Glenn Sprouse may well brew the best beer in Georgia. The brewmaster at Five Seasons Brewhouse in Sandy Springs, Sprouse was the second person to open a brewpub after the Georgia Legislature allowed them in 1996. Sprouse, 50, was largely self-taught before he went to brew school in California to hone his skills. His passion for beer is obvious, as is his skill. Sip his signature beer, Seven Sisters Münchner, a rich amber Bavarian lager, and discover a beer lover's delight.
What was the first beer you drank?
I was probably 5, in Germany where there's no stigma on young people having a taste of alcohol every now and then. It was delicious. It definitely was drastically better than anything I had in America later.
How did you get into brewing beer?
Frustration. I lived in Germany as a kid, so that was one of my favorite places to go on vacation every year. I was so frustrated by the difference in quality of the beer here versus over there. And that caused me to develop a strong interest in brewing my own.
How did that first beer you brewed turn out?
It was undrinkable. It was a simple, out-of-the-kit pale ale. And I did everything wrong. It was a novice groping in the dark. The second batch actually tasted pretty good. Within 10 batches of beer, I went from using malt-extract syrup, and powdered yeast and plastic buckets, to having stainless-steel vessels and using live liquid yeast cultures and using a mash directly from grain to get the fermentable sugars.
You were an engineer; what made you decide to become a professional brewer?
Once the whole industry started to explode in the late '80s and early '90s, I started thinking maybe this is my opportunity to do what I'd always wanted to do, which was to head down the entrepreneurial path and not be an employee for the rest of my life. My partners at the time and I had to work four years to get the law changed in Georgia to allow brewpubs. We opened Phoenix Brewing Company nine months after the law was signed. We lasted about three years. The new owners came in and bought the assets and then brought me in because I'd designed and built the brewery.
America has a long history of brewpubs, doesn't it?
In 1899, there were 4,300 breweries in the United States. Virtually every community had one, if not more. They were like local bakeries and butcher shops, because a beer had to be local to be fresh since there was no commercial refrigeration. When Prohibition was enacted, it wiped them out forever. A few of the big houses went to legitimate and pseudo-legitimate pursuits, producing yeast for bakeries, producing what they call "near-beer." You can bet, no matter what anybody says, that there was some of the old product going out the back door into what they used to call speakeasies. At the end of Prohibition, there were less than 40 of them left. In a period of two generations, the European beer styles that this country was founded on were lost.
What's next for you?
One of my goals is to have a sizable microbrewery in Atlanta. I think there's a real market for that. What some of us want to do in this industry is build a legacy. We want to build a legacy that gets back to the roots where we came from.
So, how much beer do you drink?
A lot less than you might think. It goes in cycles. Sometimes I'll go a week and the only beer I'm drinking are the tastes out of the tanks to make sure everything's on track. Then there'll be weeks where I end every day with a fresh beer just to celebrate getting through everything I had to get through and hitting all my targets. So I don't drink a lot. I think any doctor would consider me a very moderate drinker.
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