Explore the stories of six breweries on the Athens Beer Trail

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. - Athens
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The renovated brewery and taproom at Creature Comforts Brewery once was home to the Snow Tire Co. Courtesy of Jason Thrasher

Credit: Jason Thrasher

Credit: Jason Thrasher

Home of the University of Georgia and the Georgia Bulldogs, Athens also is celebrated widely for its music scene — birthplace of such bands as R.E.M., the B-52s and Widespread Panic — and for its lively arts and culinary life.

But, earlier this month, the Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau dubbed it “The All-American Beer Town,” and unveiled a new experience, the Athens Beer Trail, aimed at shining a light on six of the city’s breweries that represent a vibrant diversity of locations, cultures and business models.

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Brian "Spike" Buckowski is a co-founder of Terrapin Beer Co., Athens' oldest brewery. Courtesy of Bryan Redding
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Brian "Spike" Buckowski is a co-founder of Terrapin Beer Co., Athens' oldest brewery. Courtesy of Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

Terrapin Beer Co., Athens’ first and largest production brewery, was founded in 2002, while the city’s smallest operation, Normaltown Brewing Co., opened in 2020. Also part of the Athens Beer Trail are Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Southern Brewing Co., Akademia Brewing Co. and Athentic Brewing Co.

The self-guided brewery tour features a printed field guide that gives visitors a preview of what to expect at each brewery, along with a map, and other points of interest along the way, including parks, music venues and restaurants. Guests are encouraged to have their field guide “passport” stamped, in order to earn Athens Beer Trail merchandise.

Though the trail materials were created by the visitors bureau, the roots of the campaign go back to a group of Athens beer pioneers appearing in a recently released film, “Beer the Athens Way,” produced by Bed Productions, an Athens video marketing agency, and now available on YouTube.

The film’s genesis came from Sachin Patel, co-owner of Five Points Bottle Shop and several Athens restaurants, and Nerissa Rajcoomar, who early on interviewed and recorded Patel to create an oral history of Athens brewing.

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Sachin Patel, owner of Five Points Bottle Shop, is known as one of the biggest supporters of Athens brewers. Courtesy of Bryan Redding
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Sachin Patel, owner of Five Points Bottle Shop, is known as one of the biggest supporters of Athens brewers. Courtesy of Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

“I came on board to work with Sachin and his business partner on social media for their restaurants, and I quickly learned about Sachin’s passion for beer,” Rajcoomar said. “He would tell me stories about Terrapin and Creature Comforts, and how the Bottle Shop helped people in the community start brewing.

“What the film showcases is the stories that Sachin told me. And, then, bringing people together that hadn’t been together, and sharing a common bond, because connecting people is what beer does.”

In “Beer the Athens Way,” Patel, who also owned an influential homebrew shop, talks about Trappist monks brewing beer, “elevating their minds” and “getting closer to God.” But, in a recent conversation, he noted that bringing the Athens brewing community together wasn’t always “Kumbaya.”

“There is competition, but there’s room for everyone to play, if we just get together,” Patel said. “We all started in this town, and this is what this town is, and we’ve grown with it. A lot these brewers from the smaller breweries started at the homebrew shop.”

Athens is a unique situation, he said. “We have 30% of the town that never grows old, so that’s a big percent of the population that’s constantly changing, with new students and their parents.”

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A variety of canned beer offerings are available to purchase from the breweries on the Athens Beer Trail. Courtesy of Bryan Redding
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A variety of canned beer offerings are available to purchase from the breweries on the Athens Beer Trail. Courtesy of Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

Credit: Bryan Redding

Two of the founders of downtown’s Creature Comforts, David Stein and Adam Beauchamp, were students at UGA, and later worked on perfecting some of their first beers at Patel’s homebrew shop, including their best-selling Tropicália IPA.

“I have tremendous love of Sachin,” Beauchamp said. “He was extremely instrumental in the formation of Creature Comforts. For one, he employed David for a while, prior to us opening. But, also, he let us utilize the pilot system they have for free. And he helped us integrate into Athens at the time.

“We were a couple of Atlanta guys, who’d gone to college here, but we were very different people 10 years later in life, after graduating. But, before we opened, I think we brewed Tropicália something like 24 times, and a significant portion of those were done in Five Points.”

Terrapin’s president, Dustin Watts, was one of the first to sign on for the production of “Beer the Athens Way,” and he opens the film by declaring that “brewing is an art form.”

“Originally, it started out as telling stories about Athens breweries, and the Athens beer scene, and then it morphed into creating the Beer Trail,” Watts said. “I think, for us, it’s just the connectivity of Athens breweries. We’re all Georgia breweries. But, I think Athens has its own vibe, and the breweries here have their own vibe.

“And the camaraderie that comes with that is great.”

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. - Athens
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The home of Tropicália IPA, Creature Comforts Brewery opened in the heart of downtown Athens in 2014. Courtesy of Geoff L. Johnson

Credit: Geoff L. Johnson

Credit: Geoff L. Johnson

IF YOU GO

The Athens Beer Trail features Akademia Brewing Co., Athentic Brewing Co., Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Normaltown Brewing Co., Southern Brewing Co. and Terrapin Brewing Co. visitathensga.com/athens-beer-trail.

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