Beer Town: A tour of StillFire Brewing with brewmaster Phil Farrell

StillFire brewmaster Phil Farrell (left) with Matt Savitt, a regular customer who was celebrating with a beer and a cake for 100 consecutive days visiting the brewery. CONTRIBUTED BY STILLFIRE BREWING
StillFire brewmaster Phil Farrell (left) with Matt Savitt, a regular customer who was celebrating with a beer and a cake for 100 consecutive days visiting the brewery. CONTRIBUTED BY STILLFIRE BREWING

StillFire Brewing in Suwanee was co-founded by two hometown friends, Randall Veugeler and John Bisges, and opened in late 2019 in a former fire station near Suwanee Town Center Park.

Veugeler and Bisges brought on award-winning homebrewer Phil Farrell as the brewmaster. Farrell is an Air Force Academy graduate, who flew fighter jets before becoming an airline pilot for Delta. But his resume as a grandmaster BJCP judge is equally impressive in the beer world, and in 2011 he won the Beer Drinker of the Year award at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver.

Recently, Farrell took me on a tour through the StillFire brewery, where he showed me the Alpha 20-barrel main brewhouse, which is part of a system that was designed to be very versatile, and includes three vessels, an overhead grain hopper, and oversized hot and cold liquor tanks.

“We are able to do double turns on this system fairly easily,” he said. “We also have a 3.5-barrel Blichmann pilot system. We have five-, 20- and 40-barrel fermenters, as well as a brite tank for each volume to produce both taproom-sized batches or large production batches. And we have a Wild Goose canning line so we can do everything in-house.”

Currently, StillFire has nine core beers, including Why Georgia Rye Pale Ale, Orange Diva Blood Orange Wit Beer, Glory Haze Hazy IPA, Dropout and Double Dropout West Coast IPAs, College Dropout Light Lager, Trop Drop & Roll Tropical IPA, Breaking Blonde Blonde Ale, and Bingo Mango Bongo Tart Ale.

But by using both the main system and the pilot system, Farrell and his brewing team are producing many more seasonal, experimental and one-off beers, too.

Sitting down on the patio outside the taproom, I tried everything from a beautiful bourbon barrel-aged barley wine to a wacky Mardi Gras beer that was brewed to taste like a King Cake, with flavors of vanilla and cinnamon, and served with a multicolored sugar rim on the glass.

Among some of the other beers I tried, one of my favorites was Fightin’ 13, a red IPA that was brewed as a tribute to the firefighters who once called StillFire’s brick building home.

“Originally, they were Suwanee volunteer firefighters, and then it became Gwinnett station 13, so these guys were the Fighting 13,” Farrell told me. “But this is also kind of my tribute to Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. It’s an all-Centennial hop beer, with 13 hop additions, and we just had a lot of fun with it.

“With that kind of marketing, we really want to be a local brewery in Town Center, and reflect the local community. There’s enough business here, and our whole plan is to be as profitable as we can be out of here by serving customers, and having a nice place to hang out.”

Of course, not long after my visit, the whole world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and StillFire was forced to change with it.

“The big unknown is the heavy hand of government,” Farrell wrote me in a recent email message. “We closed our taproom ahead of the ban on gatherings. We have a to-go window, however the city ‘didn’t like the way it looked’ with the park across the street. We can sell cans, so we will be getting a crowler machine to package the tap beer we already have brewed.”

TO-GO SERVICE
StillFire Brewing, 343 U.S. 23, Suwanee. stillfirebrewing.com.

Current hours due to COVID-19: To-go window open noon-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.

RELATED:

ExploreMore beer and brewery news
ExploreRead the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

In Other News