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A guy named Dan says he’s been trying to brew gluten-free beer for his wife who’s gluten-intolerant. He describes his chocolate sorghum stout as “interesting.”
It’s Doug Cunnington’s first meeting, although he’s been brewing for a couple of years, learning from books and podcasts. He says he was interested in finding a community, perhaps trying some other homebrewers’ beers to see what he could absorb.
Chris Terenzi plops himself down beside me and asks me why I decided to write about homebrew.
“I think Atlanta is really just getting a big homebrew movement,” I start before he cuts me off.
“I totally disagree!” he says. “I’ve been brewing for over 15 years, and there’s always been a community. It goes in cycles, and we’re certainly enjoying a boom right now. I’ve never seen a turnout like this before,” he nods, indicating the crowd of people around the table. “But we’ve always been here, the community has always existed.”
“People don’t recognize the significance of homebrewers,” he continues, as if to answer his question for me, but this time give the correct answer. “Every single brewer in this town, at any of the commercial breweries or brewpubs, Crawford Moran here at 5 Seasons, the guys at Sweetwater, the guys at Terrapin. All of them started out as homebrewers. This is the community that all beer comes out of. Every single one of the local beers you drink, they originated with homebrew.”
Whitner and Hatker certainly have aspirations to take East Atlanta Brewery beyond homebrew, although what they envision is something Georgia hasn’t seen before. “Out West, in Portland and around there, there are tons of neighborhood breweries that just supply the local bars and sell their beers to the neighborhood,” Hatker says. “We’d love to do something along those lines.” Under current Georgia law, such a thing would be practically impossible, since beer must be sold by a distributor. But the guys at East Atlanta Brewery have hope. "There's a law in the works that would allow it," Hatker says optimistically, referencing House Bill 604, which would allow growler sales (when a brewery sells a jug of beer directly to the consumer). The law was introduced, but if the plight of Sunday sales in Georgia is anything to go by, such a change is a long way off.
After the meeting, 5 Seasons’ brewer Moran takes the group on a tour of the massive, state-of-the art brewery. The homebrewers climb up and peer into the giant vats, many of which aren’t yet in use. Sandage, who is in the planning stages of opening his own brew pub, questions Moran on his techniques in a quiet, serious manner. You can see the glee in Hatker’s eyes as he wanders around the facility, and Terenzi’s words from earlier ring true. These guys look a lot like the future of Georgia brewing.
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