Cool stuff is happening in the Georgia beer world

More and more, lately, I’ve come to appreciate how Georgia, and especially Atlanta, have matured as beer destinations. Part of that revelation is due to seeing things through the eyes of some of my fellow beer writers.

Late last year, I accompanied Jeff Alworth, the Portland, Oregon-based author of the “Beer Bible”(Workman, $19.95), on a mini brewery tour. And in July, I met up with John Holl, the New Jersey-based author of “The Craft Brewery Cookbook” (Princeton Architectural Press, $29.95), for a similar jaunt.

Both Alworth and Holl were impressed by the growth of breweries here, and even more impressed by the diversity of operations, and breadth of beer styles around metro Atlanta.

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“It speaks of a city with a mature but sophisticated palate, able to support showcase destination brewpubs, along with production breweries and quirky niche operations,” Alworth reported on his Beervana podcast. “Cool stuff is happening in Atlanta!”

More recently, I got a sense of what local brewers were thinking when I moderated a beer symposium at the Wing Cafe & Taphouse in Marietta. The panel included Brian “Spike” Buckowski of Terrapin Beer Company, Travis Herman of Scofflaw Brewing, Eric Johnson of Wild Heaven Beer, and Mitch Steele of New Realm Brewing Company.

“I tell people all the time that the Atlanta beer scene is completely underrated,” said Steele, who was the brewmaster at Stone Brewing in San Diego before opening New Realm. “I encourage people to come here all the time, because there are so many good brewers here, and so many good venues where you can get good beer. The excitement I feel in this beer market right now is similar to what I felt in San Diego in 2006.”

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Johnson echoed Steele, but put the emphasis on the kind of experimentation that’s going on at smaller taproom breweries, including the seven-barrel brewery Wild Heaven opened in the West End.

“In the past few years we’ve seen this amazing emergence of wonderful creative beers that have been like a breath of fresh air, because now you’ve got all these small systems that you’re able to take a risk on,” Johnson said. “And I don’t know if all states are like Georgia, but the camaraderie among the breweries, and the way we share ideas and information is amazing. There’s an appreciation for anyone who’s trying to do something well.”

For his part, Herman cheered Georgia for having three of the top 50 beer-producing craft brewing companies in the U.S., including SweetWater, Creature Comforts and Scofflaw.

“I think the Georgia beer consumer knows what it is that they want,” Herman said. “With the beers that we sell and the beers that are being consumed, it’s obvious that they know what good beer is.”

Bukowski wanted to talk about brewing innovation, stressing that brewing should be all about having fun, and creating new and different beers.

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“We can come up with 20 or 25 different styles of beer every year, so I think just having the freedom to do that is really special,” Buckowski said. “I think you see that up here on the stage, how much passion that we have in bringing you our beers.”

Those remarks were only a little taste of what the brewers at the Wing talked about. But what stuck with me is that beer drinkers in Georgia have a lot to look forward to. And I hope to see more events that showcase how fortunate we all are to have such a dynamic brewing scene.

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