Small towns across the US—often defined by their past and reeling from the fallout of lost jobs and dwindling populations—are turning to a decidedly trending industry to help guide their future: beer. We look at three recent examples.
Dustin Jeffers has lived South Florida’s brewing evolution. When he arrived as a transplant from the Northeast, his go-to beers were as likely to come from his own kitchen as they were from a local commercial outfit. In late 2013, he helped open Delray Beach’s Saltwater Brewery.
Many Birmingham residents would argue today that locally produced beer is what’s rescuing the city. Credit is due in part to the city’s four production breweries—Avondale, Good People, Cahaba, and Trim Tab.
Mark and Leslie Henderson founded Lazy Magnolia to bring better beer to their home state. Although Mississippi now has 10 breweries statewide, theirs was the first packaging brewery to carry the torch for craft brewing, and did so for seven years under previously restrictive state regulations.
In 2011, David Stein boldly proclaimed that he would make the best beer Atlanta had to offer. When Creature Comforts opened in Athens, the prophecy came true, in a way. The brewery is one of the most raved about in Georgia.
The Mahogany Bar’s lineup of 42 taps includes a wide mix of styles with more than 15 local beers like Crooked Letter Mystery Romp mocha Porter and Southern Prohibition Crowd Control, alongside plenty of bigger regional, national and international brands.
Though it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Charlotte can’t rival Asheville when it comes to breweries per capita. But what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for with perhaps the most diverse group of breweries in the state.
This 4,500-square-foot bottle shop and bar serves up a well curated mix of the best stuff available in The Volunteer State. Regulars pair their pints with wings from Thunderbird, a smoked chicken food truck, on the 50-seat front porch.
Palmetto Brewing, South Carolina’s first modern brewery, started in Charleston in 1993, but seven other production breweries have opened since 2007. Beyond that, a bevy of retail shops, bars, and tour companies have filled most corners of the city with at least one solid craft option.
And as Georgia’s beer scene continues to expand, The Porter Beer Bar in Atlanta will only become an increasingly important destination. In fact, Orpheus brewmaster Jason Pellett says it was integral to the creation of his brewery.
At The Birch, the colorful chalkboard tap list incorporates Virginia breweries like Champion and Smartmouth alongside national mainstays like Allagash and Left Hand while its website advertises a specialization in “craft artisanal European crazy hard to say beer and cheese.”
When beer enthusiasts hear “North Carolina” these days, they probably think “Asheville.” But just behind the mountain town in its number of breweries, Raleigh plays host to a vast array of quality beer bars, specialty bottle shops and homebrew stores that also belong on any serious beer lover’s itinerary.
Linus Hall began brewing beer in college because he wanted to cut down on long-distance beer runs. He got hooked once he discovered that he could make beer that was as good, or better, than the stuff he’d been buying. Hall, a former engineer, founded Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Company a decade ago.
Hardywood Park’s founders, a pair of Northeastern transplants, were blown away by Richmond’s thirst for experimentation, and set up shop there; they landed in an unproven market, opened a brewery focusing on Belgian ales, big Stouts and unique IPAs, and can’t push enough product out the door.
With a few loans and the support of a community that was clamoring for a local brewery, the Port City team took over an old warehouse just outside the nation’s capital to build one of the DC area’s most successful breweries.
Carl Melissas, brewmaster at Asheville’s Wedge Brewing Company, brews up unpretentious ales and lagers inspired by the classic style benchmarks. It’s a simple-sounding proposition, until you account for the stiff competition all around town. The city knows quality and craftsmanship.
COAST Brewing is a tiny brewery run out of an old navy yard in North Charleston, S.C. Its founders, David Merritt and his wife, Jaime Tenney, can only crank out big, hugely creative beers because they first led the campaign to liberalize South Carolina’s brewing regulations.