At a time when beer festivals have become ubiquitous, and sometimes even redundant, The Festival, presented by Shelton Brothers Importers Aug. 18-19 at Southern Exchange at 200 Peachtree, promises to be among the most exciting beer events to land in Atlanta.
The Massachusetts-based Shelton Brothers, who are in fact three beer-loving siblings, debuted the laconically named "The Festival" in Worcester, Mass., in 2012.
By their reckoning, it was the first time so many international craft brewers had gathered together at one event in the U.S. to pour and talk about their beers.
Since then, The Festival has traveled to Portland, Maine, San Pedro, Calif., St. Petersburg, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., boasting a growing number of attendees and breweries each year.
The 2017 Atlanta edition will feature some 100 breweries from around the world, including Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Norway, Japan, New Zealand and Brazil, as well as international artisan cider and mead makers.
That number also includes many American artisan breweries, such as Sante Adairius, Arizona Wilderness, Side Project, Fonta Flora and Jester King, offering beers rarely sold outside the communities where they’re brewed.
While most of the breweries have a relationship with Shelton Brothers as an importer, some of the scarcest and most sought-after offerings, such as Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen and Westvleteren Belgian ales, will be available in Georgia for the first time, and maybe the only time.
Jason Wiles, the owner of Liberator Distributing, which distributes Shelton Brothers beers in Atlanta, has attended the past three festivals, and counts it as one of the very best in the U.S.
"One of the goals of the festival is to highlight what the Shelton Brothers are doing with imports and the brands they’re representing in the market," Wiles says. "But a lot of the beers are not going to be back in the States much, if at all.
"The first Shelton Brothers festival I went to absolutely blew me away. It's an amazing number of beers in one room that you won't see anywhere else. You can walk up to a table, and the brewer, Jean-Pierre Van Roy, is pouring your Cantillon, and you can say thank you and ask a question about it. That's really what makes it special."
Though not officially a part of The Festival, Liberator is helping out with a host of tasting events at beer bars and restaurants around Atlanta that will coincide with the main event.
"The Festival is the best of the best," says Molly Gunn of the Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points. "Not only is it these amazing international beers, but it's also amazing beers from around the U.S., and we're going to be a little part of that, too."
5-9 p.m. Aug. 18; 3-7 p.m. Aug. 19. Single session, $75; weekend pass, $135, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the local nonprofit Friends of Refugees. Southern Exchange at 200 Peachtree, 200 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. tickets.beerfests.com/event/TheFestivalSheltonBrothers.
Among the tasting events leading up to The Festival:
5:30-10 p.m. Aug. 16 at Staplehouse — ATHxATLxAUSxAVL with barbecue from B’s Cracklin’ and beer from Jester King, Burial, and Creature Comforts.
541 Edgewood Ave. SE., Atlanta. 404-524-5005, staplehouse.com.
11 a.m. Aug. 17 at Brick Store Pub — Brick Store Welcomes the World with Shelton Brothers beers and brewers.
125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990, brickstorepub.com.
All day Aug. 17 at the Porter Beer Bar — Farmhouse Takeover, with 50 saison and farmhouse ales on tap.
1156 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com.
3 p.m. Aug. 17 at Kimball House — Oyster Party, with saisons from Burial, Oxbow, Sante Adairius, Fonta Flora and Creature Comforts.
303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur. 404-378-3502, kimball-house.com.