Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Beer in the Garden of Good and Evil

Moon River Brewing Company brewer,
Aaron Deist showing off the barrel room.
What comes to mind when you think of Savannah, Georgia? Do you envision beautiful trees filled with Spanish moss, amazing architecture, River Street, or a certain book/movie set in one of the most gorgeous cities in the state? To be honest, I see all of those things and more. I love strolling through Bonaventure Cemetery, people watching as I walk through the squares, eating steamed oysters, listening to music at Kevin Barry's, and enjoying some local craft beer. Yes, that's right. The craft beer scene in Savannah gives you one more reason to visit that magical town on the river.

A friend of mine and I recently took a girls' trip to start off the summer and visit some of the awesome breweries in town. We started the beer portion of our trip at Moon River Brewing Company. Moon River opened its doors in 1999, so it is the original craft beer destination in Savannah. Still brewing fun and tasty beverages, this brewpub is a great place to grab a bite to eat and soak in some local flavor. With great brews like Swamp Fox IPA, Da Bomb dry Irish stout, and Wild Wacky Wit, you can not go wrong. We had the luck to run into one of the owners, John Pinkerton, and head brewer, Aaron Deist who honored us by taking us on a tour of their barrel room and giving us samples of a few new beers in the making. I do declare, it was the tastiest start to a great trip. Get down there soon, as a marvelous Berliner Weiss will be going on in a couple of weeks.

With a beer to go, we bid the folks at Moon River a thankful farewell and headed for our next adventure. About three miles out of town (and totally worth the Uber fare), sits Coastal Empire Beer Company. Spearheaded by brothers, Kevin and Chris Haborak, Coastal Empire is the epitome of a local, small craft brewery. Because the facility is tucked away in an industrial park, you may think you have gone to the wrong place, but don't turn away. Inside their brewing space, these guys have plenty of room to grow and a tasting room for you to sate your thirst while learning about their brews. There is literally something for everyone from their Tybee Blond to the red wine barrel-aged Midnight in the Garden. You will enjoy choosing your next taste. Thank you Kevin for introducing me to "Pink, Fluffy Unicorn." Next time you are in town, go show these guys some love. After closing down the tasting room, we decided dinner was in order as well as a round or two of Irish music.
Kevin and Chris give the Beer Wench a tour of their magic making facility. Cheers, guys!

Blackhawk on duty
In our wanderings, we found a few surprises not totally beer related. At the Savannah Bee Company, you can taste a flight of mead, the oldest fermented beverage in the world. If you are more into wine than beer, you can taste a flight of Georgia wines in the cellar of The Salt Table. We also enjoyed barley's other incarnation with a tasting flight of single malt Scotch at Molly McPherson's which also boasts a good craft beer list as well.

After a day of sightseeing and various other tastings, we wandered down River Street to Service Brewing Company which was a perfect spot to check out on Memorial Day weekend. Owners, Kevin Ryan and Meredith Sutton hold a special place in their hearts and brewery for our service men and women. Their pride shows in the brewery's American flag painted as a back drop for to the music stage and the service patch art installations. The names of the brews also show the respect and love given to those who serve. My two favorites were Battlewagon (an imperial IPA) and Old Guard (a bier de garde using Savannah Bee Company honey).

Art installation that allows guests to participate
Meredith gave us an incredible tour, introducing us to her bees which provide honey for some of their brews. We also met brewery cats Blackhawk and Chinook, who keep watch over the entire operation. This is a couple who believe in hard work, community, putting out quality products, and honoring those who work to allow us to enjoy a good brew with friends.

When you think that the end is near, do a double take. There is yet another brewery on the mission to keep Savannah from being thirsty for good beer. Southbound's theme is music, and they use hop head Kokopelli figures as their logo and beer names that honor songs and musicians like Hoplin, an homage to the late Janis Joplin, and Roxanne, a sour cherry ale. She may not need to put on her red dress but she does wear it well. Food truck outside...good beer inside...what else do you need? Thanks to out to Carly for setting us up and to Natalie for being such a great hostess.

If you do all the brewery tours and are still thirsty for good brews, there are several great venues for local, national and international beer including Crystal Beer Parlor, The Distillery, Savannah Taphouse and more. I have to count this girls' trip an absolute success and can not wait to go back to one of my favorite beer-cation spots.

On a final note, I had planned to write this article as a counter to the recent piece about a brewery brewing beer for women, but as I talked to everyone including women, like myself, enjoying good beer, I realized that there was no point. If you make good beer, people will drink it - male or female. Most beer industry folks know this. To condescend that women have to have special beer made for them or marketed to them is ridiculous. This beer woman has been enjoying craft beer since 1993 when I was introduced to beer with flavor and different styles. Whether you are man or woman or somewhere in between, you can find great beer. The beer community is as diverse and flavorful as the multitude of styles brewers can imagine. Cheers to all the ladies that I met in the research for this article and the breweries who welcomed us with open arms to share their hard work and dedication. Remember, eat well and drink good beer.

Sunset on the river

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