The 2012 Decatur Craft Beer Festival

What does a whole pig have to do with beer? Nothing, but this is Georgia, so deal with it!

2012 Atlanta Beer Week kicked off with the Decatur Beer Festival and this year was a festival to beat all. Not only did ACB get to attend some pre-beer week events, such as the Brewers’ Ball at Sweetwater Brewing and the Brewers’ Brunch at The Square Pub, but we got our fill of great beer and some newcomers to the Atlanta Market and Decatur Festival that we really enjoyed.

Josh Brewer, Head Brewer of Mother Earth, and John McDonald, Founder of Boulevard Brewing, grab some grub before the festival begins.Just when we thought the Decatur Beer Fest was already a great kickoff to Atlanta Beer Week, the folks at Savannah Distributing and the Square Pub put on a great Brewer’s Brunch so that all of us “professional drinkers” could get a good breakfast before our day of sampling. Adding to an amazing spread of breakfast offerings (notably lots of proper thick cut bacon and thick patties of sausage and a great cheese selection from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, GA) they coupled it all with Anchor’s Small Beer, Finch’s (Beer Co.) Fascist Pig Ale, and Red Hare’s Cask IPA.

Industry folks of all kind were present, from owners of local brewpubs and regional breweries to local and regional sales representatives.

We spoke with Zack Koenigsberg of Lone Rider Beer of Raleigh, NC and he is excited to, finally, be moving Lone Rider into the Atlanta market after some long delays. We Zack Koenigsberg of Lone Rider Beer in Raleigh, NC is excited to be at the festival this year for the first time.also got to visit with Josh Brewer, the head brewer at mother earth. Most notably, Mother Earth is gearing up for the release of their Holiday favorite Silent Night in early December. Finally, we were happy to visit with John McDonald, the founder of Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, MO. John was here for the first year as Boulevard now moves into the Atlanta market and we are really happy to welcome him.

Before stepping outside, we were given a sampling of Bell’s This One Goes to 11, their 11% double IPA made from seven plus grains and finished with Simcoe hops. While giving ample warmth from the elevated alcohol content it was a perfect balanced blend of “maltiness” and citrus/hop flavor, Kalamazoo MI represent!

The Lion & Eagle Pub from Griffon, GA, here with a smokin' volunteer from the Deactur fire department, had some great cask ales.Stepping right outside into Decatur Square the Festival was already in full-blown action with lines already forming at folks’ favorite breweries. Talking with several volunteer “pourers”, they were all well informed of their respective offerings, from either brewery or distributing folks. This illustrates the industries’ recognition that their fans want to know what they’re enjoying and whatever back-story may accompany the beer.

Some notable standouts were Highland Brewing’s Cold Mountain, aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels and Red Brick’s 17th Anniversary and Smoked Vanilla Gorilla.  Lazy Magnolia was also on site, glad to finally share their first high gravity beer, their Timber Beast Rye IPA after Mississippi’s recent new legislation, finally allowing the brewing of high gravity beer.

In addition to established brewers, a number of start-up breweries were at the festival this year. Blue Tarp, Strawn, and the fellows from Balance Brewing were there as well as an impressive cask or two from the Eagle and Lion Brewpub in Griffon, GA. While each of these newcomers are in various stages of “finding their groove”, they speak to the rapid growth of the Atlanta brewing community and progress that is being made by the George Craft Brewers Guild in eliminating some of the legislative barriers to entering the market.

The weather was perfect and the crowds excited. There’s no mystery as to why this annual favorite beer festival often sells out within days.

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