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

1. WHO’S BEHIND MAKING THE BEERS SO TASTY?

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

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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).

2. WHY IS THE ‘W’ IN SWEETWATER CAPITALIZED?

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

3. WHAT GOES INTO MAKING A NEW BREW?

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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

4. WHAT WAS THE FIRST RESTAURANT TO SERVE SWEETWATER ON TAP?

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

5. HOW MANY DIFFERENT BEERS HAVE EVER BEEN PRODUCED (COMMERCIALLY)?

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

6. HOW MANY FOLKS HAVE VISITED OUR TOURS?

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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!

7. WHY A RAINBOW TROUT AND WHAT IS ITS NAME?

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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.

8. HOW MANY TIMES ARE THE BEERS TESTED BEFORE RELEASED?

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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.

9. WHAT’S THE BEST SELLING SEASONAL?

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Fans go craziest for Road Trip.

10. WHAT WAS THE FIRST BAND TO EVER HEADLINE AT SWEETWATER 420 FESTIVAL?

 (Photo: © Erik Kabik/ RETNA/ www.erikkabik.com).

(Photo: © Erik Kabik/ RETNA/ http://www.erikkabik.com).

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

11. HOW MANY TRUCKS ARE SLINGING BEER OUT OF THE BREWERY EACH WEEK?

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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!

12. WHERE DID THE SLOGAN COME FROM?

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

13. HOW MANY FOLKS HAVE FOUND THEIR OWN “HAPPY ENDING” AT THE BREWERY?

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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!

14. HAVE THE TANKS EVER SPRUNG A LEAK?

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Co-founders Kevin McNerney and Freddy Bensch

Yup!

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.

15. WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE DANK TANK SERIES, AND WHAT IS THAT CRAZY-LOOKIN’ THING ON THE BOTTLE?

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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!

16. HOW’D YOU GET INVOLVED IN SUPPORTING CLEAN WATERWAYS?

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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!

17. WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE PAW PRINT ON THE BOTTOM OF THE 6-PACK BOXES?

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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.

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