Beer Town: Digging the moods of Burnt Hickory’s Scott Hedeen

Scott Hedeen is founder and brewmaster of Burnt Hickory Brewing in Kennesaw. Courtesy of Burnt Hickory Brewing

caption arrowCaption
Scott Hedeen is founder and brewmaster of Burnt Hickory Brewing in Kennesaw. Courtesy of Burnt Hickory Brewing

I eased into 2022 feeling a little better about the state of the beer business in Georgia, and elsewhere.

Despite a couple of really bad years for bars and restaurants, many breweries have managed to move forward by getting more creative.

But, whenever I feel myself getting too optimistic — which, I admit, is rare — I always can count on Scott Hedeen to squelch even a nanosecond of positive thinking.

Hedeen opened Burnt Hickory Brewing in Kennesaw in 2012 as a fledgling operation that wasn’t much bigger than his homebrewing rig.

ExploreBeer and brewery news

Though the brewery has endured for nearly a decade, and even expanded with the help of new business partners, he has kept on complaining.

During a recent phone call, Hedeen started out by cursing the cold weather. Then, he quickly launched into his current take on “adaptation,” which he described as “an almost Darwinistic” type of survival for breweries.

“It used to be how good is the beer at the brewery,” he said. “Now, it’s how good and how convenient is the taproom.”

Of course, I like to kid with Hedeen. His self-deprecating, Rodney Dangerfield-style humor is part of his shtick. And, I enjoy getting his unfiltered takes on the world of beer.

Before Burnt Hickory, Hedeen was an Emmy Award-winning TV cameraman, who once stalked the Centennial Olympic Park bomber. And, he continues as a punk rock guitar player, which certainly informs his attitude.

ExploreCobb County dining news

For the past few years, Hedeen has been writing a book with the working title, “My Music, My Marriage, My Money and My Mind. What I Gave Up to Open a Brewery.”

The foundation of the project is his all-consuming belief that there are too many breweries in existence nowadays, and that young people have no business building new ones.

“I kind went through that with punk rock,” he said, seeming to regard that declaration as some sort of explanation.

Then, he added, “I have people come up to me and say, ‘I can’t believe you don’t like Pearl Jam. And I’m like, no. Pearl Jam is bad.’ But, I guess compared to what we have now, Pearl Jam really isn’t that bad.”

ExploreMAP: Breweries, brewpubs to try in metro Atlanta

Reeling in his thoughts a bit, Hedeen pivoted to a B.B. King kind of vibe, with the notion that the craft beer thrill is gone for good.

“I think we’ve lost a lot of the uniqueness of breweries,” he mused. “We have a whole generation of beer drinkers now that don’t know what it’s like to not have a brewery right up the street.”

Summing it all up with another mood swing, Hedeen remembered his first brewery experience, volunteering at the historic Yuengling headquarters in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

“I would look around like I was in the Chocolate Factory,” he said. “It was amazing. Like a fantasyland. And, now, it’s just a business plan.”

ExploreOur favorite dishes in Atlanta right now

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

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

About the Author

Editors' Picks