I t was the inaugural spring version of the Augusta Craft Beer Festival held at Lake Olmstead Stadium – Home of the Augusta GreenJackets. It was a sellout crowd according to Joe Wilson, one of the festival organizers. “We had 1,050 sold and turned back around 500 at the gate.” The main sponsor was World of Beer, which is opening a local franchise on May 23rd. The event was to benefit the Augusta Sports Council.
With 28 different breweries and 71 different brews (here’s the list) there was plenty to sample. Using the outfield of the stadium there was also plenty of space to spread out and chat with friends in the bright sunshine between samples.
I was there with Beer Brother Brett and Beer Brother Mark, our first festival together in almost 3 years. Mark was shooting video, Brett was providing commentary, new Beer Brother Bob helped with the video stuff. I wandered about, looking for breweries I haven’t tried before… or haven’t had very often.
First I stopped at Riverwatch Brewery, Augusta’s first brewery since Prohibition. Mark and I had stopped by their facility at the Farmers Market the day they got their license back in March. They were eager to get us and a local TV crew out that day so they could start their first batch.
The fruits of the labor are starting to show. Their brews are available at Tip Top Tap, Gravity Growlers and at The Hive Growler Bar (they are at other locations but I’m sure of these 3). Owner and brewmaster Brey Sloan and her daughter Anne were pouring three of their brews: Scenic Overlook, a Blonde ale; NPR – which stands for nearest point of relief – a wheat beer with a hefeweizen style yeast that gives is a bit of that banana flavor and fresh lime zest and lime juice that tangs it up just a bit; and their 104 Pale Ale which is named after Route 104 that runs alongside the Savannah River. Back in March she had a pretty good idea about which would be their flagship brew but now with the popularity of both the Scenic Overlook and the 104 Pale Ale she is debating which one to call the flagship.
While standing in line I met a taster named Nathan who said he had already bought a gallon growler of the Scenic Overlook. “It’s smooth but it’s a really refreshing beer.”
I tried some and saw the nice malt backbone and the hint of hops at the end of a long finish. This will be a great summertime brew. But I was very impressed with the NPR and the 104. I think I need a growler of the NPR.
Next to their tent was Matt Parker‘s display of old beer paraphenala. He is a local beer historian and aficionado. He was conducting a Beer College seminar later in the afternoon. He has had several beer presentations and pub crawls in the area over the past year. I hope to hear more from him soon.
Met up with Mike Seabaugh of Lone Rider, of Raleigh NC. This 7-year-old brewery is now distributing in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennesee, Virginia and Maryland. He adds they are about to launch in London. That sounds interesting.
They have 3 main seasonals. Deadeye Jack (Nov.-March), The Hops You Rode In On, a summer seasonal session IPA, with 4.4 ABV and features Amarillo Hops; and for the fall Addie’s Revenge, named after the owner’s daughter. It has all Citra like hops with pale vienna and crystal malts that comes in at 7.75 ABV.
They were featuring 2 brews on tap. The first was Shotgun Betty, their original beer. It’s a hefeweizen at 5.8%. They also had their Sweet Josie Brown, an American Brown Ale. I liked them both. The Shotgun Betty has a bit of banana to it, smooth start then dries up a bit on the finish.
Their Sweet Josie has a nice hint of sweetness, a little caramel and chocolate.
He was also proud of their Hoppy Ki Yay IPA. This is an East Coast IPA that is now a year round. The IBUs is 76 but you can still feel and taste the malts.
In the same tent was Eagle Creek, Statesboro’s first brewery. I spoke with Denton Dutcher, director of sales and marketing, who said he’s been to about 9-10 festival so far this year. The have 2 flagship brews. One is Adaptation IPA and the other is the Georgia Tea Party Amber. He said Adaptation is aptly named because the flavor profile will change as the available seasonal hops change. “We want to make the best tasting beer possible. When the hops change from season to season you adapt.”
The Georgia Tea Party Amber Ale isn’t a politically minded brew. It’s an amber ale with subtle tea notes. “A Georgia delicacy. I like it because it looks like sweet tea in the glass. Crazy. Works great. What’s better than a Georgia afternoon sitting on the back porch, in a rocker drinking sweet tea,” he said.
Unfortunately they weren’t featuring that today. But their Adaptation IPA was and it is a nice enjoyable IPA. Very East Coast. Starts to get to bitter on the finish.
They also featured Low Country Pale Ale. This was their first beer when they started 3-1/2 years ago. It is consistent in flavor from start to finish. This is a beer they try and keep consistent on the flavor and don’t want to change. At 5.4 ABV a nice brew where you can enjoy more than one.
I was shocked to see Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb! on tap. That brew is $25 per 4-pack locally. Heck yeah I was having some. I tried their Christmas Bomb! back in December. This is an imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers. I wasn’t really sensing the peppers or the heat like I did back at Christmas but I was getting a smooth, creamy consistent brew that was sweet, almost like maple syrup mixed up with the chocolate and coffee. I liked it. Enough to fork out $25…. Depends on my mood.
Next up was Jasmine Moore, brand ambassador for Southbound Brewing Company out of Savannah (they will be having a tap takeover at the launching of the new World of Beer in May).
They were featuring 3 brews: Hop’lin IPA, Rollin & Tumblin IPA and Scattered Sun Belgian Wheat.
She said the Scattered Sun is their flagship “It’s a people pleaser. It’s a bit like Blue Moon but a bit spcier. Nice and light but lots of flavor.” It’s a Belgian Witbier. That extra spiciness comes from coriander and citrus peel.
The Hop’lin IPA is named in honor of Janis Joplin. It’s a medium bodied American IPA that’s not as intense as many IPAs. “Drink it and it won’t kill your palate.” It does have enough hops like Magnum, Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Citra to give it that citrus/pine aroma. But a hint of caramel brings it back down to earth. It’s a hoppy brew that starts with a hint of sweetness then bitter on the end. A very drinkable IPA. Jasmine added “This is not a one and done brew.”
The last brew was the Rollin & Tumblin IPA which in the past was brewed exclusively for the Savannah Music Festival held in March. Now it’s availale for those who didn’t make it to the festival. It’s a East Coast IPA with a long lingering bitter finish. It has some different fruit notes going on so this isn’t your usual IPA.
I stopped and spoke to Zach and Katie, 2 festival-goers. They said at that point they really liked the Founders Mosaic Promise ….which Katie told me at one point was only available at the brewery. Zach really liked Southbound’s Rollin & Tumblin IPA.
Next stop was at Orpheus Brewing out of Atlanta. I have to admit I had not heard of them. I spoke with Kelli Baker. She was showing off 2 brews, Lyric Ale and Atalanta. Lyric uses their “house” saison yeast and three different hops to give it fruit and spice. Not quite a saison but not just an ale either. Spicy citrus going on at the start but a dry finish. “It doesn’t overpower and doesn’t linger” she added.
The Atalanta is most definitely a saison. A tart plum saison. You got stone fruit flavors with the yeasts pushing it toward the sour end. I have to admit I liked it (I don’t go much for sour beers).
Kelli added that Orpheus is known for its sour and tart beers. The “Atalanta Saison is like enjoying a champagne or a dry cider.”
I stopped a few more festival-goers to see what they liked. The New Belgium Heavy Melon Ale, a watermelon ale was mentioned often. One liked the Lazy Lemon from McKenzie’s Hard Cider. Another was Terrapin’s HI-5 IPA. Florida Beer Company‘s Key West Southernmost Wheat was popping up in conversation as well.
So I figured now was the time to stop by Florida Beer, a brewery out of Cape Canaveral. I spoke with Jeff Ciesco, sales manager for Georgia. In addition to the Key West Southernmost Wheat they had their Florida Lager and Sunshine State Pils. He said the Florida Lager was their flagship brew. This brewery has been around since 1996. “The Key West Southernmost Wheat,” he said, “is infused with key limes.”
The Florida Lager has a hint of roasted malts and caramel. Nice and enjoyable brew. The Sunshine State Pils has some mild hops going on. Light mouthfeel and subtle flavors. A good refresher for a hot day.
I had to stop at Cannon Brewery when I realized it was out of Columbus. It brought back childhood memories of playing on the huge Civil War cannons just a block away from my grandmother’s house in Columbus. No one was there from the brewery but the volunteers seemed to know their stuff. It’s a brew pub out of Columbus that features lots of military history in their beer and in their pub. They have a lot military to tie their marketing to considering Georgia’s role in the Civil War and to the fact Columbus is home to Fort Benning.
The Red Jacket Ale is named after a brass salute gun presented in 1861 to the Columbus Guard. The Guard, the state equivilent of the National Guard, was created in 1834. The brass cannon was given to them to honor their many battles. I found it had some citrusy hops that dinged the malt backbone. Little bit of fruit going on. Not a bad little brew. I think I would have liked to try a full pour at some time.
The Special Ops IPA is a very a different IPA to my palate. Not West Coast or East Coast. One of the most aromatic I’ve tried. Has cut grass… or rather sweet cut grass like alphalfa on the nose and some citrus/lime flavors. Sweet start then goes to the super hoppy end. I liked it.
Now to another military inspired brewery…. Service Brewing out of Savannah. Sales rep Sam Graci was showing off 3 brews: Old Guard Biere de Garde, Compass Rose IPA and Rally Point Bohemian-style Pilsner. The Old Guard is a seasonal that becomes available first of March and is just about out for the season. This brew owes lots of its flavor to the wild honey yeast strain from the brewery’s own apiary and honey from Savannah Bee Company. Nice malt backbone that enjoys ripe fruit flavors. “This is a style of beer you don’t see very often,” added Graci.
As for the Rally Point Graci said “I love pilsners. I’m happy we are making this one.”
The Compass Rose is a citrusy IPA that has fruit on the nose and hint of grapefruit on the palate.
Okay, so there was one brew that I wanted to try after the raving review from Katie earlier. Alas, I did not get to try it. Due to a shipping mixup some of the breweries ran low on some brews. I really wanted to try the Founders Mosiac Promise.
Abby McLocklin, Georgia area sales rep, said this started out as a SMASH beer (single malt and single hops). “It was a home brew style with a single malt and a single hop.” She later told me the recipe has been tweaked overtime so that it is mostly Golden Promise–though no longer quite 100%– but it does maintain a 100% Mosaic profile.” It’s very aromatic, very flavorful.” It’s available April to September. Founders is in Grand Rapids so maybe I can get my father-in-law to bring me some from Michigan this summer if I can’t find it locally.
Back to local breweries, I stopped by the Red Hare tent and spoke with Emily Benz, territory sales manager. They are one of the many craft brewers in Atlanta. She was showing 2 brews: SPF 50/50 Radler and Whabbit Wheat. I have had Whabbit Wheat before so I tried the 50/50. It is a radler. I had never heard of the term. She explained that it is a popular style of beer in Europe where you mix beer with a fruit juice, usually lemonade. In this case Red Hare produces a grapefruit soda (which they plan to can and market later this year) and they mix it with their Gangway IPA. So this is a IPR. I tried it before knowing what was in it and I remarked “It’s sweet.” “Absolutely,” she said. “When it’s hot and you don’t feel like drinking a beer this is a great brew.” The grapefruit soda keeps the fizz and keeps it in line with the IPA. The SPF is obviously a play on suntan lotion ratings as this is a summer seasonal. “Reapply as needed,” she added. It’s the only US craft beer radler.
Up the road from Atlanta is Reformation Brewery of Woodstock, GA. They’ve been brewing for 2-1/2 years. They were tasting the Cadence Belgian Ale and the Union Belgian White. I spoke with Ryan Morley, account relations manager. He said the Cadence, which says “reformed Belgian Style Ale” on the label, is their flagship. He described it as a Belgian duppel that has figs and Belgian Candi sugar. “This is a unique style of dubbel. It has done surprisingly well. We are very proud of this beer.” I really like this dark Belgian brew. The heavy malts and the caramel notes are very appealing to me.
The Union Belgian White, is the lightest at 4.8 ABV. It’s got a bit of tartness. Lemony because it’s got coriander, lemon and orange peels in there. Definitely unfiltered. I found that it has a pineapple aroma to it. It’s got a nice sparkle to it. Nice warm weather brew.
I stopped and tried the New Belgium Heavy Melon after so many commented on it. I was a bit confused when the volunteer said it had tangerine in it. He was getting it mixed up with the Citradelic Tangerine Ale. I happened to bump into New Belgium‘s Jonathan Parker, whose business card reads “Atlanta Beer Ranger”. He said that no, there is no tangerine in Heavy Melon But what is in there is watermelon (added during fermination) and some lime peel.
Last stop heading out was the World of Beer tent. They were the main sponsors of the festival. The new World of Beer Augusta location is slated to open Monday, May 23rd. I spoke with the general manager Brett Matthews and Jimmy Powell. Powell is Market Development Partner with WOB and is developing the infusion tower that will be featured here in Augusta. But that is for another story (click here).
It was perfect weather for a beer festival. Sunny, but not too hot. The outfield grass made for a great place to relax for many of the tasters. In addition to great craft beer,they had live music, food and beer related vendors. Other sponsors included Augusta Sports Leagues, The Augusta GreenJackets, The Hive Growler Bar, Beasley Broadcasting (HD98.3, Kicks99, BobFM93.9, HOT95.5/93.1), Yelp!-Augusta.
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