A Tour of SweetWater Brewery, Atlanta

A Tour of SweetWater Brewery, Atlanta

building

If you happen to find your way down the industrial dead-end of Armour Drive in Atlanta, keep your eyes open for a set of large tanks and some bright tie-dyed trucks. Sitting in this somewhat desolate stretch of warehouses, machine shops and random businesses is SweetWater Brewery, home to some of the South’s best selling craft brews and a bevy of beer awards (like a recent World Beer Cup gold for their Dank Tank series “the Creeper”), not to mention some pretty outrageously outfitted vehicles. SweetWater has grown its way into being a major regional player in the craft beer movement, trailing only Abita among Southeastern breweries by volume. The best way to experience SweetWater and their combination of great beer and a distinctly laid-back attitude is at one of their tours, which include your chance to belly up to the bar and sample the brew. The crowd, up to 2000 beer lovers on a nice week, is a happy mix of SweetWater regulars, beer tourists, and locals out to experience what is becoming an Atlanta institution (of beer).

Thirsty South recently met with SweetWater’s “Minister of Propaganda” Steve Farace, who filled us in on all the great stuff brewing at SweetWater. Most prominently on the horizon is their “Brew Your Cask Off” cask ale festival in March, which will be even bigger (and better!) in 2011 than it was for last year’s inaugural event. For this event, SweetWater partners with an array of special guests (from bars and restaurants, to retailers and local charities) to create unique individual casks.

cooler

Also on the horizon for SweetWater is continued growth – SweetWater moved into their current brewery location back in 2004 and now has more than 25,000 square feet of tanks and beer necessities. If they were to run non-stop, their capacity would be roughly 100,000 barrels per year, but watch for some serious expansion to help manage the growth at the brewery in 2011. To date, they’ve kept distribution focused on a select group of cities in the six state area around Atlanta, both to keep a good handle on delivering fresh beer frequently (their beer is unpasteurized and freshness is a mantra for them) and due to the fact that adding new markets would quickly lead to demand outrunning supply. SweetWater has done a great job of balancing growth with a strong focus on their craft beer, with a core of year-round mainstays like 420 and Georgia Brown, a small group of seasonal specials like Festive Ale and Happy Ending, and the decidedly more adventurous, limited release “Dank Tank” series.

The SweetWater tour is a great way to taste all that’s currently brewing – Exodus Porter and Festive Ale are among the harder-to-find releases that are currently on tap. So, get on over to the SweetWater brewery to experience one of the South’s leading craft brewers firsthand. In the meantime, here’s a photo tour (best accompanied by a SweetWater 420, dressed in tie-dye):

Entering the brewery, the mood is quickly set…
sign

The parking lot, filled with SweetWater-esque tie-dyed vehicles, further infuses the feel…

Outside, the big tanks, some colorful pallets, and a truck bearing taps let you know this is serious beer territory…
tanks
Pallets
truck

Inside the brewery, malt, barrels, and the infamous Dank Tank…



dank

Kegs in the cooler, a small (12,400 gallon) tank in the brewery, and the inner workings…
Kegs

The SweetWater lineup on tap…
menu
taps

The crowd at the bar…

Finally, departing the brewery at dusk…into the night…

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