Drink to local beer at this month’s Georgia Craft Brewers Festival

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with beer festivals.

Certainly, events that are little more than keggers, with drunk dudes and carny food, don’t interest me. But more and more, even well-organized fests don’t always feature brewers in the booths.

A notable exception was Good Word Brewing’s Little Beer, an afternoon session around the square in downtown Duluth this month that celebrated lower-gravity beer.

This year’s event showcased pale lagers, along with some other sessionable beers, and the participation of some 70 breweries from around the country. What’s more, the brewers, who were often the brewery owners, were there to talk and pour.

Another gathering I’ve come to appreciate is the Georgia Craft Brewers Festival. It returns to Atlantic Station’s outdoor event space in Midtown from 1-5 p.m. April 29.

There’s plenty of room for tents and trucks and people, a huge parking deck for designated drivers, and a reasonable shuttle or walking option via MARTA.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Brewmaster Josh Watterson of Atlanta’s Elsewhere Brewing has become a fan of the festival, and thinks it’s helped to bring the members of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild together.

“There was a desire to come together, but not a real avenue to do that,” Watterson said. “There are so many beer festivals now, brewers can’t do it every weekend. But when it’s through the Guild, brewers and owners are going to show up. And you can have some really killer conversations, and get inspired about the Georgia beer scene.”

This year’s festival will include 60-plus Guild member breweries, and 250-plus beers. Maybe more exciting, there will be 30-plus collaboration beers, brewed exclusively for the festival.

“It’s nice when you can go to someone else’s shop, or step into someone else’s shoes for a day,” Wattterson said. “You can come away with a lot of information. But it’s also just that camaraderie that you don’t always see in the industry, and that’s put on display at the festival.”

This year, Elsewhere chose to work with a local restaurant on a collaboration beer, rather than with another brewery. Muchacho is a Mexican bar and eatery that serves up breakfast tacos, burritos, coffee and cocktails from early to late.

“They’re not brewers, but they serve a lot of beer, so it’s nice to work with other makers,” Watterson said. “It’s a Mexican Vienna lager called Pool Beer. It’s a killer food beer, with a little bit of caramel flavor, and we’ll be serving it with tortilla chips and queso at the festival.”

New Realm Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele is back for his second Guild festival, and this year he’s collaborated on two beers.

At New Realm, Steele collaborated with Phil Farrell, the brewmaster at Stillfire Brewing in Suwanee, on a big barley wine called the Hammer ITP.

“It’s ITP because we’re going to another one at Stillfire later on and call it OTP,” Steele said. “It’s an American barley wine with American hops, and a whole host of malts, and a rich amber color. It’s a beautiful beer.”

Steele’s second collaboration is with John Roberts at Bold Monk in Atlanta. It’s a hoppy brown ale with New Zealand Necatron hops that Steele noted have a lot of stone fruit character.

“I’m looking forward to people trying both beers, and I expect it’s going to be a really fun event again this year,” he said.

1-5 p.m. April 29. $50 in advance, $60 at the door. Atlantic Station, 1380 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta. georgiacraftbrewersfestival.com.

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