There are a lot of beer festivals in Atlanta. Increasingly so, with no sign of it letting up on the horizon. But not all of them are created equal. After starting the East Atlanta Beer Festival in 2003, when neighboring competition was next to nothing ("We just kinda did it because we thought there should be another beer festival besides Decatur," co-founder Alan Raines says.), Raines and Tryon Rosser spent a few years developing HOToberfest before launching in 2008. "We came with the perspective of wanting it to be a beer festival that beer drinkers would want to attend," Raines says. "To make it a little bit different. We don't want to just put out beer that anyone can go to the store and get any day."
Raines has worked in industrial adhesive tapes for 27 years, actually having sold SweetWater its bottle-label adhesive many years ago. Rosser makes his living as a graphic designer. But on the side during the past six years, they've created one of the most exciting annual beer events in the Atlanta metro area. Sporting a focus on cask-conditioned selections and generally hard-to-find beers, tickets for the Oct. 5 event went on sale in late July.
The festival, held in Historic Fourth Ward Park, will include a consumer-judged competition, and benefit Trees Atlanta and Legacy World Missions. As for the beers, there will be around 50 casks total, including rare-beer offerings from national players like Oskar Blues, Green Flash, and Stone, as well as local gems like Three Taverns, Wrecking Bar, and Burnt Hickory. HOToberfest offers various ticket levels, and even includes a free option wherein attendees can simply hang with friends while enjoying myriad food trucks or by-the-cup brews at $5/piece.
Describe your first beer.
Alan Raines: Maybe I was ahead of my time, but my first beer was half Miller Light, half Mountain Dew. I was doing my own shandies, unbeknownst to me. I would've been 16. I didn't drink it like that for very long. [laughs]
Tryon Rosser: I grew up in a restaurant/bar in Vicksburg, Miss., and used to have to restock the bar every day after school. I can distinctly remember seeing St. Pauli Girl Dark in the bar's walk-in. Needless to say, I had to try it.
Your True Barrel Aged Cask (TBAC) idea started in 2011. What was the inspiration?
AR: Every year we try to up our own game. In 2011, we saw some mini barrels made for home distillers and we thought of ultimate beer offering, serving old-school, real wooden barrel casks. Tryon sourced some wood whiskey barrels and TBAC began. It was such a hit we increased the size and quality of the barrels in 2012 and offered breweries a choice: rye, bourbon, brandy, pot still, and wheated whiskey barrels. As far as we know, we are the only festival doing this in North America.
How difficult is it to acquire the beers for the festival?
AR: It's a combination of difficulty and persistence. We now have relationships with many, many breweries, and some contact us now to participate. They appreciate what we are doing to elevate the beer festival event in general. For the wooden barrels we have a long process — purchasing the used barrels, custom drilling them for use as firkins, distribution to the breweries, and then making sure we receive them in time to properly serve them at the event. The other beers are coordinated throughout the year with distributors, breweries, and even the brewers so that we have at least a few bottles of very rare beer to share.
Aside from HOToberfest, where's your favorite place to have a beer?
AR: I love a good bottle share. Knowledgeable people gathering to taste beers from all over. Sharing, discussing and just enjoying the craft of craft beer. For me, it's a great opportunity to hang out with people and see how much folks want to teach others about beer.
TR: I'd have to second that. Some of my favorite moments are when friends come over and we go down to the cellar to pick out a few things to pass around.
What would you like to see from all the upcoming Georgia brewers?
AR: Personally, I would like to see more brewpubs. They have the most versatility of brewing and distribution. It gives you more flexibility to make whatever you want whenever you want to. Wrecking Bar and Twain's and others are leading the way for some great new styles in the coming years.
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