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Try a new brew
Atlanta beer companies offer tours, tastings

If you'd like to learn more about beer, two Atlanta microbreweries are the perfect place to start. The Atlanta Brewing Company and SweetWater Brewing Company host weekly tours to help people understand how beer is made.

"We're here to make people like the experience and look for our beer in the marketplace," said Bob Budd, president and chairman of Atlanta Brewing Company.

The two companies also offer samples of their products during tasting events - for now.

The Georgia Department of Revenue is considering the adoption of new regulations for events held at the state's three microbreweries, which includes Terrapin Beer Company in Athens. The new rules would limit the size of the samples at breweries to 2 ounces of each beer offered, with a total of 16 ounces per customer during each visit.

"This could kill or desperately damage the three breweries," Budd said.

Currently, at the Atlanta Brewing Company, samples are 8 ounces. At SweetWater, tickets for six 6-ounce samples are given to each person who purchases a tasting glass.

A 2-ounce pour of beer would be 75 percent foam, Budd said. Plus, a small sample doesn't accurately represent the beer, said Lindsey Shaffer of SweetWater.

"You really can't experience the aroma and flavor in a 2-ounce sample," she said.

Budd believes that these small samples might discourage the public from visiting the brewery. The tours and tastings are the Atlanta Brewing Company's primary form of marketing.

In the past, the breweries have worked together on self-regulation, Budd said. For example, at Atlanta Brewing Company, no more than 48 ounces of beer is served to any one person during an event. Employees monitor each event to make sure no one overindulges.

"We watch our patrons. This is more beer tasting than partying," Budd said. "Together, we've never had an incident involving the public. There's never been a problem at all."

SideBar:

Atlanta Brewing Company

2323 Defoor Hills Road, NW, Atlanta

404-355-5558

www.atlantabrewing.com

The beer: The company's signature beer is Red Brick Ale, an American brown ale that features strong malt flavors.

Its Red Brick Peachtree Pale Ale is an American-style pale ale. "Pale ales are stronger, heartier beers that have more hops in them," said Bob Budd, president of the Atlanta Brewing Company.

Red Brick Blonde is a light-bodied golden ale. "It's a crisper, warm-weather beer," Budd said.

Summer Ale, a seasonal brew, is a German hefeweizen, or wheat beer. "It's made with German wheat and German hops," Budd said.

Winter Brew, another seasonal beer, is a double-chocolate oatmeal porter. The company also makes the Numbers beer served at the Concentrics Hospitality restaurants such as One Midtown Kitchen and Two Urban Licks.

This year, the company expects to produce about 8,000 barrels of beer.

Tours: The Atlanta Brewing Company offers tours and tastings between 5 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On Wednesday and Friday, local bands play during the event.

The free tours are run by graduate students from Georgia Tech. "We've got a waiting list of kids who want to work here," Budd said.

The tastings: To sample the beers, patrons buy a glass for $7, which includes six 8-ounce pours.

SweetWater Brewing Company

195 Ottley Drive, Atlanta

404-691-2537

www.sweetwaterbrew.com

The beer: The top beer is SweetWater 420, an extra pale ale that accounts for 65 percent of the company's sales. The second most popular variety is SweetWater Blue, a light pale ale with a blueberry flavor and aroma.

The company also makes SweetWater IPA, a hoppy pale ale with a lot of bitterness. "We call it the beer you have been training for," said Lindsey Shaffer of SweetWater.

When it was originally introduced, SweetWater Hummer, a Belgian white ale with orange peel and coriander, was only available in the summer. But customers liked it so much, the company decided to offer it year-round, Shaffer said.

SweetWater Georgia Brown is an English brown ale with a nutty aroma and aftertaste.

Road Trip, a pilsner-style ale, is one of the company's seasonal brews. This fall, Happy Ending, a heavy stout with a slight chocolate flavor, will be brewed. At the end of the year, Festive, a stout with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, will be available. This beer will be offered in a 1-liter bottle.

SweetWater produces 40,000 barrels of beer a year.

Tours: SweetWater hosts tours and tastings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Bands play live in the courtyard in front of the brewery. The tours are free.

Tastings: With the free tour, each patron gets a plastic cup and six tickets good for 2-ounce samples of beer. However, most choose to buy a pint glass for $8, which includes six tickets for 6-ounce samples of the company's brews.