With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. We’ve officially hit our tenth state on the list, the one most commonly known as The Peach State, Georgia. While it’s motto of “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation” may not jive with the fact that it was first state to brew in the “deep south,” it has since earned a proclivity for craft brewing , with 22 years under its belt.
The Empire State of the South stands eighth in total population (just over 10 million), has 36 brewers making up the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild and at last count 47 craft brewers total. The state ranks 24th in total breweries and 45th in breweries per capita as of 2014, according to the Brewers Assocation.
The seeds of Georgia’s brewing history are deep and were sown long ago. In 1738, only six years after the state became the last of the original 13 colonies, Major William Horton was granted Jekyll Island by the trustees of the colony. Upon this land he built a home and farmed crops to supply the troops garrisoned at nearby Fort Frederica. Two of those crops were hops and barley, enabling him to brew the first beer in Georgia. We’re pretty sure the Major had no problem finding volunteers for that duty…
The most prominent brewer before and after prohibition in Georgia, and perhaps the entire Southeast, was Atlantic Brewing. Known by many names from 1867 to 1956 (The City Brewery, Atlantic Ice & Coal,The Atlantic Company, etc.), Atlantic brewed only in Atlanta prior to prohibition, but afterwards expanded throughout the South to Chattanooga, Charlotte, Norfolk and Orlando. They survived by touting themselves as a regional brewer, yet like most other breweries in the 50’s and 60’s, they eventually succumbed to national brewers Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz.
The state’s first craft brewer, founded in 1993, is Red Brick Brewing. Originally named Atlanta Brewing Company, their first flagship beer was suggested to be called John J . Bips Ale, named after the long time brewmaster at Atlantic. Instead they opted for Red Brick Ale which became the brewery’s name in 2010. The name is derived from a speech given by Atlanta’s mayor following General Sherman’s burning of the town, stating that Atlanta would “rise from the ashes like a phoenix” and be rebuilt “one red brick at a time.”
Six More Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Creature Comforts Brewing (Athens) – Open just over a year and already deemed one of the “Best New Breweries in the U.S.” Creature Comforts sets themselves apart as a brewery that’s “dedicated to better being by being curious.” Already a medal winner at last year’s GABF for their Curiousity No. 2, an American Brett Ale with Kiwi and Pineapple juice, we can’t wait for what they come up with next.
Monday Night Brewing (Atlanta – Berkeley Park) – It’s not often you come across a group of brewers who formed as a result of a Monday Night bible study, but that’s very much the case with MNB. Founded in 2011, the brewery spent 5 years honing their craft before coming to market and their diligence paid off with a gold medal at GABF last year for their Bourbon Barrel Drafty Kilt.
Orpheus Brewing (Atlanta – Piedmont Park) – Another new brewery opened within the past two years, Orpheus specializes in barrel-aged sour beers, yet has also created a series of IPAs focusing more on the diverse flavors they can invoke, instead of straight bitterness. Along with Creature Comforts, Orpheus was named one of 15 Breweries to Watch in 2015.
Sweetwater Brewing (Atlanta – Brookwood Hills) – The second largest brewer in the South, Sweetwater is brewing nearly 200 thousand barrels a year, while simultaneously raking in 12 GABF medals through the years. In operation since 1997, Sweetwater is the states’ second oldest craft brewer, winning over millions of beer fans with their flagship 420 IPA, while setting industry standards in sustainability.
Terrapin Beer (Athens) – Georgia’s second largest brewer, producing around 65,000 barrels per year, Terrapin are as well known for their canned easy drinking IPAs and ales as they are for their small batch side-project series and special releases. Open for over 13 years, Terrapin has been awarding 3 GABF medals in that span, including one in their opening year.
Three Taverns Brewery (Decatur) – Open for just over 2 years and producing around 20 styles in that time, Three Taverns may not be as prolific as other newcomers in the state, yet they are one of the best rated brewers in the South. With most of their beers available in bottles and 8 varieties available “at the parlour,” these handcrafted beers are not to be missed.
Didn’t find a brewery near you listed here? Go to the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild for an excellent state map.