I was floored when I found out that I had won the Brew Your Cask Off essay competition that All About Beer Magazine sponsored. I had never won anything before except a liter of cola at this random burger joint. I'd been to Atlanta before but never just to drink beer! Atlanta has such a great beer scene going on. The bars I hit around town all showcased a dedication to great beer and the people supporting those local businesses I was also equally impressed by. I saw everything from young college drinkers, business people, hipsters - even two octogenarians - that were enjoying pints of beer from SweetWater Brewing Company.
How awesome is that?
Loca-pours were everywhere in Atlanta. People were drinking, eating and buying local. It was a great sight to see. I hit some places around town that included The Porter Beer Bar, The Brick Store Pub, Taco Mac and Greene's as well as the brewery at SweetWater. I didn't make it to all of the places that I wanted to hit, but I think I did pretty well for my limited time in the city.
The main reason I was there was for the 2nd Annual Brew Your Cask Off event held at SweetWater. I have loved traditional cask beer from my time in England but this is done only the way American brewers would think to do it and that is the non-traditional way. I am all for any event that raises the awareness of cask beer. There were 88 casks of beer of the day. You could find such things as smoked vanilla beans, dates, cherries, raspberries, honey, ginger, pecans, peaches and plenty more.
Am I forgetting the cask beer?
The natural carbonation really brought out the flavors of many of those ingredients for the good or bad. Creativity is why I think American brewers are the best in the business, so I can really get behind an event like this that showcased that creativity. Some of the casks were really outstanding and I would love to see these brewed again. The winning beer was from the Final Gravity homebrewers club. It was delicious mixing dates, vanilla and coconut with rich porter base.
I was really amazed by the crowd. This cask event is really something unique - to be able to listen to people talk about the flavors and the brewing process. The social aspect of beer is one of the reason I got into it in the first place. Heavy rain made things a bit cramped but, all in all, I had a great time. Getting to sample SweetWater beers that I can't get back in my home state of Indiana was awesome as well. I tried to get my fill! I saw women ordering stouts and porters and men ordering blueberry and wheat beers. There is something to be said about a Southern Belle ordering a pint of Happy Ending - an imperial stout with a 9 percent ABV.
Craft beer is winning the hearts of people because of the organic nature of it and the crowd showed that younger drinkers are craving more flavorful beer and less boring mass-produced beer. I really can't thank Fred, Steve and the rest of the staff at SweetWater enough for their hospitality, the staff at The Porter Beer Bar and The Brick Store Pub, and Daniel Bradford from All About Beer Magazine for the amazing weekend I had in Atlanta. The South has a fantastic beer culture and I can't wait to make it back down for more great beer and more good beer people. -- Matt Robinson