The Rise of Georgia Beer: Everything you need to know about our craft brew scene

So how good are Georgia craft beers?

Phil Farrell
Phil Farrell

Illustration by Claire McCracken

We asked Cumming resident Phil Farrell, one of the nation’s most seasoned beer judges. Farrell, an avid homebrewer, has judged contests all over the world. Drinking beer with him is an education not just about beermaking (he’ll explain esters, phenols, and long-chain proteins) but agriculture, the etymology of the word “alewife,” and why it’s necessary to swallow when he’s judging beer. (“With beer, a lot of it is in the finish.”)

At an upstairs booth at Decatur’s Brick Store Pub—an early and abiding champion of local beer—we presented Farrell with 13 Georgia-made beers, divided by style. We told Farrell only the style of the beer, not the brewery, and asked for his impressions.

Hazy IPA

“I’m getting a lot of grapefruit and orange. Maybe a little tangerine in the aftertaste. Easy on the palate. You could drink a boatload of this one. It’s a very simple, pleasant malt flavor that’s backing all that citrus.”

Monday Night Brewing Archipelago

Monday Night
“Holy crap, that’s a lot of pineapple aroma. I’m tasting some mango and guava. This has a little cattiness—some people say ‘litter box’—which is what some hops do. It’s also got some resins in there, so it’s old school and new school.”


Orpheus Serpent Bite
Orpheus Serpent Bite

Serpent Bite
“I get a little farminess in the nose—some grass, some lemon. The mouthfeel is very grainy with some wheat-like texture. And the aftertaste has a little sweet-sour thing going on. But it’s more fruit than tart.”

MIG: Margarita in Gose
Second Self
“This is lightly tart in a good way. I’m tasting a little orange blossom. The nose reminds me of cinnamon. This is an interesting sour beer. It’s very drinkable and not funky.”

SweetWater Cambium
SweetWater Cambium

Photograph courtesy of SweetWater Brewing Co.

Cambium Wild Ale
“I could smell this all night. I’m getting apple and pear and everything else. But it’s really mild. A lot of these complex sours, they’re hard to drink because there’s too much ethyl acetate, too much acetic acid. Not this one. It’s gorgeous.”


Morning Smack
Three Taverns
“There’s a lot of things going on here—coffee, vanilla, chocolate. There’s not very much carbonation. I’d want more. But it comes together really nicely. There’s so many things going on you can make it whatever you want it to be.”

Big Shanty
Burnt Hickory
“There’s a lot of spice in here, a lot of cinnamon, but not at the burning point. If I was blindfolded, I’d say this was a brown beer, because it doesn’t taste like a stout. It tastes like a strong ale with a lot of other things in it. This reminds me of a Christmas beer. Allspice and nutmeg.”

2017 U.S. beer sales
Source: IRI worldwide

$34 billion, up 1.2% from 2016
Of that, $4 billion is craft beer, up 5.6% from 2016


Emergency Drinking Beer
Wild Heaven
“A nice beer for someone who likes light lagers and pilsners. It’s got a little bit of sweet malt—what we commonly refer to as graham cracker. This is reminiscent of a German-style helles.”

Rally Point
“This is very grainy, with a lot of malt. There are some herbal hops—unusual for a pilsner. I feel like I’m drinking a substantial beer, but if I was looking for a more traditional pilsner, this is not it. But I really like the flavor.”


Creature Comforts Athena

Photograph courtesy of Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts
“This is a tart weiss. There’s a balanced amount of lactic sourness. When I swallow it, it cleanses my palate and I want to drink some more. When it’s unbalanced, your body tries to stop it. Your epiglottis closes up. But this is really well done.”

Queen Weiss
“The wheat gives it a lot of fluffiness. The yeast will give you clove, banana, tutti frutti, and vanilla. This beer doesn’t travel or age well, but they did a nice job. It’s starting to taste a little old, because I’m starting to taste more spice than fruit.”


Galaxy Drifter
“This is old school. Big alcohol. But even though there’s the pine resin, there’s mango and grapefruit notes, with a little apple aftertaste. It has lingering bitterness, like in the old school IPAs.”


“It’s very fruity and well-balanced. I’m not getting a lot of pine and resin. There’s nothing dank about it, like you get from diesel-y hops.”