Wild Heaven prepares to break ground on brewery

Founder Nick Purdy and brewmaster Eric Johnson share their plans
Wild Heaven's Eric Johnson and Nick Purdy

By Chris Rank

Wild Heaven Craft Beers, a company that started in 2010, led by Paste magazine publisher Nick Purdy and brewmaster and Athens’ Trappeze Pub owner Eric Johnson, will open a brick-and-mortar brewery in Avondale Estates this March. Located at 135 Maple Street, Wild Heaven will offer seven or eight of its Belgian-style beers and be set up in similar style to SweetWater Brewing Co. and Three Taverns Brewery with drink tickets and souvenir beer glasses. Purdy and Johnson, who will preside over a groundbreaking ceremony tonight, shared plans for the space.

Why Avondale Estates?
Johnson: We’ve been part of the Decatur scene since we started—that’s where our heart is. Nick lives in Avondale and the city has been extremely supportive. Once the building was available it became a no-brainer.

How big will the brewery be?
Purdy: About 8,000 square feet with a 1,000-square-foot cooler box outside, plus a 3,000 to 4,000-square-foot enclosed patio with stage for bands.

How much will the tastes cost?
Purdy: Most breweries charge $10 to $12—we’ll be somewhere in there. Georgia law allows for up to 32 ounces of beer, so that’s what we’ll offer.

Tell us about Pearly Gates—what it is and why it will matter to brewery guests.
Purdy: Pearly Gates is Eric’s unique system for the pilot batches—it’s a small, one-barrel system. It will be placed next to main production system. It allows Eric to experiment. There will always be something you can taste (test batches) that hasn’t be sold anywhere else.

Will you serve any new beers when the brewery opens?
Johnson: We’re working on a stout and a saison for shortly after we launch the brewery—probably in the spring.

What will the brewery look like?
Purdy: It’s an industrial ‘40s warehouse. We’ll be working with reclaimed materials when we can. Our beer and personality is very Belgian, very Old World European, so the brewery will be a blend of industrial design and Old European.

How do you feel about so many different breweries opening in Atlanta?
Johnson: There has been a min- boom of breweries opening here, but Georgia still lags far behind many states in terms of number of breweries per capita, so we’re still in major catch-up mode. It’s a good thing. There’s definitely room for everybody. To put it in perspective, Colorado has 150 craft breweries; Georgia has about 20.

Anything else we should know?
Purdy: We’re extremely excited to host people at the brewery next year and unleash Eric—one of finest brewers in the country. [After transitioning from consulting brewmaster to full-time Wild Heaven brewmaster], he will finally be able to do his whole thing.