Atlanta :: SweetWater Brewery

Hippies, hipsters, frat boys, nerds, rednecks, old folk and the downright uncategorizable.  Get chummy in line and walk together into the pride of Atlanta’s metro brewery scene to the standing room-only beer garden right off the GA 400.

Come for the beer, stay for the people watching.

One Man’s Experience

From their website:

Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 5:30 – 7:30 and Saturdays from 2:30 – 4:30 SweetWater opens our doors and taps to the public.

After being out of the country for 2 years, it didn’t take more than a week before my friend JV offered up a simple one word question: “SweetWater?”  I responded with a simple one word answer: “Hellyeah.”

I drove south to the start of GA400 highway and made my way off the exit when I realized I didn’t have any cash for the $10 souvenir pint glass that becomes your drink receptacle.  After a quick stop at the ATM, I went 2 minutes down the road through a mini industrial area with the brewery near the end.  A few small signs tacked up on lamp posts guide the way to a decent sized parking lot with a few parking attendants to escort you in (though, in the past, I have parked on the street with the other late comers and never had a problem).  I was about 15 minutes early, but the line was already getting long.  As soon as I jumped in line, the Atlantans began flooding in behind me.

All throughout the line I can see either packs of friends or lonely singles waiting for their cohorts to come as they nonchalantly check their phones every 13 seconds.  I was alone with my hand on my phone.

Two ID checker-gals begin to make their way through the line and give everyone a quick stamp on the hand.  5:30 hits and immediately the line is moving.  My friend arrives and we engage in the usual pleasantries of complimenting each other on how cool we are and how weird everyone else is.   It’s been 2 years since we’ve seen each other, so we are majorly cool and they are majorly weird.

We get to the front of the line lickety-split and JV informs me of what a fancy operation this brewery tour has become.  They accept credit card now!  I suppose that it’s good for business but I find myself missing the way a simple cash transaction feels more local and homey.

For $10, you receive a nice heavy SweetWater emblazoned pint glass with a treasure of 6 tickets inside.  We check out the swiftly moving line behind us and it stretches far around the block yet every last soul in it looks supremely happy.  Enter the “tour.”

As we enter the building, there is one line forming to take the half-hourly brewery tour.  There is a doglegged bar with 2 tap stations, each with 2 bartenders.  2 big lines form at the front station and 1 haphazard line forms on the side.  JV opts for the line with “his bro” in it.

1 ticket gets you about a half a glass of one of the standard brews on tap.  2 tickets will get you one of the special high altitude brews.*  The bartender recommends the Road Trip Ale since it’s new.  I can see my future in its fizzy bubbles.  On tap there are the standards: Extra Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Porter, Brown Ale and “Blue.”  Then there are the rotating or new brews called “Catch and Release.”

The scene is pretty much how I remember it.  Crowded with long but quick moving lines for beer.  The back wall opens to my prize:  the garden area.  There is a jazzy band playing on a newly constructed stage.  The music is loud enough to drown out uncomfortable silences and quiet enough to ignore when you have something to say.  There are no tables, chairs or even places to set your drink down.  There is just no room for it!  But, with everyone standing and talking, you don’t really notice that you always have one hand dedicated to your personal beer’s safety.

Another new touch; there is another mini-bar kiosk outside.  This one is manned with 2 tenders and on tap station.

The floor is pavement and there isn’t any grass inside the premises.  The foot traffic just won’t allow it.  The foliage consists of some hedges around the perimeter of the garden with a few scattered trees.  The view to outside is toward the industrial park that is surrounded by trees.  The view is meant to be ignored.

There is something comforting about the tucked-away nature of this brewery.  But, in all honesty, I feel like I am the only one there to enjoy the outside-ness.  Everyone is outside, except when ordering a beer, but they could just as well be in a big room.  People come to SweetWater for the social interaction and that interaction is lubricated by the craft beer.  That’s why I always went.

SweetWater’s brewery tour may very well be the most diverse crowd of people in one public space that I have seen in Atlanta since the Olympics.  Every ethnicity, every age (above 21), and every style seem to be represented by at least 2 people.  It seems to lean heavier on the hipsters and frat guys than it did in years past, but SweetWater just attracts a cross-section of the times.  No on should really feel out-of-place here.

Patrons who have already made it inside the garden pridefully wander up to the hedges around the garden, beer in hand, and talk to their tardy brethren waiting in line.  By 7:30, the beer stops flowing, the tours stop touring and the crowd subsides.  In true Atlanta fashion, we all pile into cars and head back to our lives downtown, in the ‘burbs or on the road.  The night is still young after all.

Check out the SweetWater Brewery Fact Page

One Response to “Atlanta :: SweetWater Brewery”
  1. meyoufarm says:

    I’m happy to write a 1st comment for your blog.

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