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Beer Town: The Year In Beer 2009

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:

1_17_BellsExposmall

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.

WhiteHouse_kitchen

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?

16 comments Add your comment

Steve

January 2nd, 2010
12:21 pm

I’m excited about Sweetwater’s “Brew Your Cask Off”, Terrapin/De Proef Colaboration, Terrapin’s Georgia Theater Series of One-Offs (profits go to building the famed Athens music venue), and the arrival of Founders Brewing and Southern Tier to GA.
Cheers to 2010!

ELLIOT

January 2nd, 2010
1:42 pm

The Brickstore Pub in Decatur is one of the highest rated beer bars in the entire country. Any discussion of beer in the Atlanta area has to include them.

Support your local brewer

January 2nd, 2010
2:32 pm

One thing that still bothers me is the inability to have a decent selection of beers, especially local beers at the Georgia Dome. Someone needs to make this an issue to support the local economy by supporting the local brewers.

Support your local brewer

January 2nd, 2010
2:32 pm

Oh yeah…..Great article. Thanks.

Atlanta Jacket

January 2nd, 2010
2:59 pm

Best new beer I tasted, at least new to me, is Left Hand’s Sawtooth Ale. I have also enjoyed shopping at Hop City – those guys give great guidance on beer and they have a pretty good wine shop too.

Marmot

January 2nd, 2010
3:48 pm

Famous Joe’s in Buford serves a nice,cold natural lite, imbibe often, probably the ugliest wait-staff this side of Hog Mountain…

ausprockets

January 2nd, 2010
4:04 pm

Very pleased to have the Bell’s beers in GA. Tasty goodness…

greg

January 2nd, 2010
5:06 pm

Got me a 4-pack of Black Chock Stout warming up right now. Yellow beer- yuck.

Marshall Stacks

January 2nd, 2010
5:30 pm

New Belgium’s arrival is certainly one of the biggest for me this past year. My local guy hooked me up with a taster of their Ranger IPA. Haven’t had it yet, but if it’s anything like 1554, Fat Tire, or 2 Below it’ll be fantastic. Bell’s beers are tasty too. The rest of the country has had these for a while, so it’s nice for Atlanta to be catching up finally. All we need now are Sunday sales and we’ll be fully 21st century…

jc_atl

January 2nd, 2010
5:57 pm

I second the Brickstore Pub recommendation. Any beer lover in Atlanta needs to splurge at least once for the cab fare to get you safely to and from a Belgian tasting session in Decatur. I spent NYE afternoon here with a few excellent beers on tap, including the freshly tapped cask of Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA at 5pm.

Bacchus

January 2nd, 2010
7:26 pm

Haven’t been on the up-and-up on what’s new, exclusive, and sold out within hours around here, but I’d say the Fred is at the top of my list of beer bars to go in 2010. Been out to eat in those parts with friends twice, but we didn’t go to the Fred afterwards since said friends weren’t “qualified” to get in. If you don’t know what the Fred is, sorry.

The Other Matt

January 2nd, 2010
7:27 pm

The variety and quality of brews in GA is getting better every year, next year it will be Founders and Southern Tier. Another big change is the number and quality of special beer events like the IPA festival held at the BSP or the Cask Ale tasting etc. The GA breweries and brewpubs are really stepping up as well, the Monster Beer series, Side Projects and Dank Tank beers are generally outstanding. I am drinking a Two Heated Ale right now in appreciation of the improving GA beer scene- here is to an even better beery 2010!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution: Beer Town: The Year In Beer 2009 [...]

Lori

January 5th, 2010
1:16 pm

Michigan’s Bell’s Ocktoberfest was a new beer for us this year and was greatly enjoyed. Regarding lack of local beer coverage at sports venues, I agree, but Philips Arena does a better job than the Dome, with Sweetwater available on the Club Level and the 300 level. And Taco Mac, which is attached to the complex, obviously has a decent selection of locals and other microbrews. It was nice to finally see a Sweetwater bar open at the airport too.

road too

January 9th, 2010
8:10 am

What a great year for beer , Glad to see Craft Beer elevate to a new level in Georgia. 2010 looks promising already with Founders and Mad River on the way !

RustyDiamond

January 22nd, 2010
8:19 am

Definitely a huge year for Atlanta’s craft beer scene! And it’s good to see that our local breweries are rising to the challenge and producing some exciting tasty brews.