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Popping the Cap; It’s an American Craft

When Georgia raised the maximum beer-alcohol content from 6% to 14% in 2004, a new wave of microbrews and international beers became available, ranging from home brewed concoctions to those brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium.

But the higher alcohol content is not these beers’ greatest attraction. While packing more punch than a Budweiser (5%), these beers also cost a few more dollars in that they are more expensive to brew and import (making them less than ideal for just getting your drink on).

The greater attraction arguably is the wider variety of flavors that these stronger brews make possible. As a result, a number of better priced American alternatives can be found to the traditional, more expensive imports. They make a great introduction for those wishing to experiment with these unique but stronger flavors.

Save Your Washingtons—Buy American
Once upon a time the jokes about American beer made by Europeans and Canadians were perhaps justifiable. Today however there are more than 1,400 breweries in the U.S. and exponentially more brands, according to the Brewers Association.

The continuing growth of craft beer entered double-digit territory in 2006, with sales by craft brewers up 11.7% by volume, based upon industry data.

This thirst for American craft beers has been fed by the frenzy for higher alcohol beers and sustained by the introduction of award-winning concoctions, says Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association, which tabulated the industry growth data.

The Suds—Not Duds
Unfortunately, craft brewery brands are almost never national in their distribution. But fortunately, the selection in Georgia is expanding due to both local brewers and a number of other craft breweries that recently have (or are planning) to enter the market.

Examples include:

The Lagunitas Brewing Company — Founded in 1994, this brewery is best known for it’s irreverent approach to business along with it’s higher alcohol craft beers.

brFor instance, the brewery's license was suspended for 20 days in 1985 for the use of marijuana at one of the brewery's parties. But instead of hanging their heads in shame, the brewery chose to commemorate the event by producing the "Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.”

Despite the brewery’s irreverent attitude toward the authorities, it does brew some unique and delicious beers. Among those is the “Brown Shugga.” At 9.9% alcohol, this beer packs a whallop! The base is a barley wine to which slightly burnt brown sugar is added for a hint of sweetness.he

The Ommegang Brewery — Founded in 1997 in upstate New York, not far from the birthplace of baseball, Ommegang brews Belgian-style ales at American prices. Among those are the rustic-style Hennepin Farmhouse Saison “farmhouse” golden ale and the Three Philosophers, a quadruple Belgian-style ale with a strong malty flavor that is enhanced by the addition of a cherry lambic.

avThe Avery Brewing Company — Incorporated in September 1993, Avery is the product of a home brewing experiment by Adam Avery, who set out to perfect the recipe for amber ale. The brewery today produces several Belgian-style ales as well as award winning stouts. Among those is “The Czar,” an award-winning Russian imperial stout. This beer features the rich tastes of toffee, mocha, sweet molasses, and candied currants with a hint of anise. Available until the end of March, the Avery Czar is well worth storing for a rainy day in that it will age in the bottle and become denser and more complex with age.

Additional options include the better-known concoctions of Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada along with the clever stylings of local breweries such as Sweet Water of Atlanta and Terrapin of Athens, GA. Each of these breweries makes unique seasonal, higher alcohol beers well worth trying and stocking.

Dogfish HeadBut perhaps the most exciting introduction in Georgia to date has been the recent addition of Dogfish Head Brewery from Milton, Delaware.

Founded in 1995, Dogfish Head is best known for it’s “experimental” beer making methods and it’s use of unconventional ingredients such as green raisins. The brewery’s signature products are the Indian Pale Ales, which are passed through a large plastic tube filled with raw hops. The alcohol in the beer lifts oils off the raw hops, adding even more hop flavor to the beers.

In fact, craft beer has become a great American success story and today, it is the U.S. craft brewers that are being watched, emulated and celebrated. But while the true quality of a beer may be best judged by flavor… it also doesn’t hurt to save a dollar or two in the process, making the American craft beers a true value proposition for trying something a little different.


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1789 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, GA 30033 | Phone: 404-633-8242 | www.decaturspirits.com
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