Looking back over the past decade, 2004 was undoubtedly the most notable year for beer in Georgia. That’s when state law was changed to allow the sale of beer with an alcohol content up to 14 percent, paving the way for a cornucopia of flavorful new imports and American craft brews.
Five years later, the quantity of great beer available in Atlanta is astonishing. And the number of bars and restaurants with respectable beer lists has grown to the point that it’s weird to find a place that doesn’t offer at least a few local beers and quality imports.
Here are a some other beer highlights of 2009:
The arrival of several more much anticipated breweries in the Atlanta market was spearheaded by Colorado’s New Belgium and its flagship brew, Fat Tire, which sold like crazy, even though it was initially introduced exclusively in 22-ounce bottles.
Michigan’s Bell’s made an even bigger impact among beer geeks, finally bringing Atlanta such cult favorites as Expedition Stout and Two Hearted Ale.
Locally, Sweetwater debuted its Dank Tank series of experimental beers with DP Barley Wine and continued with several more impressive offerings.
Atlanta Brewing took home two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival, and ended the year by releasing a very limited and much buzzed about 15th anniversary edition of Red Brick Ale aged in Pappy van Winkle bourbon barrels.
Terrapin continued its one-off Side Project series, including Volume 9, The Dark Side, a big, Belgian-style imperial stout fermented with a Trappist yeast strain.
Terrapin also tapped into one of 2009’s biggest trends, collaboration beers, with its Midnight Project series, putting out a really tasty espresso milk stout, dubbed Depth Charge, with Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing.
Though precious few bottles or kegs landed in Atlanta, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head teamed up for the high profile Life and Limb / Limb and Life collaboration.
On the heels of the Porter and the Bookhouse Pub, Leon’s Full Service upped the ante for contemporary beer-centric taverns, putting together a sophisticated atmosphere and chef-driven menu with culinary cocktails and a thoughtful wine list.
After three years of delays, Five Seasons Westside got off to a bit of a bumpy start. But there’s no denying the talents of the chef and brewer partners, so look for even better things in 2010. And its location next to Hop City, the new boutique beer and homebrew shop, has created an exciting nexus for beer lovers on Atlanta’s Westside.
As in everything else, social media was a major story for beer all over the world.
Sweetwater pulled off a nifty bit of guerilla marketing around President Obama’s “beer summit.” A Photoshop fake of a case of Sweet Georgia Brown sitting in the White House kitchen had a producer from WXIA-TV 11 showing up at the brewery with a camera crew.
But most breweries simply used Facebook, Twitter and blogs to lure fans to new beers, tastings and beer dinners.
What do think were the biggest beer stories of 2009? And what are looking forward to in 2010?