There’s no doubt that craft brewing in the U.S. is exploding. The movement is largely responsible for saving American beer consumers. Following the explosion of breweries after the repeal of Prohibition, the major breweries began consolidating. At one point, there were less than 100 breweries in the entire United States.
While a few large companies still dominate a large part of the market, the growth of craft beer and craft breweries are giving American beer drinkers more options than ever before. The Brewers Association reported that as of June 2012, there are over 2100 craft brewers in the U.S. A number that’s vastly greater than what it was only 10 years ago.
While, the majority of these craft brewers are based on the West Coast and in the North East, It’s by no means limited to those regions.
Sweetwater Brewing Company
The company largely leading the way in the Old American South is. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, Sweetwater is among the most popular craft brewers in the South East.
Sweet Water was founded by Freddy Bensh and Kevin McNerney in 1997 after landing in Atlanta for the ’95 Olympics. The two were roommates in college in Boulder, Colorado. After graduation, they set out to hone their craft on the West Coast, working in different breweries and studying at the American Brewers Guild in California.
The duo turned up in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and saw an opportunity to bring a little West Coast brewing to the South. They founded the company in 1997 and have been brewing tasty Southern suds ever since. The company’s slogan, “Don’t Float the Mainstream” is an appropriate reference to their alternative, laid back vibe.
Beyond just being a brewery, Sweetwater has planted deep roots in it’s local community and is well known around the Atlanta area for their constant work to give to the community with fun, well-named, charity events. “Beer for Boobs” which fights breast cancer and “Brew your Cask Off” which showcases local, guest brewers are two of their annual events. The 420 music festival named for their popular 420 pale ale and a certain other holiday is held the weekend of April, 20th and benefits a local park.
While Sweetwater’s story and mission statement is cool, it’s beer is even better. Sweetwater boasts 6 year round brews and a host of seasonals.
The most popular of the year rounds is the 420. It’s labeled as a “crisp, refereshing pale ale accentuated by a stimulating hop character.” It’s hard to miss 420 if you’re passing through Atlanta or the South East, especially in the summer as it goes down particularly smooth on those hot summer afternoons.
My personal favorites when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama were always the and.
The Blue is a light-bodied ale that, somewhat magically, tastes exactly like fresh blueberries. It’s perfectly crafted for those warm summer evenings and unlike other fruit beers, just doesn’t seem to get old.
The Georgia Brown is Sweetwater’s year-round brown ale for people that like something a little heavier but still refreshing. It’s got a brown sugar sweetness that goes perfect with carmel and chocolate malts on a cool, Fall evening.