Marietta’s Red Hare Brewing taps into growing craft beer business

Hanging from the side of one of the bubbling fermentation tanks at Marietta’s Red Hare Brewing Co. is a hand-lettered sign that reads, “God is Good.”

Asked about the sign one afternoon, Red Hare owner Roger Davis flashed a broad smile and offered a bit of brewing history.

“The early monks who made beer and stored it in caves didn’t know all the science behind it,” Davis said. “But fermentation was considered a gift from God and yeast became known as ‘God is Good.’”

Red Hare quietly opened over Labor Day weekend, surprising many metro craft beer drinkers, some of whom found it nothing short of miraculous that a new brewery could pop up with so little fanfare.

But the sudden presence of Red Hare Long Day Lager at Johnny McCracken’s in Marietta and Square Pub in Decatur, along with appearances at the Decatur Craft Beer Festival and Taste of Atlanta, proved there is, indeed, another local beer around.

Davis’ story of becoming “semiretired from the corporate world” in 2009 and founding Red Hare with his homebrew buddy, Bobby Thomas, tracks the course of many similar entrepreneurial enterprises in the growing craft beer business.

“We’ve been brewing the beer for about three years,” Davis said. “But we were two years into it before we got to the point that we decided we were really going to make a stab at it.”

Conducting visitors through the 11,000-square-foot warehouse on Delk Industrial Boulevard that serves as Red Hare’s offices, brewhouse and tasting room, Davis pointed to a homemade brew kettle inconspicuously perched on a shelf.

The kettle was once the heart of the basement system Davis and Thomas used to make their first batch of homebrew. Now it sits as a kind of museum piece, dwarfed among shiny new, industrial-sized towers of equipment capable of producing thousands of gallons of commercial quality beer.

Thomas, who does the the bulk of the brewing, expanded his knowledge by taking courses in brewing science at the University of California at Davis. But he said there was no substitute for the intensive first-hand experience of the past few months.

“You can figure out a recipe and build a beer that fits your brewhouse,” Thomas said. “Having a good system to brew on and a good facility to brew in is the key.”

As to the name, Red Hare, Thomas said it comes from a combination of his bright red hair and goatee and the rabbits that run through Davis’ Lower Roswell Road backyard. The company slogan is “Chase the Rabbit.”

Besides Long Day Lager, Red Hare has two other beers available on draft at bars and at growler stations in stores such as the Merchant Walk Whole Foods. Gangway is an American-style IPA and Watership Brown is an English-style brown ale.

All three beers have been popular at the brewery’s weekly Friday evening and Saturday afternoon tours and tastings. But Davis and Thomas consider Long Day both their flagship brand and mark of distinction.

While many craft breweries concentrate on bigger, bolder ale styles aimed at beer aficionados, Long Day Lager is an easy-going brew pitched toward drinkers of light American lagers, like Budweiser and Miller.

“We think the lager will be the product that will sustain us,” Davis said. “We always want to do things that are exotic and fun, but our business model is not to make those things a priority. We don’t want to make the flavor of the month.”

Derik Ciccarelli, who works at Highlands Grill, a beer and sports bar in Kennesaw, agreed the first time he tasted Long Day Lager at the brewery.

“Red Hare’s philosophy of drinkability really synchs up with what we’re doing,” Ciccarelli said. “It’s absolutely about getting people into craft beer and educating them. Someone who drinks light beer and is interested in maybe drinking something a little bit better, the lager is great for them.”

Beyond its core brands, Red Hare soon will offer several seasonal beers as part of the Rabbit’s Reserve Series, beginning with Chocolate Porter, set to debut at a party at the brewery on Saturday.

Davis and Thomas enjoy the opportunity to show off the brewery on tours and the beers in the tasting room. But they agreed, sometimes they have to laugh when people tell them how lucky they are to be in the beer business.

“Selling your beer is the easy part,” Thomas said. “Making beer is hard. It’s really hard work every day.”

“People come by here every week, who’ve been brewing in their basement, and they want to own a brewery, too,” Davis said. “They’ll say they’re really getting ready to do it.

"I say, ‘Great. That’s exactly what we did. But it takes two years of unencumbered time and a million dollars in cash. If you don’t have both of those things, it’s going to be really tough.’”

At a Glance

Red Hare Brewing Co.

1998 Delk Industrial Blvd., Marietta

Taproom open for tours and tastings, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Fridays; 3:30-5:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Chocolate Porter release party with live music, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 5.