Great Atlanta Beer Fest Review
Story and photos by Tonya Vots
Such was the case Saturday, October 8, 2011, when the inaugural Great Atlanta Beer Fest took place at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, in Atlanta, Georgia. At least 4,000 beer fans showed up to enjoy the camaraderie as only found in the South when you blend excellent beer with a rockin’ party band and multiple outlets of stadium food. Then add college football anywhere you turn on multiple TVs throughout the fest area and it’s definitely a celebration. That’s exactly what the organizers for the fest wanted and it’s what they got.
More than 150 domestic craft and European brews were available for tasting, including several seasonal beers. Samuel Adams and Heavy Seas brought forth pumpkin beers, while Magic Hat, Leinenkugel’s and local brewpub Max Lager’s all had Octoberfest offerings.
Other breweries represented were not to be outdone, some pouring new or limited edition beers. Local brewery Wild Heaven continued to debut Eschaton, a Belgian strong dark ale, the newest to their lineup. Abita snuck in a Weizenbock from its Select series. New to the Atlanta market, Gulpener Brewery of the Netherlands shared Neubourg Pilsner, which was hard to miss in bright blue bottles. Kopparberg, still gaining local ground with its flavorful ciders, did its part to satisfy the crowd as well.
All eight Atlanta area breweries poured crowd favorites. Sweetwater featured favorites 420 and Sch’weet, as well as seasonal Motor Boat ESB and Crank Tank Rye’d Ale; Terrapin rolled out Hopsecutioner and Sunray Wheat among others; and Red Brick shared beer classics Brown and Blonde. Newer to the Atlanta scene are Wild Heaven, as mentioned above, Jailhouse Brewing with its usual line up of Slammer Wheat, Mugshot IPA and Breakout Stout, O’Dempseys Big Red Ale and Inukshuk IPA. The newest kids on the block brought two each: Red Hare Brewing with Gangway IPA and Long Day Lager; and Monday Night Brewing with Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale and Eye Patch IPA. All were well received by the crowd.
The beer media were well represented by Beer Connoisseur Magazine and multiple beer blogging reporters and photographers capturing the sights, smiling faces and quotes of the day.
Area beer retailers Green’s Beverages, Tower Wine and Spirits and Ale Yeah! were all on hand, selling or passing out swag that included everything from lip balm and T-shirts, growlers and koozies to the ubiquitous beer tool— bottle openers— in all shapes and sizes. Other booths reminded fest goers to be conscious of knowing when to say when.
Organizer Mike DiLonardo expressed satisfaction with pre-fest ticket sales.
“We sold around 2,000,” he says, “But I expect at least twice that many people though the gates before the day is over.”
He, as well as the rest of his organizing staff, wore bright red t-shirts emblazoned with the fest logo on front and “Pour’n Director” across the back. In a similar fashion, all other volunteers sported the same red shirt with “Pour’n Star” across the back.
The lighthearted, fun mood was very contagious at this fest. The beer selection was great for a newcomer to the realm of craft beer and even held a few surprises for the more advanced beer enthusiast.