The Tour de Funk

This week we asked our resident sipster Zak to recap his whirlwind tour up the east coast with bar boss Derrick to the Extreme Beer Fest. In between sampling the literal truckload of beers they brought, he sent us over the below.

Last weekend, we drove up to pour some of our heady brews at the 2014 Extreme Beer Fest in Boston, MA hosted by Beer Advocate and Dogfish Head. Talk about extreme–the average ABV of the beers there was 9%!

There were beers from all over the country and styles that ranged from the lightest of session ales (0.3% ABV to be exact) to the most tart of sours to even a porter made with a smoked pig head (eyes and all) tossed in the boil. A truly one of a kind experience.

When we got the invite to pour our tasty brews at Extreme Beer Fest, we were faced with a slight challenge. Our beer is not distributed in Massachusetts (yet) and the shipping cost was astronomical to get all our beer up there. Solution…we’ll take it ourselves and make it into a road trip deemed Tour de Funk! Both [SweetWater Bar Boss] Derrick and myself hopped in our tie-dye van and began the long journey to Boston.

We didn’t want to drive 18 hours straight and show up to the fest beat tired from the epic drive. Instead, we armed ourselves with a video camera, multiple cities to stop in and a goal to spread as much SweetWater love as possible. The end result – Many a hand kissed, many a baby shaken and enough hangovers to kill an average man.

Stopping in Charlotte and Richmond the first day, we got a grasp of life on the road driving through an ice storm and learning that the van’s headlights are cocked about 45 degrees to the right. Not sure what happened to this thing before we got in it, but multiple Bonnaroo’s and countless beer fests are most likely the culprit.

We spent the day in Richmond visiting all kinds of bars, restaurants and specialty beer stores hanging with the people that we love most, the ones drinking our beer! From Richmond we went out to Washington DC, said hey to Mr. Obama and started hitting the local beer spots in Arlington and Alexandria, VA as well as DC proper to show some love.

We always thought folks in Atlanta were number one at drinking our tasty brews, but those Virginia and DC folks may give us a run for our money. Fantastic beer selections everywhere we went, 420 stickers everywhere and the people were all very easy on the eyes. Can’t wait to go back!

From DC, it was time to make the long trip to Boston. We drove through Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey then took our boat of a van through the middle of NYC–talk about white knuckle driving! Also, no one gave us a heads up on how many tolls there are in these states, and no toll operator would do a trade for beer. Unbelievable! After flying through Connecticut on CT-15, we finally made it to our destination, BAAASTAN!

The city itself was gorgeous and the location of the beer fest couldn’t have been better. Right on the water (inside of course) for the perfect Boston feel. There were three total sessions, all of which were sold out, so we knew we had a lot beers to pour ahead of us. The venue space was huge and filled with brewers from all over. With a line wrapped around the building, you could feel the excitement in the air.

All three sessions were a blast! Tons of beer geeks cruising from booth to booth trying the weirdest of the weird and checking off bucket list beers they thought they would never try. Every brewery involved were to only bring beers that are not readily available in the market, 1 offs and the most strange creations they could come up with.

We came equipped with Red Hot Momma, 2012 Festive Ale, 2013 Happy Ending and our coveted 16th anniversary brew. Needless to say, we poured lots of beer. It was amazing to see how much love we received from folks that had never heard of us as well as gleaming smiles from those who had left the south for jobs up north, missing their favorite local brewery, and discovering that we were there, ready to serve.

After all three sessions over two days were finally complete, Derrick and myself hopped back in the tie-dye van and began our long journey back home. With our livers quite punished we B-lined it back to Atlanta to the thing we love most, a big pint of Atlanta’s finest craft brew. Looking forward to the next one and can’t wait to see all you Bostonians again at next year’s Extreme Beer Fest.


2014 420 Fest Schedule, Map and Juicy Tidbits

It’s the 10th Anniversary SweetWater 420 Festival day by day schedule! We know the meat is a few inches below this, but bear with us real quick as we point out a couple new things.

EDM Fans – We’ve seriously expanded our DJ talent with names like Two Fresh, George Acosta, Conspirator, Paul Basic, and a ton more on an all-new Not So Silent Disco stage.

Parents – 420 Fest is family friendly, so no need to get a sitter. Check out the bottom of the schedule for what’s going on for the kiddos in the Chipotle KidZone.

Comedy Fans – The Relapse 420 Comedy Tent has never had a bigger lineup. Things tend to get a little bit raunchier when the sun goes down though, so please laugh responsibly.

Beer Nerds – Any of you guys comin’? You can win two tickets to the fest, PLUS the chance to be the right hand (wo)man during the homebrew demo Sunday. All we need is your best brew recipe. ENTER HERE.

Last Thing – All this talent means we gotta charge for entry, but it’s only $18 for all three days if you pick tickets up now, or $10/day at the door. We recommend buyin’ em early to save a few bucks and get in quicker at the party.

OK that’s it – sneak a peek at the schedule and a map of the new digs in Centennial Olympic Park below. See y’all there!


ticket purchase button


Cheers to 17 Years of Heady Beers


Big thanks to everyone who came out to help us celebrate our 17th Anniversary Sunday and to all those who celebrated with us from afar. It was a pretty big party – how big you ask? Well, let us tell you…

By the Numbers

Millions of brain cells killed (only the weak ones)
2,200 Friends and Family hanging out
1,024 Check-ins to our brews on untappd
740 Gallons of heady brews poured
150 Cans in our (mostly not leaning) Tower of Cans
33 SweetWater Beer-slingers slinging beer
30 Minutes to float the first keg (Big Ol Belgian Blue Balls)
29 Heady Brews flowing
20 Fur Bus Shuttle Trips between MARTA and the brewery
17 Special Brews busted out of the cellar
A lot of glasses broken
5 Cakes thrown
4 Drivers Licenses lost (we got em by the way, call 404.691.ALES)
3 Food Trucks
2 Sets from Like a Locomotive
1 Big Ol’ Hangover Monday morning

We gotta give a shout out to Addison Hill for snapping photos (check em out on Facebook or Flickr), plus Brian, Rob and the rest of the guys from JAOPRO for the killer video up there at the top. Speaking of, check out Voyage, a flick they shot while floatin’ down the river from East Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico. Pretty cool concept and plenty of cameos by yours truly.

17thBDay_0026 (Large)

Now it’s time to start that countdown to our next big fiesta, 420 Fest. See y’all there in 53 days.

17 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About SweetWater

Since today is our 17th birthday, we figured we’d fill ya in on 17 random facts you probably didn’t know about us.


Our head Beer Gods are some pretty cool guys who go by the names of Mark Medlin and Nick Nock.


Nick (the dude on the right) is our Head Brewer and was SweetWater’s very first employee. Throughout the past 17 years, he’s had just about every job you could imagine at the brewery before taking the gig as Head Brewer. Nick has developed pretty tasty stuff in his time here, and is most proud of taking home a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2010 for his barrel aged sour. Oh, did we mention he’s got some kind of Spidey-sense that can detect any beer over 9% ABV by making the hairs on his arms stand straight up? Weird, but true.

Mark (the dude on the left) is our Brewmaster. He got his start homebrewing in college at Virginia Tech and began testing out his recipes on his buddies at parties (surely, they didn’t mind). He started out as an engineer installing brewery control systems and knew there was no going back. He hit the books again to get a Master’s in a Brewer’s Program at UC Davis. Mark then got his wings at Goose Island Brewing Co. (pun intended) before joining the SweetWater fam in Atlanta. He’s a hophead at heart and has been known for his mean jump shot (in case you were wondering).


Logo (No Atlanta)

We always emphasize the importance of water. It’s the first, and main ingredient in beer.



Straight from Head Brewer Nick Nock:

When it’s time to create a newborn brew, it’s usually because we (Nick and Brewmaster Mark) are inspired, ready for a new product, or if we think it would be a cool idea. We then study and sample existing beers in this style and concoct prototype recipes. Once we’ve got our formulas finalized, we combine them to make one harmonious method for our new brew. From there, it’s game on and we crank out 220+ barrels.

With the Dank Tank, it is a one shot deal. With the seasonal brews, we brew it more than once so we could tweak it on the second batch, but rarely does that happen.

Long story short:

  • Brainstorm + recipe creation = one week
  • Ingredient acquisition = one week
  • Brew, ferment and condition = 17-30 days (depending on yeast strain)
  • So, we’re looking at about 1-2 months for a new bundle of brew



The friendly folks at Neighbors Pub in Virginia Highlands were the first to put our brews in the game back in ’97. 



More than 100 types of SweetWater brews have been tapped and tasted since our beginnings in ’97.


Cheers on Patio

You guys feel mighty comfortable paying us a visit at the brewery and we feel mighty happy laying down the welcome mat. It’s estimated that we’ve given more than 12,000 tours since we started, letting curious brew fans peruse the place and wet their whistles. Now that we’ve expanded to make more room for you and your friends, we see about 2,000 smiling fans who are sippin’ on about 35 kegs per week (depending on season). That adds up to more 100,000 folks per year!



Our Big Kahuna, (that’s CEO for all you corporate folks) Freddy Bensch, says it was a simple choice. He and co-founder, Kevin McNerney, loved beer and loved fishin’ for trout.The signature SweetWater rainbow trout goes by Trouser, but he prefers to wear shorts.



We have a Quality Assurance team dedicated to making sure our beers are so fresh and so clean for y’all. On average, our Taste Panel samples and releases 4-6 batches daily (yup, people actually get paid to taste beer). Each batch of beer is physically and chemically tested more than 200 times before released.


Road Trip Bottle with Glass

Fans go craziest for Road Trip.


 (Photo: © Erik Kabik/ RETNA/

(Photo: © Erik Kabik/ RETNA/

Tea Leaf Green was the first official headliner to hit our stage during our early years of 420 Fest.



We send out roughly 45 trucks jam-packed with our heady brews per week. That’s a lot of liquid love on the Southeastern roads headed to coolers near you! These fancy 18-wheelers are a far cry from the original dairy truck that could only load up a couple kegs at a time. And that’s all thanks to y’all, so cheers!



These words to live by came to Freddy in a dream and it’s the way we’ve been running the place ever since.



Believe it or not, we had about 25 different couples get hitched here in 2013. Three of those pairs had deeper ties to our brews; as they met during a tour and tasting. We’re going to go ahead and say we weren’t the best at record-keepin’ long before then, so it’s hard to grasp how many many couples have tied the knot over the years. But we can say, if you’re ready to share your beers for the rest of your life with that special someone…the Tasting Room seems to have some real love makin’ powers. So here’s a toast to new beginnings and Happy Endings!



Co-founders Kevin McNerney and Freddy Bensch


From Big Kahuna Freddy Bensch: Back at the original brewery off of Fulton Industrial, we had a 50-bbl tank of beer which had just finished fermenting and underwent two days of conditioning. Suddenly, a pinhole leak developed at the door gasket that we were unable stop, no matter how hard we tried. There was no possible way to move the beer, and after several unsuccessful attempts to stop the leak throughout two days, we just had to drink it! It was the never-ending beer fountain of 420. The dog was on it, everyone was on it. It was either a long, slow death or a big party depending how you look at it.



The inspiration behind the Dank Tank was, and still is, to enable us to continue to be creative as brewers and have fun from a marketing perspective. Of course we love to make the core brands that support the brewery, but at the end of the day, we’re brewers and want to be able to challenge ourselves with new styles and flavors. This one-off series features limited run high-grav beers, and a chance for us to unleash new flavors and styles for our fans.

As for the story on what that crazy lookin’ creature on the bottle, he/she goes by El Danko, purveyor of our strange brews. Always interesting and always down for a good time. The weirder the better for this strange soul!



According to Freddy: I grew up around the water and studied Environmental Sciences in college before heading off to the Brewing School in California. When we arrived in Atlanta to start the brewery, we sought some cool relief in the local rivers. These waterways were, and still are, our community’s backyard where we swim, kayak, paddle board, fish, and drink. We were concerned about the water quality of these rivers based on what we were accustomed to out West. We wanted to use the brewery to make a positive impact on the community and working with Waterkeeper Alliance was one of the most logical ways to give back. Environmental responsibility is ingrained in our personalities and our culture, not to mention the quality of our beer. Plus, clean water makes up 90 percent of it. Reason enough!


Scan 152

That paw print is from Badger, Freddy’s dog who pretty much served as the mascot/office manager/greeter of the original brewery.

Want to help us celebrate 17 years of being older and wiser (well that’s debatable)? Grab your party pants and head on down to the brewery this Sunday, Feb. 23 and help us blow out the candles and break into our cellared stash. We’ll be getting funky with Like a Locomotive and debuting our 17th Anniversary Saison – reason enough to come out and hang. Find us on Facebook for all of the party details.

SweetWater 420 Festival Line Up is Here!

Y’all have waited long enough, so without any more delay (drumroll please), get a load of our official 10th Anniversary SweetWater 420 Festival lineup:


If ya don’t know, now ya know! And as you can see, we’ve got a couple big names to fill in here (still waiting for some ink to dry on some biggins), but we’ll have ‘em spelled out for ya in the next few weeks on our 420 Festival Facebook page. Tickets are available for pre-sale now and are going for cheaper than you’ll get them at the door, so might as well go ahead and lock down your weekend while saving a few bones.

We’re also looking for a few generous souls to volunteer to help out during the fest. In return for your good deed, we’ll let you in free and send you on your way with a stylin’ 420 Fest t-shirt. Click here for more info:

Last thing: remember that this party is all about Mother Earth and social awareness. We’ll have a bunch of details comin’ out soon about our annual 420 Fest work day and how we’re planning to give back in 2014, plus 411 on the fests’ Planet 420 village. As we like to say, we’re here for a good time, she’s here for a long time!

Stuff stockings, not pants this holiday season

The holidays are all about spending quality time with family. Or, if you’re like us, drinking heavily and avoiding that one uncle who’s a little too friendly. Either way, nothing says I’m obliged to tolerate your presence like a few choice gifts. Just make sure you get your orders in by Dec. 13, or the goodies won’t arrive in time to tuck under the tree.

SweetWater Pocket Disc

These things may look like something you tuck your dreads into, but they’re actually woven soft frisbees perfect for a little interoffice shenanigans or fetch with your drinking buddy. Their website has something like 50 uses for em, so even if your recipient has the hand-eye coordination of a blind rhinoceros they should be able to make good use of it.

Brown Bag Soap Co. Soaps

Beer is usually the last thing you wanna smell after a night of punishing the liver, but wash up with one of these soaps made using our brews the next day and you’ll be hating life a lot less. The soaps are made right here in Georgia and come in 420 Pale Ale, BLUE Wheat, Georgia Brown, and Exodus Porter. Snag em in a gift pack of 3, singles or with a soap rest. Bonus: they’ll keep that stocking smelling nice after having sat in a dark hole for 12 months.

Columbia Cold Weather Gear

We’ve got a whole mess of new schwag in from Columbia just in time for when it would be cold everywhere else but is actually 70 degrees in Georgia. Regardless, this stuff is all top-shelf stuff complete with embroidered SweetWater logos. Between the jackets, vests, scarves hats and of course our brews, you’ll be keeping toasty all winter long. Available in men’s and women’s sizes.


John Dunn Replica Art Afghan

Speaking of toasty, bring this sucker up to the slopes and you’ll have snow bunnys and/or mooses fighting each other to curl up with you. Inspired by our favorite artist John Dunn (the mastermind behind our tie-dye vehicles, the mural on the brewery and pretty much everything cool), these blankets are a steal at just $50.


SweetWater Cycling Jersey

Right about now you may be thinking to yourself, “I hate the cold, where’s the warm weather stuff?” Well pat yourself on the back for sticking it out to the end, cause here you go. These bike jerseys for dudes and dudettes are from the awesome folks at Primalwear Cycling and will make you the talk of the town as you zip around…town.

Oh yeah, we tapped that cask

Finally gettin’ back to normal after the insanity that was Brew Your Cask Off on Saturday night. In case you’ve been hiding out in a cave for the past month, BYCO is our annual fiesta of cask beer where we invite 90 friends to come throw a bunch of stuff into a firkin and top it off with one of our brews.

We had a few badass brews come out of it that we’d be proud to call our own, and, as always, some stinkers we wouldn’t swallow even if Benjamin Franklin asked us to.

We’ve got some pics and the winners below, but before we get to that we wanna give a quick shout out to our awesome vendors and sponsors, especially Radio 105.7 for helpin’ us pull off the People’s Choice award.Our awesome volunteers also deserve some serious praise for manning their casks in the face of the thirsty public.

Last but not least, thanks to everyone who came out to be a part of one hell of a night.

Now down to business…

2013 Judges Panel Awards
1st Place: #67 The Giving Kitchen – “Second Helping IPA” : A second helping of hops and a second helping of generosity in this
double IPA with notes of juniper and grapefruit. Good beer, good cause!

2nd Place: #73 Manuel’s Tavern – “Basil Slap” : 420 with Columbus dry hops, honey and basil

3rd Place: #48 Universal Joint – “Shive-R Me Timbers” : Brown dry-hopped with Columbus, Liberty, Fuggle and US Golding with figs and oak chips added.

People’s Choice Awards
#9 Cypress Street Pint & Plate – “The Musketeer Beer” : Brown with maple syrup, vanilla beans and cocoa powder.

Biggest Loser
#44 Brickstore Pub - “Coffee IPA” : IPA with three different kinds of hops and a self-described “shitton” of coffee



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