Sweetwater Brewery: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Founded in 1997, Sweetwater was a first-mover into the craft beer scene and has catapulted into a Top 20 brewery in the country. Their facility is located in Midtown Atlanta and their beer is well-distributed in the Southeastern U.S. You can find it at almost any gas station, grocery store, or liquor store. It came as a surprise to me when I found out they only distribute to 18 States total right now.  They are currently working on building out a new facility in Boston, which will help them rapidly expand their distribution to the Northeast.

Additionally, they just underwent a huge expansion in 2012 to their Atlanta facility. This allows them to turnout 400,000 barrels of beer a year. Compared to other large breweries I’ve visited (Sam Adams, Yuengling, Guinness etc), I think it is awesome that Sweetwater brews and distributes its beer from the same facility where you take the tour. This allows you to see how large their operation really is and gives you more of an appreciation of where your beer comes from. Besides that, the tour is pretty comparable to most large breweries. 

The Good

The facility itself is actually a great venue to hangout. They have a pretty incredible outdoor patio as well as an elevated roof deck bar. You pay $15 when you arrive and you get a full sized Sweetwater pint glass, 6 beers, and the tour. Not a bad deal!

Also, Sweetwater does do a remarkable job with branding and marketing. Their tagline, “Don’t Float the Mainstream” is branded everywhere as well as their tie dye color theme. They have the ‘Sweetwater Hatchery’where they release their newest beer creations, ‘Catch and Release Beers’ which are seasonal as well as the ‘Dank Tank’ where they concoct interesting, new beers like bacon-smoked porter or cucumber saison. Cool decorations too, painted tie dye of course!


The Bad

Sweetwater is such a desirable facility that it was really packed when we were there on a Saturday. They even allow dogs! I felt like I was at a concert, constantly getting run into or stepped on. Also, the lines were pretty long to get your next beer. I would recommend trying Sweetwater out on a weekday. Also, we tried to play cornhole on their back patio but their cornhole bags were terrible. They were so light that as soon as it left your hand, the wind would catch it and there was no way to know where it was going. They are making plenty of money; at least invest in some legit cornhole bags! 

The Ugly

Not much for this section. Just sounded good in the title. Although, you could make an argument that tie dye is a pretty terrible branding color.

Sweetwater 420 – Flagship Beer. Extra Pale Ale and always good. Good amount of hops and smooth finish.

Grass Monkey – Lemongrass wheat ale. VERY hoppy start and finish. The hoppiness overwhelms the lemongrass taste. Not my favorite. This is one of their ‘Catch and Release Beers’.

Georgia Brown – Brown ale. Standard brown. Nothing flashy or unique. Just a solid, drinkable beer.

Sweetwater Blue – Wheat beer that tastes like blueberries. This is Sweetwater’s 2nd most popular beer. I don’t love it (because I don’t like fruity beer), but lots of people do!

Mosiac IPA – IPA. Light beer with a bitter finish. This one was in their ‘hatchery’ so I think they were just trying it out.

Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout – This was serious. Aged in a Jack Daniels barrel, this stout hits you hard with a 11.2% ABV. Chocolaty notes with a bourbon finish.Good desert beer.

Overall, great atmosphere and some solid beer. I’ll stick with the classic Sweetwater 420 though. That is their flagship and it never disappoints. And now, it tastes just a little bit better than before since I know where it is being brewed. 

Want to read the city review? Atlanta, Georgia: Spotlight on Midtown

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