I’m all for keeping things “local”. I prefer local restaurants to franchises, farmers markets over the regional chains and typically I’ll grab a local cold one before some mass-produced brew. The advantage of traveling is you get plenty of chances to #DrinkLocal. Here’s a tip, if you let your friends know that you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to imbibe.
In the past five or six years, the craft beer movement has hit the mainstream. From magazines, websites and apps it can be information overload. One of the benefits, as well as one of the hindrances of traveling, is that you get exposed to an endless supply of beer choices.
Here’s a quick Southeastern rundown of my favorites.
Alabama – Breweries
Below the Radar Brewing Company – Huntsville, AL – It’s been several years since I’ve been here, but my last trip rocked. They offered 25 plus beers on tap as well as a cooler full of bottles and cans.
Good People Brewing Company – Birmingham, AL – I find myself in Birmingham several times each quarter and if I can’t run by the brewery I’ll grab a few from the gas station for #HotelBeer, don’t judge. I’m a hipster so my go-to is their IPA, at 7.1% ABV it’ll grab your attention. They offer brewery tours for $15 per person, which includes a collectible glass as well as a pint.
Fairhope Brewing Company – Fairhope, AL – While I’ve never stopped by their production facility their beer is distributed all along the Alabama coast. I enjoy their (Take The) Causeway IPA, at 8.2% ABV a few of these will help you to forget a rough day.
Georgia – Breweries
SweetWater Brewing Company (Atlanta, GA)- Spending decades living in Atlanta I consider this my hometown brewery. They have a standard offering of six brews but they intertwine an additional dozen brews throughout the year. One of my secrets is that I’m a fly fisherman, and SweetWater has their Save Our Water project. Designed to fund the protection of the Chattahoochee River, a river that I’ve fished for 20 plus years. My recommendation is their Sweetwater IPA, 6.3% ABV and full of taste. Sold here locally and they offer some great variety packs.
Terrapin (Athens, GA) – Based in Athens, GA, home of the University of Georgia. My sister attended UGA, best six years of her life, she hates when I say that. They offer nine beers year round with seasonal as well as side projects along the way. My goto is their Hopsecutioner IPA, notice a trend? At 7.3% ABV this one is a bit on the heavy side, but tasty if you stay with it. My favorite was their Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, but unfortunately, it’s retired. Another one that’s sold locally and they also offer some great variety packs.
Jekyll Brewing (Alpharetta, GA) – I was introduced to Jekyll in North Georgia after spending the day fishing Nacoochee Bend. Grab a bottle of Cooter Brown for a milder brown ale. If you’re looking for adventure order a Hop Dang Diggity Southern IPA while eating at Mully’s Nacoochee Grill.
Tennessee – Breweries
Yazoo Brewing Company (Nashville, TN) Widely distributed across Tennessee and Mississippi. My favorite is their Double IPA 7.2% ABV, only available on draft. They offer nine beers produced year round and then a seasonal offering every three months.
Rock Bottom (Nashville, TN)- It’ll be easy to call foul on this being a local or craft beer. However, they only brew at each location and short of taking a growler home the only place to enjoy is at their locations. I’ve visited Rock Bottom over the years, but my reintroduction came a few weeks ago on a cold and wet afternoon in Nashville, TN. We started with a flight of, Irish Coffee Brown Ale, Desperado Dark Lager, The Roast Beast – Imperial Smoked Porter, Fire Chief Ale, Rye So Mild Man & Papa’s Pale Ale. It just so happened we found a seat during happy hour, which meant half price house beers and appetizers.
North Carolina is the beer mecca of the South, with no shortage of breweries. In my opinion, Asheville is still the hub.
Asheville Brewing (Asheville, NC)- My favorite brewery, and not because there’s possibly a family member that works there. I’ve been known to grab their Shiva IPA 6% ABV, by the case and you should too. If you’re not an IPA fan consider their Ninja Latte Coffee Porter 5.6% ABV.
Wicked Weed (Asheville, NC)- Now owned by Anheuser-Busch, more on that later, code for read the last paragraph. Lieutenant Dank at 6.5% ABV will never let you down. Dank seems to be a popular beer name. If you want something really off the grid order the Oaxacan 7.1% ABV. It’s at tequila barrel-aged smoked sour Ale with grapefruit and lime zest a crazy taste sensation and something you won’t find at the local grocery store.
Funky Buddha (Oakland Park, FL)- I was there when they opened their taproom, and it’s glorious! One of my top two favorite beers is their Hop Gun IPA 7% ABV. Here in Orlando, you can buy it at Publix as well as ABC Liquors. My all-time favorite beer is their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter 6.4% ABV. Released each January and be prepared to wait in line for it.
Cigar City (Tampa, FL) – Jai Alai 7.5% ABV. Yes, I know another IPA, but this is my standard brew when grilling out. I introduced this to some of my New Jersey friends last week and it was a treat listening to them TRY and pronounce Jai Alai. They offer several Florida themed beers such as Florida Cracker 5.5% ABV and Florida Man. Florida Man weighs in at 10.1% ABV, drink a few of these and you might find yourself on the Florida Man website.
Crooked Can (Winter Garden, FL) – Looking for a perfect start to your Saturday head out to the Winter Park Farmers Market then walk across the street to Crooked Can. Try their Freedom Ride 5% ABV, a flavorful stout or High Stepper 7% ABV yet another IPA, and it’s sold at Publix as well.
The “more on that later” part – Big Brewery is acquiring local brewers on a regular basis. Anheuser Busch owns Wicked Weed, Goose Island and 10 Barrel. Constellation Brands owns Funky Buddha, Tocayo and Corona. Often times drinking local isn’t always as it appears but Big Brewery isn’t always a bad thing either. What better way to share great beer than additional production and additional distribution. Often the local guys aren’t equipped to pull it off and these guys can help. Yes, the purists are going to moan, using terms like “a sellout” and “big brewery”, but I promise it’ll be OK. Now if I could just get my hands on something from Russian River Brewing.
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