On Location: Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in Athens, Georgia
One balmy spring evening, the white dogwoods and pink redbuds are in full bloom, and a soft floral fragrance lingers in the air.
At Creature Comforts Brewing Co. (271 W. Hancock Ave.), the garage doors in the tasting room are up to take in the season, and the crowds sifting through to sample beer and take a tour appear giddy at the prospect of simply being there at such a glorious time of year.
People and dogs mix and mingle among picnic tables and bar stools, while the steady din of conversation is punctuated by surging rock music and occasional yelps. Hoodies, watch caps and man buns seem to be de rigueur, along with the first crop of sundress and cowboy boot ensembles.
Behind one of the bars, a sprightly server dons a sparkly blue jacket and matching hat to mark the occasion and offers a smile to anyone who comes her way.
Since Creature Comforts opened its doors to the public in April 2014, that sort of scene has been much the same, seeming to mesh with the spirit and history of the small Southern college town that became a mecca for artists and musicians, and spawned the likes of the B-52s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic and the Drive-By Truckers.
The short history of the brewery starts with David Stein, a University of Georgia graduate who developed the Creature Comforts brand as an Atlanta homebrewer. Later, Stein became the brewer at Twain’s brewpub in Decatur, where he experimented with many of the recipes that are now part of the Creature Comforts lineup.
With the backing of an Athens investment group, Stein joined with Adam Beauchamp, a longtime brewer at Sweetwater Brewing Co. in Atlanta, and Chris Herron, who became the CEO after leaving a finance director position at international beverage giant Diageo.
The trio took over the iconic Snow Tire Co., preserving the historic exterior and footprint of the building’s past lives as a garage and auto showroom, while adding an array of contemporary design elements to the interior, using everything from rustic reclaimed wood to old tire racks.
Over the course of two years, the brewery has grown by leaps and bounds, garnering acclaim for its fruit-forward Tropicália IPA and increasing its capacity several times to keep up with demand.
Among the core brands, Reclaimed Rye is an amber ale aged on French oak, Athena Berliner Weisse is a refreshing German-style wheat beer, and Bibo is an Old World-style pilsner that was originally designed to be the brewery’s signature beer—until Tropicália took its place by popular demand.
In the spring, though, the tasters are clamoring for the seasonal release, Cosmik Debris, a zesty double IPA starring a whole lot of hops, described rather psychedelically as creating “beautiful notes of starfruit and orange marmalade on the palate.”
The mantra at Creature Comforts is to crave curiosity, Stein says. And that also translates to a strong sense of community.
The brewery regularly hosts a farmers market in the parking lot next door. And on Wednesdays, the Get Comfortable series invites to the tasting room nonprofits (with missions to address poverty and homelessness) to present programs and raise money.
“That’s a big community piece for us,” Stein says later in the evening, staring out the window at another crowd coming up the sidewalk toward the brewery. “We’re around a lot of creative and passionate people, and they connect with what we’re doing in a lot of ways beyond beer.” –Bob Townsend