2015 was undeniably a year of growth, but also a frustrating one for the Atlanta craft beer community. When state legislature passed Beer Jobs Bill (SB 63), local brewers could finally sell (some of) their beer directly to consumers on site, a right they’d long been fighting for and one that almost every other state in the country enjoys (save for us, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Hawaii).
But subsequent and sudden regulations by the Department of Revenue effectively hamstrung the law before it had a chance to benefit anyone. Now stuck in an odd limbo, craft brewers are fighting for the right to operate as the law says they should be able to. “If the DOR regulations were to change, I know personally I could employee twice as many employees if not more,” says Kathy Davis of the soon-to-open Roswell brewery Abbey of the Holy Goats. “Allowing more beer commerce in Georgia should not only be a goal of the beer industry, but the local communities that breweries are located in. We’ve got roughly 30 production breweries in Georgia, if the laws change—what if all of them doubled their employees?”
Despite the bureaucratic tangle of red tape, 2016 is shaping up to be a banner year for beer. The rate of new projects in development is only speeding up, and in the immediate area around Atlanta, I’ve counted at least 11 new breweries that intend to pour their first official beers in 2016. Also on deck is Atlanta’s first-ever cider producer, Urban Tree Cidery. They hope to open in February, and when they do, they’ll enjoy the same privilege as Georgia’s wineries: selling their product on site directly to consumers. If that sounds inconsistent with regulation policies, it’s because it is.
Abbey of the Holy Goats (Roswell)
One of several opening in Roswell, this brewery aims to start production in January and will be one of the state’s few female-owned and operated breweries. Kathy Davis raised more than $32,000 on Kickstarter to put toward everything from the tasting room to plumbing. She’ll focus primarily on Belgian styles, with barrel-aged sours following in the next year. Says Davis of the initial lineup: “The four year-round ‘clean’ beers will be Belgian-style. A Belgian-style session ale (not yet named), a bold Belgian-style ale coming around 6.2% ABV (Lazy Goat), a floral saison at 7.2% ABV (Goats in the Garden) and a Belgian-influenced Double IPA (not yet named).”
Drinkers will be able to enjoy these brews in what sounds like a unique “Tasting Hall” with a projected March opening date, designed in the style of “a monk’s hall with a 26-foot table with benches, a fireplace, stained glass and candelabras, a working organ and no TV.” Sounds like quite the temple to beer.
Left Nut Brewing Co. (Gainesville)
This curiously named brewery will be located in the Chicopee Mill in Gainesville, which had previously been owned by Johnson & Johnson and is on the National Register of Historic Places. They’ve received local and federal permits and are in the final phase of seeking state permits, according to CEO Pap Datta, who says the brewery would open for production before seeking a public opening around the end of February. And the name? “It’s built on vernacular,” he says. “It symbolizes when you’re willing to give up something that you value to do something you really desire.”
Launch beers will include what Datta thinks of as the brewery’s core portfolio, including an English-style brown ale with Georgia pecans, a blonde ale, and a DIPA. Like many of the smaller-town breweries on this list, Left Nut hopes to integrate itself into the history and culture of the community. “Drinking beer is about dialog, and doing it with other people,” Datta says. “It’s about talking, laughing, and debating. So all of the beers will have a story associated with our name. They’ve all connected to us personally, or to the local folklore and legends.”
Gate City Brewing Co. (Roswell)
Roswell’s other new craft brewery, set to open in either January or February, will cover significantly different ground from the Belgian and sour-heavy portfolio of Abbey of the Holy Goats, which should be a boon for drinkers in the suburb who are exploring craft beer for the first time. Gate City Brewing, in fact, has already hit the market in limited quantity, contract-brewed at Reformation Brewing. Co-founder Garrett Nail says he’s just waiting on “the issuance of one permit from the Department of Agriculture,” and that their brewhouse is built, running smoothly, and ready to go. A full tasting room would follow at some point in the second quarter of 2016.
Says Nail of the two beers currently in the market: “Right now we have Copperhead, a slightly hoppy amber ale, and a beer called 1864, an American IPA. We haven’t finalized our production schedule yet, but we anticipate the next beer would be a porter, and all three would be year-rounders, with a host of additional seasonals and one-offs.”
Southern Sky Brewing Co. (Kennesaw)
Southern Sky is a remarkable one-man suburban operation, not far from fellow Kennesaw brewers Burnt Hickory. It’s the brainchild of Jon Near, a mechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin who left aerospace to pursue his passion in beer. The brewery’s motto, “A little bit out there,” is a fitting description of the experimental beers that Near finds interesting. They include a “pink ale,” described as a fusion of Belgian white and Irish red, along with multiple IPA variants, a Belgian dark strong ale, and a raspberry/black currant “lambic,” which presumably saw some spontaneous fermentation if it’s bearing that title.
Southern Sky also has a set date for its first public unveiling and will host a “tasting room launch party” Jan. 23. Regular hours for tours and tastings seem to be set every Friday night from that point on, from 5-8 p.m.
Torched Hop (Atlanta)
Opening only blocks from the Fox Theatre and across the street from Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce in the former Old Spaghetti Factory building, Torched Hop aims to bring another brewpub to the heart of Atlanta. Build-out is currently underway and quite active, judging from photos regularly published to the brewery’s Facebook account. Co-owner Stephen Bivins, who will operate the brewpub with his brewmaster brother Chris, says that the brewery/restaurant will project a relaxed, casual feel. “We like the vibe of the brewpubs in Georgia,” Bivins says. “Our big focus is going to be on pizza and hamburgers. Nothing too upscale, just a place where anyone in the community can come hang out. Out in California they have Pizza Port, and we drew a lot of inspiration from them.” As for the beer, Bivins says Torched Hop will attempt to maintain 16 taps of their own beer, “with a wide variety from hop-forward to Belgians.”
Urban Tree Cidery (Atlanta)
Atlanta will finally embrace the national hard cider craze with the winter/spring opening of Urban Tree, its first local cidery, located in West Midtown at 1465 Howell Mill Rd. Owner Tim Resuta says construction is nearing completion on a space meant to accommodate 300 people for cider tastings, tours and special events.
Ciders will include three flagships, with a “substantial portion” of the apples being locally sourced. “Classic” will be a semi-sweet cider that is crisp and refreshing. “Original” is a European-style, semi-dry cider crafted “to be hearty, with subtle notes of apple sweetness.” “Barrel-Aged,” meanwhile, is “robust, with hints of oaky vanilla aromas developed after time in Nicaraguan rum barrels.” Additional special releases will also include ciders infused with hops, and everything from ginger to habanero peppers. We can’t help but be curious—these are going to be very different ciders from anything that most drinkers have experienced before.
Arches Brewing (Hapeville)
Arches Brewing could very well be your new pre- or post-airport stopover, as it will be located just northeast of Hartsfield-Jackson. Construction is currently underway, according to co-founder Ryan Fogelgren, who also confirmed that the brewery would be draft-only for “the first year at least.” They’ve already workshopped many recipes and will differentiate themselves with a bigger focus on lagers, including a series of four seasonal lagers in different styles that will be offered throughout the year. “That’s just how we’ve always done it—we like to drink seasonally, and you can’t always get these types of lager styles with the craze around ales,” Fogelgren says. “We’ll be using traditional, time-consuming methods of lager-brewing such as decoction. We think that will differentiate us from the breweries not just in Atlanta but nationwide.”
Fogelgren describes this as a marriage of modern and old-world brewing processes, overseen by biochemist and brewer Jamey Adams. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one with a particular curiosity for what styles will be represented in those seasonal lagers.
Scofflaw Brewing Co. (Atlanta)
Scofflaw Brewing Co. hopes to open a new production brewery on Atlanta’s northwest side, in the Bolton neighborhood, not far from Red Brick Brewing. A building was leased a year ago, located just behind Crest Lawn Cemetery, with a production brewery to open first and a full tasting room to follow, according to owner Matt Shirah. Expect a West Coast-inspired brewery with plenty of big, bold IPAs and sours. “Our brewmaster, Travis Herman, brewed on the West Coast at Russian River and Lost Abbey, and he brings a lot of that hop savvy with him, but he’s also done a lot of sours,” Shirah says. “We’ll have a sour side in our build-out, a funky cellar for those beers. We’ll do all the really crazy stuff we want to do and also meet some market demand.”
Oak Brewpub (Decatur, Oakhurst)
A local brewpub in the heart of the Oakhurst neighborhood seems like a no-brainer, and it’s easy to imagine the locals flocking here just as they do for special tappings at Steinbeck’s Ale House. Owner Daniel McKinney has hired brewer Charles Duffney, whose resume includes Westbrook Brewing and Orpheus, is a graduate of the Siebel Institute in Chicago, widely recognized as the country’s premier program for learning professional brewing. Oak Brewpub will be self-sufficient, with all its product consumed on-premises. As for what they’ll be brewing, McKinney hasn’t quite decided: “It will depend on when we open. We’ll definitely have three to four beers that you can expect to see regularly, and seven to eight rotating beers depending on the season. If we were open right now, we’d be making some heavier beers, spiced beers.”
Lake Country Brewing (Greensboro)
A former mill built in 1917 will be the site for this Greensboro brewery, which is just beginning work on the building this month. Owner and head brewer Taylor Lamm is eyeing an optimistic late summer opening and will target “a broad range” of beer styles, while making an obvious concession to the summer crowds who spend time in the lake country around Greensboro with a lake-appropriate lager. “It won’t be just Belgian styles or German styles or any one thing,” he says. “I feel confident there will be an American IPA, but beyond that it will be eclectic.”
Lake Country Brewing will start out on draft accounts, but Lamm notes that they’ll “definitely be doing cans over bottles” once they make the jump to packaging.
To be determined
MAZURT continues to be something of an enigma when it comes to potential brewery projects opening in the Atlanta area. Operated by homebrewing partners Dan Rosen and Hamp Covington, their barrel-aged imperial stouts have been sampled by few, but have racked up awards at the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting and at Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day. It sounds like a great pedigree, and unsurprisingly there has been talk of a physical MAZURT brewery for quite a while now (Creative Loafing wrote they were getting “very close” to a physical location all the way back in 2013).
It’s hard to know what one should expect. My direct inquiry to Rosen and Covington wasn’t returned, but Rosen did write online that the pair had been gypsy brewing in Georgia and North Carolina in 2015. He also wrote the following: “In 2016, expect a crowd funding campaign for MAZURT as we secure our own facility in the Atlanta metro area.”
Green Line Brewery (Canton)
There’s little information about this brewery available, and the project may be dead in the water at this point. The business has both a website and Facebook account, but neither has been updated since the summer of 2015, and both point toward a fall 2015 opening that came and went. Efforts to reach the owners were not successful, so we’ll see if these Canton brewers resurface at some point in 2016.