Beer Town: Picking 25 of Georgia's best beers

In case you missed it, last week I picked 25 of Georgia’s best beers.

The list was part of a larger, more ambitious Georgia beer package put together by AJC editor Holly Steel that ran in Living & Arts on Sept. 13 and Go Guide on Sept. 18. And while I’ve always resisted list-making, in the context it made a lot of sense.

Not long ago, Sweetwater and Red Brick in Atlanta and Terrapin in Athens were the only three production craft breweries operating in the state. Now, that number has grown to some 30, spread all around the state, with many more in planning or opening soon.

That means that with seasonals and one-offs, there are hundreds of Georgia beers available every year. That’s certainly something to toast. But it made picking 25 of the best a much more daunting task. What can be the criteria be, I wondered, seconds after I agreed to try.

When I started to panic, I sought the sage advice of Phil Farrell and Owen Ogletree, two of Georgia’s best-known beer writers, who also happen to be certified beer judges. They both offered their own lists, which confirmed I might be on the right track.

Ultimately, though, the list with all its quirks was mine alone, and here’s how I tried to explain it: “These are the beers we like right now or have liked for a long time, skewed toward the iconic, historic, exciting and readily available year-round. We also tried for a mix of styles, without leaving out old favorites. Still, there are probably way too many IPAs.”

Creature Comforts Tropicalia, Jekyll Hop Dang Diggety, Monday Night Eye Patch, Orpheus Transmigration of Souls, Red Brick Hoplanta, Second Self Red Hop Rye, Service Compass Rose, Southbound Hoplin’, Sweetwater IPA and Three Taverns A Night on Ponce all made the list.

That’s 10 IPAs or fully two-fifths of the list. As I said, probably way too many IPAs. But guess what? IPA is still the most popular craft beer style. American brewers, including Georgia brewers, make great IPAs.

And that’s not going to change anytime soon, according to Brewers Association economist Bart Watson, who recently wrote about the exponential growth of the style since 2008 and pointed to a trend toward “the IPA-ification of everything: hoppy wheats, hoppy browns, SMASH (single malt and single hop) beers, and more.”

What’s more, in an AJC readers poll, Tropicalia topped the list, and could well be the IPA of the future.

As I wrote: “Arguably the biggest buzz beer in recent Georgia history comes from the Athens brewery known for crafting takes on classic styles that bring out something new. In this case, it’s a hoppy beer for people who think they don’t like hops. True to its name, here’s a soft, sensual IPA bursting with lush tropical fruit.”

One more thing of note. If go back for a look at the 25 best list, you’ll notice that only production breweries are included. That was a tough decision. But we do love Georgia’s brewpubs and plan to cover them in another story, soon.

In the meantime, you can vote for your favorite of the 25.

BEER EVENTS

Red Brick Anniversary Party: Celebrate 22 years of beer 6-9 p.m. Sept. 26 from 6-9 pm with Georgia's oldest craft brewery. Tickets include a 22 oz bottle of Red Brick 22nd Anniversary Double IPA, plus commemorative glassware  (while supplies last). Brewers will be pulling out special reserves from the cellar, food trucks will be on hand, and there will be entertainment from Red Brick's brewery band, Great Gig in the Rye.

Second Self Anniversary Party: Celebrating its very 1st Anniversary on Oct. 3, with two shifts, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2 p.m.- 4 p.m., pouring 16 different beers in the Tasting Room, including favorites from the past year, plus three different versions of the favorite Molè Porter.

Georgia Craft Beer Festival:   Also on Oct. 3, the benefit for the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild  features over 30 top Georgia breweries showcasing their signature craft beers and attracting beer enthusiasts from all over the state. The festival will include games, live entertainment, and food trucks.

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