Once upon a time, there was a thing called Atlanta Beer Week. It was celebrated annually in October, and existed in one form or another for some five years, beginning in 2012.
But while there were many really good events during those years, including tap takeovers, brewery special releases, and beer festivals, somehow it never gained the cohesion or momentum to become emblematic of the growing beer community here.
Now there’s a new take on the idea, with what already seems like a lot more energy behind it, and an expanded footprint that includes Athens and Savannah, with plans to bring in other parts of the state, too.
Presented as Georgia Beer Fortnight 2018, the inaugural two weeks of sponsored programming kicks off on Aug. 18 and runs through Sept. 1.
Many events are free, especially at beer bars, taprooms, and retail shops, where you pay for what you consume or buy to-go. But others, including multicourse beer dinners, mini festivals and other ticketed events, are priced accordingly.
Some areas, such as Roswell, will have shuttle services and hotel room blocks, and travelers will be able to take advantage of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild’s partnership with Lyft, which gives riders 50 percent off a return ride with the receipt for a ride to a participating brewery.
Bob Sandage, who is the president of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild and the founder of Wrecking Bar Brew Pub in Atlanta, was instrumental in getting Georgia Beer Fortnight off the ground.
“When Atlanta Beer Week started, there were only a handful of breweries in Atlanta, and Wrecking Bar wasn’t open yet,” Sandage says. “And by the time they did the last Atlanta Beer Week, we’d only been open for a couple of years. But the climate has changed so much since then.
“I’ve been to many other cities that have successful beer weeks, and they’re all brewery-driven. There got to be some infighting in Atlanta when retailers and some wholesalers were driving things. And you had a lot of finger-pointing about events and favoritism. But with the number and the quality of breweries in Georgia, it has gotten to the point that it doesn’t make any sense not to have a beer week here.”
The idea of reviving beer week and working to make it statewide was suggested at a meeting of the Brewers Guild, and things took off from there, Sandage says. The two last weeks in late August were chosen to end with Savannah Beer Week.
“We decided to call it Georgia Beer Fortnight and make it two full weeks,” he says. “It’s mainly Athens, Atlanta and Savannah this year, but next year, I think we will be able to include more places like Blue Ridge and Columbus that have more breweries now.
“People in the beer community — the brewers, the retailers, the beer bars and the restaurants — were wanting this to get going, again, and I think they were just waiting for somebody to kick it off. So now we’re up to something like 60 events at 40 different places in metro Atlanta alone. And that will all tie together with Athens and Savannah.”
As Sandage points out, there are all kinds of ways of celebrating Georgia Beer Fortnight 2018.
“It’s kind of cool, because people are coming up with lots of different things,” he says. “Cornhole tournaments, special bottle releases, tap takeovers, and whatever. But I think people will see what worked well this year, and we will have time to recap and do it better next year.”
Georgia Beer Fortnight 2018
Through Sept. 1 with a focus on six different geographic locations:
Aug. 18-19, Atlanta Downtown/Midtown/East
Aug. 19-20, Atlanta Westside
Aug. 20-23, Atlanta North
Aug. 23-24 Decatur/Avondale Estates
Aug. 24-25, Athens
Aug. 25-Sept. 1, Savannah, in conjunction with Savannah Beer Week
For more information and a full list of events, go to facebook.com/GeorgiaBeerFortnight.