It all started with a report in Creative Loafing earlier this month that beer from other Georgia craft breweries had been pushed out of Turner Field by an exclusive sponsorship deal between the Braves and Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co., which included a bigger presence around the park and the takeover of the former Coors kiosk in the Fan Plaza near the front gates.
Soon after, baseball loving beer geeks were crying foul, noting that beer from Red Brick and Terrapin were missing from the opening day lineup.
Over the weekend, Diesel Filling Station in Virginia-Highland posted a message on its outdoor sign declaring that the bar would boycott Sweetwater and no longer carry its beer.
“It was 420 weekend, so we thought we’d have some fun,” Diesel owner Justin Haynie said today, referring to 420 Fest, the big Sweetwater music and beer festival that was going on Friday-Sunday at Centennial Olympic Park.
“The decision was based on the Turner Field thing,” Haynie said. “We only carry domestic beer and we try to sell mostly local Georgia beers. We have 20 taps that we rotate. When we read that Turner Field was exclusive to Sweetwater we made the decision.”
Sources at Sweetwater claim that their “exclusive craft beer sponsorship” means that they are an official Braves sponsor — not that Sweetwater beers should be the only craft beers sold at the ball park.
Aramark, the national food service company that runs the concessions at Turner, is in charge of ordering beer through its distributors, including United Distributors, the wholesaler for Sweetwater and Terrapin.
Of course, Sweetwater is an Atlanta success story, and as Georgia’s biggest craft brewery recently rose to 19 on the list of the top 50 American craft breweries.
In a business that has grown by fighting David and Goliath battles with the big beer companies, namely Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, passionate beer geeks often take sides. But the Sweetwater controversy hits much closer to home, highlighting how far craft beer has come in recent times.
What do you think? Is the Sweetwater and Turner Field deal a good thing or a bad thing for local craft beer?
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More blog.