskey barrels. The advantage of a brewpub in the education area is that I get to interact directly with our customers.”

Locally-owned brewpubs that drip with southern ambience and hospitality are the first place that many southern folk get to sample their first craft beers.

“In the early 1990s, the concept of a brewpub seemed really outrageous to a lot of people. Now brewpubs are a commonplace, accepted locale to enjoy good food and fresh beers,” says Jordan Fleetwood, brewer for Twain’s Billiards and Tap brewpub in Decatur, GA. “Twain’s was established as a great beer bar and then grew into the brewpub arena. It was a natural progression for us, and our customers have really been supportive.”

Scott Maitland’s experience with his Chapel Hill brewpub leads him to concur. “When Top of the Hill opened ten years ago, people didn’t understand the concept of local breweries or the fact that beer was something different than Bud, Miller and Coors. A typical exchange at the bar went like this: ‘Hi. I’d like a Bud Light.’ ‘Sir, we are a microbrewery and we only sell the beers that we make.’ ‘OK, how about a Miller Lite?’ This has completely changed now. We educated the college crowd, and because of the great economy now in our state, these young people have stayed here and are demanding craft beer. I think brewpubs don’t get enough respect for creating a grassroots-level of appreciation for craft beer.”

The founders of Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. met while attending the University of Colorado in Boulder in the early 1990s and worked together for a time at Rockies Brewing Co. (when they weren’t hiking, fishing and river rafting). The two free spirits visited Georgia around the time of the 1996 Olympics and saw Atlanta as a city in desperate need of another microbrewery. Sweetwater’s motto is “Don’t Float the Mainstream,” and the company has grown into a craft beer leader in the Southeast by producing West Coast and U.K.-style ales. Their immensely popular Sweetwater 420 outsells Samuel Adams Light and Shiner Bock in the Atlanta area and is the most popular craft beer in the state of Georgia.

The struggle for great beer is most arduous in the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Alabama does have two fine brewpub standouts: Montgomery Brewing Co. and Old Auburn Ale House. Lazy Magnolia is Mississippi’s lone brewery, and brewer Leslie Henderson is well aware of the difficult road ahead in running a brewery in the state. “We knew that this is ‘Bud Country,’ and that natives in southern Mississippi won’t tolerate being told that they need to catch up with the Yanks,” says Henderson. “Instead, we started making beers that use local ingredients (pecans, sweet potatoes and locally produced honey) with flavors designed to pair with the amazing food we have down here. In doing this, we’re adding to the overall culture of the South, not trying to introduce some alien beer culture.”

Creating National Recognition

Linus Hall and his wife Lila started Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Co. in 2003. Linus was a homebrewer who got his professional start working at Brooklyn Brewing Co. After relocating to Nashville, Linus decided to open his own microbrewery in the old Marathon automobile factory near downtown. Yazoo’s beers have become a vital and respected part of Nashville’s beer culture, and the hefeweizen brought home a gold medal from the 2004 Great American Beer Festival.

As to why the beer culture in the South may trail other areas of the country, Linus offers, “Based on the success of many new breweries popping up in the South, I think that southerners do have the taste to appreciate rich flavors of a well-made beer. Look at our food—spicy, rich, barbecued, smoked—much more adventuresome than the fare in some parts of the country where craft beer took off in the beginning. I think with our ever-expanding food culture, the rest of the country better look out, because the South will one day lead the way in craft beer sales!”

John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski started their Athens, GA-based Terrapin Beer Co. in 2002, contract brewing their unique Rye Pale Ale out of Dogwood Brewing in Atlanta. The crisp, refreshing pale ale later went on to beat out 92 other pale ales to win a gold medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. Terrapin is known for using non-traditional ingredients such as rye and coffee and for helping create new styles such as their hoppy India Brown Ale, a cross between a traditional brown ale and an IPA. The company also produces four seasonal “monster beers” that are all over 8%. Terrapin’s beer portfolio, probably one of the most unusual in the Southeast, has enabled the company to begin construction this year of their very own brewery in a 45,000 square-foot warehouse located just outside downtown Athens.

John Stuart of Green Man Brewing believes that the South really has not created its own unique beer styles. His progressive town of Asheville, NC has weather very similar to some parts of the U.K., and this is why Stuart thinks that traditional, British-style ales are so popular there. Green Man has been so successful with their line of pale ale, ESB, IPA and porter, that they have opened a new microbrewing facility and tasting room just down the street from their Jack of the Wood pub (home of their original brewpub). Stuart remarks, “Tasters who visit our microbrewery are very appreciative of our ales, and no one asks for a light lager.”

Paul Philippon of the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, NC rejects the stereotype that beer drinkers in the Southeast only want light bodied beer. “We produce full flavored, full-bodied dark beers. Regional differences make things a lot more interesting than homogeneity, and I hope that Duck-Rabbit can make a positive contribution to the range of beer styles and beer flavors available in the Southeast.”

Great Beer Pubs Make a Difference

The important influence of prominent beer pubs in the region should not be discounted. Bars like Bulldog Pub in New Orleans, Barley’s Pizza in Asheville, and Georgia’s Brick Store in Decatur and Summits Wayside Taverns in Snellville and Cumming serve a staggering array of well-cared-for draft and bottled beers from around the world. Summits’ owner Andy Klubock says, “Our store in Cumming has over 200 different tap lines and as many bottled beers…more than any other place in the country, in our opinion. I think Summits does a good job of introducing new styles to Georgia and allowing customers to continually try new things.”

Many look at Brick Store as one of the most impressive beer bars in the entire country. Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore started the pub in 1997 in a beautiful, historic building on the main courthouse square. The best craft beers available at the time from the region, nation and world were served in proper glassware by friendly, well-trained staff. In 2004, House Bill 645 brought an end to Georgia’s 6% ABV law and allowed beers up to 14% to be sold in the state. This spurred Brick Store to open an impressive, Belgian-themed bar upstairs from the original pub. Blanchard explains, “Our relationship with importers and breweries allows us to offer beers that customers will find almost nowhere else in the state. What’s really encouraging is that people visit the Brick Store from areas of the Northwest or Northeast and say that our pub is better than many of the places in those areas.”

Brick Store’s Mike Gallagher adds, “We get to be creative here in the Southeast. If our pub were located in Portland, Philadelphia or New York, people would be looking to see how we fit in with the established beer culture or what we are doing that’s different. Here, we are helping create the beer culture and set new trends. After we opened and made a success of the place, people admitted to us that they had some big doubts about whether or not we could make the pub work here. They were polite southerners all along the way, but many admitted that they were amazed that we have done so well in a region of the country that has been dominated for so long by light lagers.”

A few obstacles still remain in the journey toward beer enlightenment in the South. Michael Bryant of Dunedin (a pioneering brewery in Tampa) and Kevin Rusk of Titanic Brewery & Restaurant in Miami remain very frustrated by the legal landscape in Florida. Rusk sums up their opinions: “Florida legislators, along with their friends who own Busch Gardens, have purposely manipulated the state’s laws to keep out many craft brewers. Up until 2005, the state also banned any bottle that was not a domestic size, allowing only 8-, 12-, 16- and 32-ounce bottles. This prohibited many fine beers from being sold in the state.”

After a few legal victories favoring craft beer in the past several years, the Georgia Department of Revenue alcohol division has decided to enforce brewery laws that have been basically ignored for years. Breweries are now being fined for bringing beer samples to festivals, telling retail customers where to purchase their beers or doing pint nights at bars. It is still illegal to purchase beer directly from a microbrewery or take home a growler of beer from a brewpub.

Danner Kline’s Free the Hops campaign keeps fighting to raise the beer alcohol limits in Alabama. Kline communicates both frustration and hope when he says, “Influence from the religious right is crippling. Alabama is still overrun with neo-prohibitionists stigmatizing alcohol at every opportunity, portraying alcohol as the ‘Great Satan’ killing children and breaking up families. All of this is detrimental to a culture that appreciates fine alcoholic beverages. I am envious of cities that have a wide variety of breweries when the entire state of Alabama only has one bottling brewery, recently destroyed by fire. The South still has a long way to go, but I think many years from now we’ll have a well-developed beer culture that will not be a carbon copy of the Northwest or Northeast.”

On the whole, beer culture in the South has made remarkable gains in the last 15 years. Rather than viewing the South as lagging behind, many craft brewers now see the region as a land of promise and possibilities. Several breweries in other parts of the country have capitalized on this demand: Ommegang, Oskar Blues, Great Divide, Dogfish Head and Victory are all amazed at the massive volume of beer that they have sold in Georgia alone.

As beer drinkers in the Southeast become more educated and experimental in regard to robust beer styles, the region will offer new horizons and an ever-expanding market for these beers.

Spike Buckowski, brewer for Terrapin in Georgia, sums it up by saying,” I feel that the beer culture in the Southeast is evolving into something very special. It’s really nice to have a wide open market down here and introduce people to creative and flavorful beer styles. To tell the truth, many southeastern craft brewers are producing beers that are still over the heads of many beer drinkers here. In a lot of ways, I kind of like that.”