Though he’s one of the pioneers of craft beer in Georgia, former SweetWater brewmaster Kevin McNerney has been keeping a low profile the past few years — primarily working as a consultant, and helping launch several new breweries, including From the Earth Brewing Co. in Roswell and Glover Park Brewery in Marietta.
But earlier this year, McNerney decided it was time to get back in the game, again, in a bigger way. And after designing and installing the brewery, and taking on the role of brewmaster, he joined Glover Park founders Sam Rambo and Hank DuPre as a business partner.
Historically, McNerney co-founded SweetWater in 1997 with University of Colorado roommate Freddy Bensch. And during McNerney’s decade-plus run at SweetWater, the expanding company won a string of medals and awards, including Small Brewery of the Year at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival.
After leaving SweetWater in 2008 to spend more time with his family, McNerney took over as brewmaster at Five Seasons Brewing Co. in Sandy Springs, a move he described at the time as part of a search for a better quality of life.
One recent afternoon at Glover Park, McNerney joined Rambo and DuPre for a round of beers in the taproom, where they talked about opening the brewery in a historic building close to Marietta Square, and what they hope to bring to the surrounding community.
“I feel like every step I’ve made in my life has been for a purpose,” McNerney said. “There’s a reason I was in Colorado, and met Freddy Bensch, and then came to Atlanta and opened up SweetWater. Every one of those moves fit almost exactly into the puzzle of my life.
“After SweetWater, I enjoyed my stint at Five Seasons. And I enjoyed my consulting work, because it put me out in the Atlanta market, building breweries, and being part of different projects. But one thing that was missing is that it was never me putting my name on the brewery and attaching myself to the community. So I’m really excited that I can put my time and energy into this community. It’s almost like coming out of retirement.”
Rambo and DuPre are both multigenerational Marietta natives, with deep connections to the community, and strong affinities for the history and culture of Marietta Square. Named for the green space at the center of the Square, Glover Park is housed in a renovated 1930s brick building on Atlanta Street that was originally a Sears store and later a lighting fixture business.
The extensive build-out includes a large, street-level private event space, and downstairs the brewery and taproom open to a beer garden with a dedicated space for food trucks.
“There were a lot of serious structural issues that had to be dealt with, so we literally took the building and stripped it back to its bare walls and started over, again,” DuPre said, “but it was worth it.
“Having lived here all our lives, and growing up with the Square being the center of our lives, Sam and I felt like Marietta needed some new, cool, interesting stuff. So we’re excited that we were able to bring this here, and that the community has responded and been excited, too.”
With a 10-barrel brewery and a number of fermentation and serving tanks, McNerney has been turning out a variety of beer styles, with up to 12 different beers on tap at all times. Among the favorites, Base Camp is an ale/lager hybrid, Raspberry Breeze is a fruited Berliner Weisse, and Some Beach is a tropical IPA.
With all that going on, McNerney said he plans to enter his Glover Park beers in competitions, including the Great American Beer Festival.
“I’m back,” McNerney said. “I’m all in. I felt like I’ve been on the sidelines, brewing at other places, and building breweries for other people. I’m looking forward to participating in some of the major events and competitions, like Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. And who knows what could happen next?”
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