City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Beer Town: The year in beer 2012

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 sweetwaterdanktankGeorgia. 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

10 comments Add your comment

Kara S

December 19th, 2012
6:22 am

Can’t wait for Terrapin’s new flavors! LOVE me some Sweetwater too :)

Stan Drulia

December 19th, 2012
2:51 pm

I definitely think the Growler craze it the most interesting beer story of the year. Seems that there is a new growler shop opening – mostly OTP at this point – every couple of weeks. I am very supportive of the growler concept but disgusted by the pricing model that 95% of the stores are using. Ale Yeah in Decatur is the only place that I have found to have reasonable prices… usually about 2 dollars less per 64 ounce growler than it’s competitors down the street. I am also curious as to how all of these new growler shop owners think that they will survive with all the competition and surely falling prices as the excitement starts to wear off and people start to question paying $11.99 for a 64 ounce bottle of Fat Tire when the six-pack costs substantially less. Seems that most of them are seeing this untapped gold mine and that people will pay whatever they ask…. will work for a little while I guess, but surely will not last.


December 19th, 2012
4:21 pm

Gotta say the price increases are still part of the conversation. The days of $6.99 six packs are gone. Same beers are now $9.99 and in some cases reduced to four packs. Just a matter of how bad you want it are willing to pay for it.

Crawford Moran

December 19th, 2012
6:19 pm

The growler thing in GA is assbackwards. The whole idea of a growler was for local brewpubs and breweries to put beer in a “to-go” package. But here in GA we’re the only ones who can’t….. Meanwhile our unemployment is way too high, we need tax revenues, we need jobs, etc. Just doesn’t make any sense.


December 19th, 2012
9:57 pm

More and more restaurants are embracing craft beer, and using good beer to draw more customers. Even if less than a dozen taps are available, something will be a craft beer. One of my favorite Roswell spots has only 12 taps, carrying 6 steady beers and rotating 6 craft beers.
I know this has been a trend for years but this year seems to be a big leap.


December 20th, 2012
8:06 am

Great article!


December 20th, 2012
10:30 am

Shout out to Georgia’s first meadery, Monk’s Mead. I believe they opened in 2012, and as a mead lover (and brewer) myself, I’d love to see more meaderys open in Georgia in the future. That’s a trend I would like to see.


December 20th, 2012
12:18 pm

In addition to nearby NC, just as nearby Tennessee & Florida also allow growlers to be filled at the source. No way do I ever expect us to be able to fill a growler at the Sweetwater tap in Hartsfield-Jackson like you can at the Rogue taproom in PDX.

Grumpy Monk

December 20th, 2012
12:20 pm

How about those jacklegs at Total Wine who monopolized Georgia’s stock of Westvleteren XII and decided to sell it early probably because they didn’t know any better. Anybody who’s committed to craft beer in this state needs to support our independent beer stores and tell this clowns to hit the bricks.

Stan Drulia

December 21st, 2012
2:16 pm

Agreed. Total Wine is awful. They are charging insane prices at the new growler station at the Sandy Springs location. Horrible corporate atmosphere.