A bird's-eye view of the SweetWater Brewery tasting room (Courtesy SweetWater Brewery)
Atlanta’s craft beer scene is hopping. In the last couple years, dozens of new breweries have opened, making the city one of the top beer destinations in the country (and that according to The Travel Channel, no less). Here, the lowdown on the best local craft breweries where you can drink up.
SweetWater Brewing Company
Atlanta’s craft brewery king—it currently ranks as the 19th largest craft brewery in the nation—earned its crown for a reason. Opened by University of Colorado roommates Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney just after the Olympics in 1996, the popular brewery offers bold, West Coast-style ales such as the signature SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, SweetWater Blue with a touch of blueberry, SweetWater IPA and SweetWater Georgia Brown. The recently expanded brewery also serves as one of the city’s favorite hops spots, with a sprawling outdoor patio (usually accented by live music) and over-the-top, indoor “man-cave.” Tours are Wednesday through Sunday.
Red Brick Brewing Company
Formerly known as the Atlanta Brewing Company, Red Brick Brewing Company is the oldest operating craft brewery in the state, and you really can’t get more local than these guys. They’ve been creating and winning awards for the brews since 1993 including the flagship Red Brick Ale; Red Brick Blonde; Hoplanta, a hoppy IPA, Laughing Skull, an American amber ale; Hope Circle, An India-style session ale; and a slew of seasonal brews—the newest, Brother Leo, a Belgian IPA, just hit shelves last month. The brewery is opens for tastings Wednesday through Sunday and often hosts live music, team trivia and other events.
Monday Night Brewing
The idea for Monday Night Brewing grew out of a small Atlanta Bible study. The group met on Monday nights and started brewing beer as a way to get to know each other. Five years, and countless recipe tweaks later, the brewery focuses on making good beers that pair well with food and enjoying each day to its fullest. Guests will certainly enjoy tours to the fullest, thanks to cornhole, shuffleboard, black-and-white movies and tastings of nearly a dozen tasty brews. According to Jonathan Baker, whose title is “marketing guy and master of mind control, “With multiple awards under our belt in only three years, including medals at the World Beer Cup and U.S. Beer Open, I like to think we’re doing something right.” Open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for tours; a necktie donation gets you $1 off.
Wild Heaven Brewery
“Serve your neighbor” is the motto of this new craft brewery, which officially opened on June 13 in Avondale Estates. Created by lifelong Georgians Nick Purdy and Eric Johnson, Wild Heaven makes American brews that use all grain and no adjunct-sugar, which means bigger flavor without the excess alcohol. That flavor is evident in the brewery’s signature brews including Belgian-Style Golden Ale, Imperial Brown Ale, Belgian-Style Quadrupel Ale, American Pale Ale, Belgian-Style Saison and English-style Barleywine. Tours and tastings are Friday through Sunday. 135B Maple St., Decatur
Home brewer Tom Stahl launched Decatur’s first full-scale production brewery in December 2012 with his flagship Irish red BantamWeight Ale. More beer soon followed, along with plenty of accolades. BlueTarp’s current offerings include the rich and malty Mother Hoppin’ Double IPA; Last Place Stout, with rich coffee notes; Fünk Weisse, a Berliner-style Weisse ale; and Hopside IPA, with spicy floral and citrus notes. Free tours complete with five tastings are Friday and Saturday. 731 E. College Ave., Decatur
Red Hare Brewing
Co-workers Roger Davis and Bobby Thomas took their home-brewing hobby to the next level with lots of encouragement from friends in August 2011. We hoped they thanked them. Today, the Marietta brewery sells its brews in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Red Hare offers three year-round varieties (Long Day Lager, Gangway IPA and Watership Brown Ale), as well as seasonal offerings and a one-off specialty series called The Rabbit’s Reserve Series. Bonus: Red Hare was world's first brewery to adopt the evercan™ a more sustainable can made from high-recycled aluminum. Tours are Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 and Saturday from 2 to 4 pm. 1198 Delk Industrial Blvd., Marietta, 678.401.0600
Named after the Georgia island where the first Southern brewery was located, Alpharetta-based Jekyll Brewery just starting putting beers in the market in May. The 5,000-square-foot brewery, led by brewer Josh Rachel, offers Kolsch and India Pale Ale with more styles to come. 2855 Marconi Drive, Alpharetta
Three Taverns Craft Beers
Brian Purcell’s 8,500-square-foot Decatur brewery was named after an actual tavern located outside of Rome 2,000 years ago along the Appian Way. Tasty brews at Three Taverns include Night in Brussels Belgian IPA, Single Intent Belgian-style Single Ale and Quasimodo Belgian quadrupel seasonal ale. 121 New St., Decatur, 404.600.3355
Geoffrey Williams’ Grant Park brewery was named after the “relaxing point in the day when you can take a second to reflect and enjoy that moment." Fully funded, the Eventide brewery is just starting to build out; it is scheduled to roll out this summer with Kolsch, an American Pale Ale and a Stout. 1015 Grant St. SE, Atlanta, 404.907.4543
Jason Pellett’s artisanal brewery overlooking Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Beltline takes its name from the mythical Greek musician and poet. The Orpheus lineup, which was scheduled to hit shelves in July, includes saisons, sours, hops and barrels such as Siren Plum Saison, and Global Belgian Pale Ale. 1440 Dutch Valley Place NE, Atlanta
Burnt Hickory Brewery
Founded in 2011, this Kennesaw microbrewery recently underwent an expansion (it has increased its output 10 times over in the last three years). For Burnt Hickory fans, that means more Ezekiel’s Wheel Pale Ale, more Cannon Dragger IPA, more Big Shanty Graham Cracker Stout, more Fighting Bishop Belgian-Style Trippel ... you get the idea. Now get drinking! 2260 Moon Station Ct. NW, Kennesaw, 770.514.8812