It was another great year for craft beer, as many of the big stories and trends of 2011 were still hot topics in 2012. Even the President made a homebrew. With 2013 almost here, it’s time to look back on what had Atlanta beer lovers buzzing, and look forward to the New Year.
Sunday Sales — For many, the biggest story of 2011 was even bigger in 2012, as Sunday sales in the City of Atlanta kicked-off Jan. 1, and reporters and TV news crews descended on package stores and growler shops to document the day. One question remains: Have Sunday shoppers increased sales or just spread them through the week? It may take another year to figure that out.
Growlers Gone Crazy — Until 2011, growlers couldn’t be found anywhere in Georgia. But now big and little brown jugs seem to be everywhere — grocery stores, gas stations, growler chains and even a Decatur candy store. Where growlers aren’t being sold may be the bigger story, though. Package stores that sell spirits were forbidden from getting into the game. And so were breweries and brewpubs. Those are the places where growlers commonly can be found in great beer states like California, Colorado and nearby North Carolina. That makes Georgia a growler Bizarro World.
Sweetwater Expansions — Last year, Atlanta craft beer icon Sweetwater Brewing Co. embarked on an ambitious expansion project, with a new building, bottling line, packaging hall, lab, offices, event space and warehouses. In 2012, Sweetwater added a new 250-barrel brewhouse, and should be producing test batches by year’s end. In early 2013, look for a new Dank Tank creation, Some Strange, to be the first beer to be bottled from the new system.
Terrapin’s Brewhouse — In November, Terrapin Beer Co. took delivery of its new Rolec 100-barrel brewhouse, which includes a new lauter tun, whirlpool and kettle, and will allow the beloved Athens craft brewery to make beer in a more precise and efficient manner. Plans are to double brewing capacity as soon as possible and add a full-time barrel-aging program. Look for beers to roll out from the new system in 2013.
Debut Beers — This year, as every year, a good number of breweries and beers came to Georgia for the first time. Among my favorites: Anderson Valley Boont Amber, Hop Ottin’ IPA, and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout; Blue Point Rastafa Rye; Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Double-Wide IPA, Nommo Dubbel and Harvest Dance Wheat Wine; Goose Island Sofie, Matilda and Pere Jacques; Green Flash Hop Head Red, West Coast IPA, and Le Freak Ale; New Holland Dragons Milk.
Flavor Trends — Big, hoppy IPA is still the craft beer favorite. But the phrase, “sour is the new hoppy,” seemed to resonate more than ever in 2012, with more breweries creating Belgian-style lambics, gueuzes and Flanders red ales, plus experimental sour beers. Meanwhile, lower alcohol “session” beers and higher alcohol “extreme” beers fought it out on opposite ends of the spectrum. And Atlanta’s Frozen Pints offered a different kind of taste direction with craft beer ice cream flavors like Honey IPA, Brown Ale Chip, and Malted Milk Chocolate Stout.
New Breweries — Three new breweries, Red Hare in Marietta, Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw and Strawn in Fairburn, opened in 2011-2012. But it’s amazing how many more are on the way. Decatur’s first brewery, Blue Tarp, is opening this month. Monday Night should be up and running on Atlanta’s westside in February. Three Taverns is set for a late spring opening in Decatur. Creature Comforts may open in Athens around the same time. The list of breweries in the works is a long one, including Eventide, Folksy, Orpheus, Red Rocket, Reformation and Second Self.
North Carolina — North Carolina continues to lay claim to the most vital beer destination in the Southeast. In 2012, California’s Sierra Nevada and Colorado’s New Belgium broke ground on new breweries around Asheville. Colorado’s Oskar Blues is up and running in Brevard and will host a grand opening hootenanny on New Year’s Eve.
What do you think were the big beer stories and trends of 2012?
— Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog