Atlanta's craft beer scene is booming

The Atlanta craft beer scene just keeps getting better, with new and expanding breweries and brewpubs, plus more beer festivals and weekly tours and tastings.

This month, Georgia’s two biggest craft breweries, Sweetwater and Terrapin, mark major milestones. Sweetwater continues a string of 15th anniversary events at the eighth annual Sweetwater 420 Fest, and Terrapin celebrates a decade of beer at the Terrapin 10th Anniversary Carnival.

Terrapin 10th Anniversary Carnival

In 2002, co-founders John Cochran and Brian “Spike” Buckowski poured their first Rye Pale Ale at the Classic City Brew Fest in Athens and Terrapin Beer Co. was born. Ten years later, the company has plans to double its production. The celebration kicks off Saturday at the brewery with a carnival-style party, partnering with local charities for some “fun-raising” games, a beer-filled dunk tank, carnival snacks and a “tattoo parlor.” Of course, there will be beer, including 10 casks, a barrel-aged tent and a special anniversary ale. You can guarantee entry and a special anniversary glass by buying a $17 advance voucher online or in the Terrapin gift shop during tours. 4:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday. Terrapin is open to the public for tours and tastings, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. 265 Newton Bridge Road, Athens. 706-549-3377, terrapinbeer.com.

8th Annual Sweetwater 420 Fest

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Part Earth Day celebration, part music festival, and always a Sweetwater bacchanal, the weekend-long 420 Fest in Candler Park takes its name from the brewery’s best-selling 420 Pale Ale. Performers this year include Maceo Parker, Donna the Buffalo, Mickey Hart Band featuring Dave Schools, and Anders Osbourne. Planet 420 will house local, regional and national nonprofit and environmental organizations. The Relapse 420 Comedy Tent will present live comedy shows and improv workshops. Beer geeks will enjoy a traditional cask ale tasting and sample winners from Sweetwater’s recent Brew Your Cask Off festival, plus the regular Sweetwater lineup on tap. April 20-April 22. Free admission, $5 a day for a 21-plus wristband, sweetwater420fest.com. Sweetwater is open to the public for tours and tastings, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 2:30-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. 195 Ottley Drive N.E., Atlanta. 404-691-2537, sweetwaterbrew.com.

Classic City Brew Fest

In its 17th year, the Classic City Brew Fest has become a true connoisseur’s tasting, with a secluded setting at the Foundry Park Inn in Athens. The lineup features some 250 beers from around the world, including rarities and high gravity offerings, and there’s a new cask ale pavilion. $39.99, available in advance only at classiccitybrew.com/brewfest.html. 2:30-6 p.m. Sunday. 295 E. Dougherty St., Athens. 706-549-7020, foundryparkinn.com.

Dunwoody Beer Festival

Dubbed Hops for Hope, the Dunwoody Beer Festival is a charity event for Camp Twin Lakes, a nonprofit organization that offers year-round programs for children and young adults facing serious illnesses and disabilities. The fest offers more than 150 beers, plus spirits and food vendors. $30 advance; $40 door; $50 VIP. 2-7 p.m. May 12. Perimeter Mall, 4400 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. dunwoodybeerfest.com.

East Atlanta Beer Festival

A fund-raiser for community projects, the East Atlanta Beer Festival at Brownwood Park features more than 150 beers, food vendors and local music. New this year for VIP ticket holders: beer cocktails and ice cream floats. $40 general; $75 VIP. May 19. 602 Brownwood Ave. S.E., Atlanta. eastatlantabeerfest.com.

Brewpub crawls

Brewpubs are great places to get close to the craft brewing process, while enjoying a beer and a bite.

Five Seasons Brewing Co. has brewpubs in Alpharetta (3655 Old Milton Parkway, 770-521-5551), Sandy Springs (5600 Roswell Road, 404-255-5911) and on Atlanta’s westside (1000 Marietta St., 404-875-3232), with different beer and food specials at each location. In Sandy Springs, former Sweetwater brewmaster Kevin McNerny creates a wide variety of styles, including his popular Hopgasm IPA, and offers brewery tours by appointment. 5seasonsbrewing.com.

In honor of Friday the 13th, three Atlanta brewery restaurants are offering a Freaky Friday Brewpub Crawl, with a tour bus scheduled to shuttle passengers around a continuous loop between Five Seasons Westside (1000 Marietta St., 404-875-3232, 5seasonsbrewing.com), Max Lager’s (320 Peachtree St., 404-525-4400, maxlagers.com) and the Wrecking Bar (292 Moreland Ave. N.E., 404-221-2600, wreckingbarbrewpub.com). $9 for bus tour; beer specials and food extra.

The new Eagle & Lion in Griffin is one of the most distinctive breweries anywhere. Owner-brewer Mark Broe's brewpub specializes in English-style cask-conditioned “real ale,” produced with equipment imported from the U.K. Sample hand-drawn mild, bitter, IPA and stout, along with fish and chips and bangers and mash. 414 E. Taylor St., Griffin. 678-408-0308, griffinbrewpub.com.

Brewery tours

In addition to Sweetwater and Terrapin, several other area craft breweries offer weekly tours and tastings.

Open since Labor Day 2011, Marietta’s Red Hare Brewing is one of the newest additions to the ranks of bricks-and-mortar beer producers. Look for Long Day Lager, Gangway IPA, Watership Brown and Rabbit’s Reserve in the brewery’s taproom. Tours and tastings, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 3:30-5:30 p.m. Saturdays. 1998 Delk Industrial Blvd., Marietta. redharebrewing.com.

Atlanta’s Red Brick Brewing and brewmaster Dave McClure have won numerous medals for the company’s core brands, Blonde, Brown, Pale and Porter, and offer seasonal and specialty beers such as the Brick Mason series. Tours and tastings, 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 2-5 p.m. Saturdays. 2323 Defoor Hills Road, Atlanta. 404-355-5558.

Once Georgia’s newest and smallest production craft brewery, Jailhouse Brewing in Hampton has been growing steadily since opening in late 2009. Owner-brewer Glenn Golden has won a following for his Mugshot IPA and Breakout Stout, along with special brews such as the current Saison Reprieve. Tours and tastings 2-6 p.m. Saturdays. 8 Cherry St., Hampton. 678-734-3202, jailhousebrewing.com.

Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw is the metro area’s first “nano” brewery -- meaning it’s really, really small. Owner and longtime homebrewer Scott Hedeen expects to begin tours and tastings in late April and expand with limited distribution in May. 2260 Moon Station Court, Kennesaw. burnthickorybrewery.com.

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