We Got Tanked, With Photos to Prove It

As we keep huffing and puffing towards the last phase of the expansion, our gang was getting tanked all last week. Some of our lucky Friday and Saturday tour-goers even got to sneak a peek of it all going down (see what we did there!), while other Atlantans might of caught a glimpse of what looked like massive missiles rollin’ down I-75/85 during rush hour traffic Friday afternoon (whoops).

We’re happy to let y’all know that as of this past weekend, all 14 of our new 1,000-bbl fermentation and brite tanks (10 fermenters and 4 brites) are up and in place in our new tank farm…going out on a limb here and saying this might just be the coolest farm in midtown Atlanta!

We captured lots of photos and some footage during the process. Feel free to browse on through our Flickr album to see it all in action, or click any of the pics in this post to link over. Special shout out to Chris Rank with Rank Studios for some of these awesome shots.

Now for some dank  facts about the tanks: Each of those tanks can hold up to 2,000 kegs which is nearly 13,780 cases and 330,720 bottles of beer. Multiply that by 14 tanks and that’s 28,000 kegs, 192,920 cases and 4,63,080 bottles of beer folks…just about enough sweet SweetWater nectar to fill an Olympic swimming pool.  Wonder if Michael Phelps wants to swim through it to check for us since he’s now retired (and we all know how much he loves the 420)!

Hoping to get the finishing touches on the brew house done this fall, got some grand brews in store to christen the new girl.  Lean back, turn up some Phish and enjoy the visuals.

Photo by Katie LeVan

Photo by Chris Rank, Rank Studios

Photo by Chris Rank, Rank Studios


Growin’ to Keep the Brews Flowin’

It’s been a busy couple of months for our brewery operations folks over here as we continue to keep workin’ on our last phase of the expansion — the mighty brew house. We’ve had a few danktastic deliveries arriving at 195 Ottley Drive over the past week alone and our guys are excited to start getting their hands on some of the new equipment that’s arrived.

So far, we’ve got three out of five of our new 1000-barrel fermentation tanks, and all four bright tanks, set in place in the new brew house. Fun fact: If you tried to drink an entire helpin’ from our new 1000-barrel tank, it’d take you nearly 87 years drinkin’ a gallon a day. I bet we’d have some folks ready to volunteer for the challenge.

Yesterday, we welded the legs on to the new mash mixer and had the crane set ‘er down into the new brew house. This morning, the crew also managed to get the bottom piece of our new lauter tun and the wort receiver together and put into place as well. We’re lookin’ to get the rest of the later tun in tonight and the new kettle put together and installed next week. Things are a comin’ together!

We’re trekkin’ along and gettin’ work done ’cause our gang is pretty pumped to play with all our shiny new toys. After we get all the pieces polished up, it’s looking like we’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll with a finalized brew house later this summer, if not early fall. But don’t worry your pretty little hop heads, nothing goes to waste here…we’re keeping the old 50-barrel brew house in tact to let our hair down and brew some experimental headiness just for fun. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, raise a few coldies to yourselves, ’cause we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our extended family. Feel free to thumb through some of our latest and greatest pictures from the expansion to check out how far we’ve come, and hold on tight for the beers that lie ahead…


The new mash mixer getting lifted into place


Four of our new bright tanks in the brew house


Lookin’ up at our new 1000-barrel fermentation tanks


Wort receiver getting lowered into place

Three Big Sets of Scissors for Three Big Kahunas

It’s been a long time coming, and the walls have been closing in on us quickly. We’ve pulled the trigger and dropped a boat load of cash into building a bigger, better, and badder brewery. To unveil our latest expansion project, we decided to do it up and invited out some of elected officials and a few VIP friends, including Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta City Mayor Kasim Reed, to help us break it in during a ribbon during a ceremony at the brewery on Tuesday, March 20.

With most of the Atlanta business media front and center, our founder, Freddy Bensch, said a few words about what this project means to him and invited both Mayor Reed and Gov. Deal to say a few words before the ribbon was cut, curtains were pulled back and the expansion was unveiled.


Thoughts from Freddy:  “This is an exciting time for our industry as more people develop a taste for craft beer, and we are seeing that demand continue to grow here at SweetWater. It’s crazy to think that just 15 years ago I could fit everything in my truck and now we are the second largest brewery in the Southeast, cutting the ribbon with the governor and the mayor on this incredible new facility.”


This expanded facility is phase one of our three-part construction overhaul project that will quintuple (yeah, that’s a real word) our brewing capacity to nearly 500,000 barrels per year. Now that’s a lot of beer! Phase two and three will be completed by early fall and will include the installation of 14 new 1,000-barrel fermentation tanks and a new 250-barrel brew house. Pics of one of these suckers are included in the gallery below.

Once we get through this expansion, many of you will be excited to hear that our distribution range will also continue to grow, first targeting further reach into Florida and Tennessee with potential to move in Virginia within the first two years of operation. However, the first goal of the expansion is improving the quality of our beer, and taking care of the neighborhoods where SweetWater is already flowing.

Some of you might have seen a sneak peek of this massive expansion during recent tours, but our new building is home to an expanded bottling and packaging hall (that can produce 500 bottlers per min!), keg line, quality assurance lab, machine shop, “not so corporate” office space, conference rooms, tasting area, 4,800-square-feet of additional public events space called the Reel Room and our kick ass roof top deck with skyline views of Midtown and Buckhead.

Click here for photos of the ceremony courtesy of Rank Studios. We have a video from yesterday’s festivities, thanks to the boys at Sapelo Productions below! Want more? Check out additional news stories and images from: AJC, Atlanta Business Chronicle, WSBTV, CBS Atlanta, WABE, Gov. Nathan Deal’s website, Jacksonville Times-Union and more.

Director of Sales Dave Guender and Director of Marketing Steve Farace hold the ribbon as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Big Kahuna Freddy Bensch and City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed cut the ribbon to unveil SweetWater's expansion project that will quintuple brewing capacity.

In the meantime, let’s raise a glass to Freddy and the SweetWater boys and girls for their incredible work…and cheers to more success to come! We couldn’t have done it without you!

SweetWater tour update, and a donation to Camp Twin Lakes

Stopped by the brewery lately?  What a whirlwind, as many of  you have seen we have lots going on with the expansion, new tour pricing and more – figured it was time for a bit of updating.

If you have been out, maybe to last week’s Crank Tank Launch party – we thank you!  As we are sure you can see, we are moving fast and furiously to keep the build-out of our new expanded home on track and are excited to bring you guys the capacity to brew five times the amount of beer we are currently producing.  We are targeting the end of the year to have things really moving and hopefully will be all dialed in by January.

Beginning this Thursday, Sept. 1. the cost for the souvenir pint glass at the brewery will be $10. It has been 5 years since we last thought about it, and since then we have all sorts of new bells, brews, toys and whistles.  SweetWater is now providing unique, only available at the brewery, casks on Wed, a new covered stage with live music on the weekends, signature pint glasses that at times are special in design and limited in run, we have added more tours during each session and most days you are able to not only sip our lip smackin’ year round line-up but often our Catch & Release seasonal goodies, our demented Dank Tanks series, treats from the cellar, and even those limited run specialty beers we have recently been brewing like Waterkeeper to support Waterkeeper organizations throughout the south, or the Crank Tank to benefit Camp Twin Lakes and promote the Spin for Kids ride in October.  Lots of brews to be enjoyed!

SweetWater will continue to host guests every Wednesday thru Saturday and over the coming months you will see our expansion continue to take shape with a new/additional tasting room, ultimately a few more bells and whistles for your sampling pleasure! We know nobody likes to shell out more dough.  We are gonna kick-in for a cause as well, now thru mid October as we donate $2 from every tour admission to Team SweetWater’s Spin for Kids campaign to help support Camp Twin Lakes.

Where can you get this kind of tasting experience and big night out for that?  We think it’s a smokin’ deal and hope to see you sippin on a SweetWater at a tour really soon!

SweetWater’s expansion is in full swing – check out the rendering of what it’ll look like

Just 7 short years after out growing our first brewery off of Fulton Industrial Boulevard in the “Hourly Entertainment and Hobo” district we have done it to ourselves again!  Outgrew the building.  Fortunately this time we are not in the hood.  We are in a much friendlier part of town; the Ansley Park/South Buckhead/Midtown neighborhood we call home.  This area sure has been friendly to us, and the 2000 or so people a week that visit the brewery are a site to see.

Our sales since we moved here in 2004 have grown quickly and steadily – which is just how we like it.  fast enough to keep us on our toes, and the creative juices flowing, but not too fast that we lose site of where we are selling our beer, who is selling it, and how fresh it is once it makes into new folks hands.  We are now the 27th largest Craft Brewery in the country, but our beer is only available in GA and the 5 states we share a border with.  Bigger isn’t always better!  Fresh beer is though, and that is what we are most passionate about at the brewery, if you’ve seen the hop cop on patrol you’ll agree – that girl means business.  You need to come see the brewery and the construction in process for yourselves if you have the chance to swing through Atlanta.  Of course our tours are the perfect time to see the sites, kick the tires, taste our beers, and learn a little more about SweetWater, but even if Wed – Fri from 5:30 – 7:30 or Sat from 2:30 – 4:30 don’t fit the schedule pass on through.  We may actually we working (occasionally that is true!) , but do the drive by, think about where we came from, remember what it was like the first time your had a SweetWater, and raise a toast to all the great beer drinkers throughout the southeast who have supported us from day one, back with the drug dealers and hookers off of Fulton Ind, to where we are now.  We are still the same people that created this brand, just with a little less hair, a little bigger bellies, and soon enough – some shinier new toys!

We’ll have much more to share with you as the pieces get put into the place, but for now we wanted you to know some of the stats about what is happening down here on Ottley Drive!

Brewery construction is being led our founder Freddy Bensch and our Brewmaster Mark Medlin

  • Construction on the new building (center of the photo) began in July and should be finished by November
  • Expanding from 26,000 square feet to 114,000 square feet
  • An additional 400,000 barrels capacity, taking us from 100,000 this year, to 500,000 once we are finished
  • in 2010 we sold 77,000 barrels and this year we are on pace for well over 90,000 barrels sold
  • on the roof will be a 157 KwH Solar Array, the largest private system the city of Atlanta – reduces the need for over 300,000 lbs of CO2, 19,000 gallons of gas, 176,000 lbs of coal per year – and the ROI in this should be within 3 years
  • new building in the center will house – new packaging hall, new QA lab, new keg filler, new offices, outdoor deck, new machine shop, and an additional event space
  • new packaging hall will feature a brand new 550 btl/min krones filler and bottling line, along with a brand new keg line, all to increase the quality of our packaged beers
  • we are building an actual merchandise shop where our current maintenance room is, just behind the wall of the existing t shirt stand
  • Trails for access from the street to the Beltline will be built next to our building.  SweetWater sits at the end of one of the spurs to this proposed and in the works “necklace” of parks, trails and green spaces that will circle Atlanta
  • And this is phase 1 of the plan – phase 2 will be the addition of more fermentation and brite tanks, most will be 1000 bbls tanks
  • phase 3 will be the installation of a new 250 bbl brew house to supplement the existing 50 bbl system we are brewing on 24 hours a day 6 days a week currently

check in to our expansion page on our website and check back as we add more videos, photos, and details of the expansion, and join us later this year as we break the seal on this sucker!  Here’s hoping we don’t have to do this again in 7 more years!!!!