July 21, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Sweetwater Brewery

Like Ray Charles I had Georgia on my mind, so I went down to Atlanta to visit my girl and check out the Sweetwater Brewery.  Many a Sunday afternoon in college were spent enjoying 2-4-1s at the Broadway Brewhouse in Nashville with a basket of chipotle chicken wings and a glass of Sweetwater 420 (this may sound familiar - my first beer review took place under similar circumstances).  I was pumped to see where the beer I remember so fondly was created.

It was hot as hell, but that didn't stop literally hundreds of people from turning out for the Sweetwater tours and tasting on Saturday afternoon.  I mean, drinking beer in the middle of a summer day is always fun, but this event was a good bargain, too.  $8 gets you a tour, a Sweetwater pint glass, and 6 substantial samples -- which were basically full beers.  Try getting that kind of value from your 6-pack of Bud Light.  Not gonna happen.

The crowd brave enough to stand the heat outside - most people used the bar indoors.
After a couple samples, we followed a Sweetwater staffer inside the brewery for a tour.  So many people were in attendance, that with the bottling line whirring in the background the guide had to use a bullhorn to get the information out!  We were impressed to discover that Sweetwater, founded in 1997 by a couple of Colorado transplants, is currently the nation's 25th largest brewery.  Clearly craft beer is alive and well in Atlanta.

After the tour, we headed back out to sample some more Sweetwater brews.  Unfortunately, they had run out of several of them, but we still got to try:

  • Sweetwater IPA - a solid India Pale Ale with a bite, straw yellow in color, dominated by floral/grapefruit hops characteristics
  • Georgia Brown - chocolate brown in color, nutty flavor, medium-bodied and smooth
  • Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale - amber in color, more malty than I remember, but still dominated by citrus hops notes, a dry finish

The verdict: tasty as ever, Sweetwater 420 is still one of the best Pale Ales in the South.

As we were getting ready to head out, the skies opened up and unleashed a torrential summer downpour.  That did little to dampen anyone's spirits, though.  With everyone huddled under the tents a little more closely than was comfortable, the rain only accented one of the great things about craft beer: it's never-failing ability to bring people together.

As of the time of writing, Sweetwater is available in the following southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

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