Metro Atlanta breweries looked for ways to grow, change in 2021

Keeping Monday Night Brewing successful a decade later are (from left to right) brewmaster Peter Kiley, COO Rachel Kiley, CEO Jeff Heck, founder Jonathan Baker, CPO Joel Iverson.
(Courtesy of Ali Lamoureux / Monday Night Brewing)
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Keeping Monday Night Brewing successful a decade later are (from left to right) brewmaster Peter Kiley, COO Rachel Kiley, CEO Jeff Heck, founder Jonathan Baker, CPO Joel Iverson. (Courtesy of Ali Lamoureux / Monday Night Brewing)

Credit: Ali Lamoureux

Credit: Ali Lamoureux

While COVID-19 had made operating a brewery a daily downer the previous year, there were times in 2021 when sitting down for a beer and a snack seemed downright pre-pandemic — especially for the fully vaccinated and boosted.

Of course, the pandemic continues, as variants surge, but new breweries have opened all around metro Atlanta, and established breweries are finding ways to grow.

In late December, SweetWater Brewing announced the opening of a new Colorado outlet, and quickly followed up with word that it had acquired both the Alpine and Green Flash brands.

In October, Atlanta’s Scofflaw Brewing launched a brewery collective called IndieBrew. And, in December, Nashville-based Bearded Iris Brewing said it will join in the shared ownership of the collective, with plans for adding more breweries in 2022.

Also in 2021, Monday Night Brewing, which operates two brewery taprooms in Atlanta and one in Birmingham, Alabama, opened another in Nashville, Tennessee. In August, the company celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Monday Night Chief Operating Officer Rachel Kiley saw change and improvement in 2021. While 2020 was huge for package sales, because “everyone was drinking at home,” she said, “that really stabilized and normalized in 2021, and there was some recovery for draft, which is what we’re seeing nationally. Our taproom business has returned, though people seem more comfortable being in large groups outside, and our to-go sales are higher than they were pre-pandemic.”

In May 2021, a post on the @ratmagnet Instagram account, run by brewer Brienne Allan of Salem, Massachusetts, set off a major #MeToo moment in the brewing industry, and prompted female employees at some Georgia breweries to come forth to tell their stories of misogyny in the workplace.

As president of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, Kiley often is asked to respond to the experiences of women working at breweries. “What I like to do is highlight some of the women in beer in Atlanta who are already doing great things in response,” she said. “Dames and Dregs, the female-supporting beer festival, came back this year, and that should be supported. We did some panel discussions there about goals and leveling up in the craft beer space, and we need to continue that.”

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Brian Purcell stands behind the bar inside Three Taverns Imaginarium. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Brian Purcell stands behind the bar inside Three Taverns Imaginarium. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Brian Purcell stands behind the bar inside Three Taverns Imaginarium. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Elsewhere, Three Taverns Imaginarium on Memorial Drive, the second outpost for Decatur’s Three Taverns Brewery, gained a following in 2021.

“Draft sales was the big story for us in 2021,” founder Brian Purcell said. “The on-premises sales that were missing in 2020 rebounded in 2021. We’re actually up 63% in on-premises this year, and that’s mostly draft. Also, the pandemic created some new habits, and that has continued. We sell more to-go beer out of our taproom in Decatur than we ever did before the pandemic.”

Purcell also pointed to successful 2021 beer collaborations with bands, including Grouplove and Mastodon, and sees more in the future.

“We really enjoy working with bands,” he said, “and we involve them in the design and thinking through the flavor profiles, so they really are part of the process.”

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