SweetWater Brewing Co. is gearing up to celebrate its Golden Birthday — turning 17 on Feb. 17. Flash back to 1997 and SweetWater co-founders Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney were just packing up their West Coast lives to bring their fresh, flavorful and complex beers to the South — not something Atlanta knew much about at the time. Those two brewers could’ve never predicted what lied ahead.
Fast forward 15 years to SweetWater polishing off a $19 million expansion project to keep up with exploding Southeastern demand. After upgrading to a 400-barrel (bbl) brewhouse, SweetWater found itself among the top 25 breweries nationwide by production volume. A far cry from its humble start with a 25-bbl brewhouse on the shady side of Fulton Industrial in 1997, but still the same lip-smackin’ brews made by a bunch of the same familiar faces.
What is a birthday without a party? The team is ripping the doors of the brewery and lining up a true SweetWater-style shindig for Sunday, Feb. 23. Celebrating another year of being older, wiser and much better looking, SweetWater invites guests to join them as they raise a few toasts from 2 to 6 p.m. This birthday bash includes tasty cellared samples, rare brews from the Dank Tank lineup, live music from Like a Locomotive featuring a live brass section, a souvenir anniversary pint glass and food trucks a plenty.
SweetWater has one more trick up its sleeve for its anniversary hootenanny — a specialty 17th anniversary brew. Brewers went big on this one with a complex Saison farmhouse style ale with everything in it but the pitchfork. Brewers used two-Row, rye, wheat, Munich, 13/17 and Melanoidin malts; Galena, Saaz, Centennial and Amarillo hops; fermented it with French Saison yeast; and then ran a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. The yeast montage is responsible for the brew’s big 9 percent ABV and its tart effervescent flavors.
“The malt bill gives this brew an earthy, spicy flavor with a light and fluffy mouth-feel, while the hops deliver a moderate bitterness blended with a bit of lemon-lime citrus from the finishing hops,” said SweetWater Head Brewer Nick Nock. “Together, the two plus month fermentation and cellar time, malt bill, hop bill, and yeast strains all work harmoniously to produce a natural tasting, lighter-bodied [for high-gravity] brew, perfect for some outdoors sippin’ in the spring.”
The commemorative brew will debut on draft at the anniversary party and then make a limited run on taps and cold boxes in 22-ounce bombers across the Southeast beginning the last week in February.