Resettling the West: New Festival Highlights Akademia’s Side of Athens

Businesses and nonprofits are gearing up for the first-ever West Fest, a combination community and business expo.

Akademia will have a tent at West Fest, and visitors will be able to dart next door to the brewpub for festival goers-only specials. Night Owls will also be some of the first to sign up for Akademia’s new loyalty program.

“I think the West Fest is a great idea to get people out there and bring some visibility to businesses,” said Lindsay Brannen of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Inspired by other area business groups and the 100-Mile Yard Sale, which draws thousands each fall to a giant yard sale that stretches from Unadilla to Quitman, Georgia, the West Fest will be part rummage sale, part nonprofit expo, part business spotlight and full-on community fun.

“We’re looking at bouncy houses … we’re going to be doing Touch-A-Truck. We’ve got a fire truck and police truck, a tractor or two,” said Denise Ricks, Athens West member and coordinator for West Fest. “We’re looking at hopefully getting five or six food trucks. It is all on the focus of ‘meet your neighborhood businesses.’”

Resettling the west

West Fest is the first step in a coordinated attempt to bring more visibility to this area of Athens. Right now, the west corridor is “not a huge hub of growth” for the Chamber, but Brannen wants it to be.

“It’s a great location right off the Loop,” she said. “At one point the mall was the anchor to why that was such a great location. I think it will be what revitalizes it as well, hopefully in the near future. It’s a lot of property, a big ol’ chunk of land that could draw tourism dollars and the rest of [the west side] would just explode.”

Ricks said in the 1990s, when Georgia Square Mall first opened, it drew many Downtown businesses to the west corridor — and now that there is a new shopping plaza on the Oconee Connector, it’s the west side dynamic that’s changing.

“I just started talking to businesses about getting together. We got together about four years ago and we started meeting on a monthly basis,” Ricks said. “My goal is to have this become the cool side of town.”

Ricks said the group hopes to see a flyover from Epps Bridge to Atlanta Highway — right now, the way the roads are planned, motorists can only go directly from Epps Bridge toward downtown on Atlanta Highway. There’s an extra turn or two off Epps to get to take a left, out toward Akademia. They would also like to develop a west side park.

“There’s potential for even more because there’s so much space,” said Aimee Cheek of the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a good blend of residential and commercial.”

That space on the west side was perfect for Akademia. Co-founders Matt Casey and Morgan Wireman found the former Musician’s Warehouse building had the size, parking, outdoor space and adaptability to meet their needs.

“As we took a closer look at the west side, it became more attractive due to the limited number of restaurants and dense residential housing,” Casey said. “I believe the economic importance of this area is undergoing a transformation. First of all, it is the largest and longest main corridor leading into Downtown, and one that for years has greeted all visitors from Atlanta and the South. With the growth of Epps Bridge, this area appears to be taking on more of an industrial identity rather that the predominantly retail identity it held for years.”

The west corridor, which stretches down Atlanta Highway out past Downtown and also includes the Timothy Road area, is home to a plethora of businesses and fun spots that don’t always get the same visibility as the Downtown and UGA areas of Athens.

“As our department has grown over the years, we’ve been able to focus on new and various parts of Athens that we haven’t previously been able to, and so we are excited for what the west side has to offer,” Cheek said. “I think the space on the west side allows for a large tourism attraction project. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know there’s physically space for it, whether that is an existing building that may come into disuse later on.”

Cheek said more than $292 million is spent in direct domestic tourism — including food, transportation, lodging, retail and recreation — in Athens-Clarke County, according to numbers from 2016. Casey believes Akademia brought more people out this way since it opened in October, and said he believes the economic impact of the brewpub has yet to be fully achieved.

Stopping the rumor mill

Much of the focus on what will happen to the west side has been on Akademia’s next-door neighbor, Georgia Square Mall. Rumors abound as to what will happen to the massive retail space, an anchor tenant in this area of town.

Monica Hawkins, marketing director and specialty leasing manager of Georgia Square Mall, said there’s nothing they can do about rumors except stand firm that the mall isn’t going anywhere — its owners are figuring out the best way it can serve shoppers’ needs and remain a fixture in the community given the new ways people shop.

“When I was coming up, [the mall] was the center of entertainment. That was the hanging out spot. You wanted to go to the mall whether that was to grab a bite to eat at the food court or go window shopping,” Hawkins said. “Malls are now going through a phase of repurposing. The shopping patterns and trends are changing, so I think too, the mall experience is changing as well.”

Georgia Square Mall has been part of the Athens West group for a couple of years, and Hawkins said when the idea of West Fest was brought up, she immediately volunteered the mall as a place to host it.

“This would be a great way for businesses to come together and say ‘hey, we need to support each other. We need to make sure that we’re being great neighbors,’” Hawkins said. “I think everyone that’s a member of Athens West Corridor is taking great pride in this event. We’re psyched. I think the West Fest is the first step in a long line of different things that are going to be coming from the group, but also from the businesses.”

Athens West Fest
Saturday, June 2
Georgia Square Mall
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More details

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring; Don’t Let Your Rain Barrel Be Boring

With as much as rain as Athens has had in the past few days, there couldn’t be a more perfect opportunity for Athenians to get their hands on one-of-a-kind, handpainted rain barrels, all while drinking their favorite beer from Akademia Brewing Company.

The brewpub is proud to host the eighth annual Roll Out the Barrels event on May 24, featuring a silent auction of barrels decorated by local artists, light bites and live music.

“Each year, we auction off around 20 beautiful barrels, and we have raised over $10,000 in total for the ACC Green School Program,” said Cecile Riker, program education specialist with the Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Management Program. “[Green Schools] is designed to assist schools with environmental education and improvement efforts that focus on conservation, preservation and beautification of our environment.”

ACC Green Schools recognizes schools for their efforts in those ventures and offers mini grants to teachers who want to implement conservation and sustainability projects.

This year, 42 artists submitted designs for consideration and 19 were selected.

“Some of them are full-time professional artists, some are students and some are just people who just love to paint — and each barrel has a personality of its own,” Riker said. “There will be clipboards located near each barrel for you to write down your contact information and a bid amount.”

ACC Stormwater will also provide complimentary appetizers, while they last, to Night Owls while they peruse the barrels and place their bids from 6 to 8. Live music will begin at 7 from the Hot Fire String Band.

“If you are a lucky winner, you will be able to pay for your barrel with cash, check or credit card and then take the barrel home that evening. They will fit in the backseat of most sedans,” Riker said.

For barrel winners who cannot stay until the auction closes, their prizes will be transported back to the ACC Stormwater office on West Dougherty Street for later pick-up.

Rain barrels help Athens area homeowners conserve water, since they can pull water directly from the barrel to water their lawns, and prevent stormwater runoff.

“If someone is catching water from their roof in a rain barrel, that means there is less water running off of their property and entering into the city’s stormwater drainage system. The less runoff, the better. This runoff picks up harmful pollutants such as oil, fertilizers, litter, pet waste or anything else that may be lying in the road or on your lawn,” Riker said. “Runoff carries these pollutants into our stormwater system and then gets dumped out into a water source without any treatment. The more water that we capture before it becomes runoff, the less polluted water will end up in our streams.”

Riker said the most efficient way to use rain barrels is to hook them up to a gutter and have water from the roof run off directly into the barrel. For renters, she advises checking with a landlord before doing so.

“In those cases, if you have a porch or outdoor area, you can put a rain barrel there without hooking it up to anything. It will still catch rainwater, just not as fast,” Riker said. “These painted barrels in particular make lovely porch or lawn art.”

The brewpub will be open for regular dinner service during this event. Please feel free to peruse the barrels and enjoy the complimentary appetizers after being seated for your meal!

Celebrating Athens’ Art Community

Athens Area Arts Council turns 20 this year, and the organization is celebrating Thursday at Akademia Brewing Company!

The event is the first of its kind for this membership group, which curates community-based art projects, provides art-inspired education and helps establish fiscal sponsorships for local artists and art nonprofits.

“It’s a really awesome group of people that are all volunteers, and everything we do goes right back into the community,” said Jeanne Watley, the new Arts Council president. “The goal is to integrate artistic resources of the Athens area into our educational system, local economy and the community’s culture.”

The Arts Council birthday bash at Akademia features a stacked silent auction, opportunities to chat with artist members and, starting at 7, live music from local bands White Rabbit Collective and The Pierres. The event is also a percentage night — a portion of food and beverage proceeds collected from 5 to 11 p.m. will go back to the Arts Council.

“Everyone that we’ve talked to about this event has been so supportive of this event and that’s nice. We’re happy to hear that our whole idea of this event is to help each other out and give exposure to these businesses,” Watley said.

So far, the list of silent auction items includes donations from Ben’s Bikes, Color of Heat, The Very Good Puzzle Company, South Kitchen + Bar, Viva! Argentine Cuisine, Revival Yarns, photographer Frances Berry, 5 Points Yoga, Avid Bookshop, Shakti Power Yoga, Strength & Strike Fitness, FIVE Athens, Sangha Yoga Studio, Olive Basket, Canopy Studio, M30 Yoga, Verdae, Fitness @ Five, Marti’s at Midday, artist Tatiana Veneruso, Dynamite, JCG Apparel, R.E.M., Fleet Feet Sports, Rook & Pawn, Wuxtry Records, Tazikis, The Mayflower, Steel + Plank, Shiraz, The National, Pixel & Ink, KA Artist Shop, Treehouse Kid & Craft and Elite Pet Sitting.

“What a better way to invite the public [to] see what we do and stick around and have dinner, have some beer and get some cool stuff in the auction,” Watley said.

They hope to turn the birthday celebration into an annual event, and Watley said members are excited to see what the next 20 years hold.

“Our most recent project was the Art Deck-o Project,” Watley said. “We commissioned nine artists to do four-by-eight panels, big wooden panels, that are going to be hung in the Clayton Street parking garage on all the different levels. The idea of that is putting art in unexpected places, which I think is a really fun idea.”

Art Deck-o was a perfect project for this year, because it was early on in the group’s history that it first put art in the deck. The Arts Council also organized artists to paint water hydrants downtown, and regularly hosts an art exhibition and competition for schools.

“All the money we raise is going straight back into our projects. No one’s paid, everything stays in our organization and goes to make Athens a better place, in my humble opinion,” Watley said.

Athens Beer Week colla-beer-ations at the brewpub

Akademia Brewing Company has an event every day this week for Athens Beer Week, and both today and Saturday its team has collaboration beer releases on the books.

Morgan Wireman, head brewer and co-founder at Akademia, partnered with Peekskill Brewery and Cherry Street Brewing to make a double IPA and a dry-hopped saison for Night Owls to enjoy.

“The most challenging part about a collab is making sure the beer turns out well, seeing how it’s basically an ‘exbeeriment’ using ingredients and/or techniques that one or the other hasn’t used before,” Wireman said. “Alternatively though, it’s a chance for the brewers’ creativity and skill to shine.”

Amit Ram, head brewer at Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, New York, agreed.

“You want to try a new yeast, you want to try a new hopping method, something you can roll the dice on, usually a collaboration is that opportunity. Plus, just sharing experiences and knowledge, that’s how you learn in this industry,” Ram said.

Wednesday: Peekskill collaboration double IPA

Take it to the Macs is a 9.6 percent DIPA with a nose of orange, vanilla, pine and wildflowers. It’s got flavors of star anise and guava with a hint of pineyness. The beer is named for Mac McMillan, Akademia’s head cellar dweller.

Peekskill and Akademia share a bookkeeper — Tammy Prince — who gave both the idea to do a collaboration brew. Wireman previously deemed Peekskill’s beer delicious, and recipe formulation began.

Peekskill Brewery opened nearly 10 years ago and was one of the original standout brewpubs in the Hudson Valley area, Ram said.

“It’s located right on the Hudson River, literally like 200 feet from the water,” he said. “It started as a brewpub that was a small, three-barrel system and then in 2012 … they built out the current location.”

The larger facility is a two-story taproom and restaurant with a 15-barrel brewhouse, producing up to 3,000 barrels of beer a year.

“I didn’t know much about the Georgia beer scene at all, and it’s great to have that exposure. And for bringing our beer and bringing our reputation and our name down,” Ram said. “[Akademia] also makes a rang of different beers, but I think definitely you have been hitting hard on the hop-forward IPAs and kind of making a name for yourselves down there. It kind of works with some of what we do. We like hoppy beers too, so we thought it would be great to make a hoppy beer.”

Ram said he and Wireman bounced off different hops that each has in their contracts to use, and after brainstorming, the team came up with using Azacca and Denali hops.

Saturday: Cherry Street collaboration saison

The second collaboration has a completely different flavor profile. The Lemon Drop dry-hopped saison is 6.8 ABV and opens with bubblegum on the nose. It’s got a rich, full body with hints of funk and clove, and finishes with notes of black pepper.

The saison made a couple Beer Week sneak peeks, first at the Chops & Hops tap takeover in Watkinsville, where Southern Brewing Company’s Allyson Hester tried it, and again at the brewpub’s beer dinner.

“I don’t usually gravitate toward saisons, personally, but it was a perfect balance of floral versus hoppy. Most saisons aren’t very hoppy, but I felt like the hops were well done in this one,” Hester said.

The saison collaboration has a relatively high final gravity for its style, but Nick Tanner, owner of Cherry Street Brewing in Cumming, Georgia, said it’s better to be up than down.

“We were intending to brew a nice, sessionable, slightly refreshing, slightly kind of spicy saison for the spring, and it’s still been kind of cool and damp so we figured this would be the perfect time to release it,” he said.

The beer is dry-hopped with Lemon Drop.

“We both haven’t really used Lemon Drop hops before, and we felt with the yeast [Akademia] was getting in, and the flavor profiles with the Lemon Drop hops we felt would pair with the springtime for a really nice brew,” Tanner said.

Tanner was raised in Atlanta and attended college in Colorado, where he began homebrewing. His homebrew club was Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative, named for the street they lived on. The club focused not only on beer, but also on community outreach, sustainability and education.

When Tanner returned to Georgia to work in the restaurant industry with his family, he took both the name and the philanthropic endeavors back with him, and turned one of his father’s restaurants into a brewpub.

“Our final approval came 12/12/12,” Tanner said. “My dad’s had restaurants in Atlanta for over 30 years now, so we’ve got a good reputation here in Atlanta and we’ve expanded a few times over the past five years.”

Several of those years included visits to Athens Beer Week and the Classic City Beer Fest, including the upcoming events this weekend.

“I really enjoy teaming up and getting with people who are doing the same things, and look at and approach beer the same way. That’s what Matt and Morgan are about,” Tanner said. “They’ve got good heads and they look at beer in a fun, unique way. I had a lot of fun brewing the beer with them.”

Morgan first discovered Cherry Street when he worked at 5 Points Growlers several years ago.

“My business partner Matt Casey had already been talking to Nick Tanner about doing a collab. They also use Modern Hops, the same distributor as us,” Wireman said. “Amit, Nick and Chris, Cherry Street’s head brewer, are all very skilled brewers and have been brewing commercially for a while. I learned quite a bit from all parties. We’re looking forward to doing more collaborations with them.”

View Akademia’s full line-up of Athens Beer Week events here!

Athens Beer Week 2018

Akademia Brewing Company is gearing up for its first-ever Athens Beer Week, an annual celebration of Classic City craft beer slated for April 9 through 15.

“Having more breweries in town other than Terrapin makes it really easy to have some exceptional events throughout the week,” said Owen Ogletree, founder of Brewtopia Events, LLC, which puts on the Classic City Brew Fest and promotes Athens Beer Week. “Akademia’s beer dinner looks fantastic. Terrapin’s Carnival is always a fun time with lots of special beers. Even the small events, like Hi-Lo’s Beer Trivia Night, are always fun. People are just gonna have to check out the entire list online and decide for themselves.”

The week kicks off with Akademia teaming up with its friends at Chops & Hops in Watkinsville, Georgia, for a tap takeover. Chops owner Andrew Wallace, along with bar manager Whitley McGeary, will mind the bar, pouring six different Akademia beers for guests. In addition to the draft specials, Night Owls will get to enjoy menu specials created by Akademia Chef Nate Eve, Chops Chef Josh Aaron and Sous Chef Arielle Hirsch — all made with beers available during the tap takeover.

“I wanted to pair up with Akademia for its first Athens Beer Week beause of the quality of beer that has been put out so far, and I love supporting local breweries,” Wallace said.

Chops & Hops has participated in Athens Beer Week since it began, he said. Though Wallace wouldn’t divulge too much, he did hint that crab and avocado spring rolls may be up for grabs during the tap takeover.

“I’m super excited that we are able to have the relationship that we do with Chops & Hops,” Eve said. “They are really doing some cool things over there as far as food.”

Eve’s preparing a fried calamari appetizer to pair with The Dom kölsch-style ale for the tap takeover and will collaborate on an entrée special with Aaron.

“The key is in the batter. More times than not, fried calamari is far too heavy. My idea is to cut this heaviness down and batter with cornstarch to create a different, more light texture so your palate isn’t overwhelmed,” Eve said.

Events at Akademia

A special beer dinner will take place at the brewpub on Tuesday. Tickets are available for $55 each, and include pours of four Akademia beers, three dishes curated by Eve and a pint glass. The front Beer Hall area of the brewpub is reserved for craft beer fans who want to enjoy a community atmosphere and an intimate discussion about Akademia’s ales and how its kitchen team pairs them with cuisine.

“Beer dinners are a fantastic opportunity to develop a new appreciation for familiar beers and discover new beers,” said Aaron Martin, beer consumption coordinator at Akademia. “The idea behind a beer dinner is you pay a set amount to come in and have a full experience. All the food and beers are deliberately chosen with an eye towards not only individual course pairings, but also the entire experience and the flow of both food and drink.”

Eve plans to surprise beer dinner diners with his menu choices, but said scallops and housemade ice cream may be part of the three courses.

“I think what we are doing is super unique because it’s the only place in town where you can get food and beer together that is all made in-house. Our beer is incorporated into our dishes, and there is no other place in town that is doing that,” he said. “People are traveling from all across the Southeast to come check us out, so we want to give them the best experience possible.”

In preparation for Athens Beer Week, the brew crew put together two special collaboration brews with some of their beer brethren. Amit Ram from New York’s Peekskill Brewery came south of the Mason-Dixon to brew Taking it to the Macs DIPA, and the team from Cherry Street Brewing put their heads together to brew a Lemon Drop hopped saison. The Peekskill collaboration will be released on Wednesday, April 11, and the Cherry Street beer on Saturday, April 14.

Don’t fear the beer …

On Thursday of Athens Beer Week, the Akademia crew heads into Normaltown for a tap takeover at Hi-Lo Lounge. Expect to enjoy a selection of draft beer along with some of Hi-Lo’s dogs, fries and famous pink sauce.

It’s the perfect way to prepare for the following morning, when Night Owls are invited to the brewpub for its irregular, regular tradition of Friday the 13th. Its 13 percent imperial stout, Paraskevidekatriaphobia, will be back on tap, and a limited number of commemorative glasses will be available for purchase. Local blues band The Lucky Jones will take the stage Friday night, and the crew plans to have plenty of festivities celebrating this beer and six months of being in business in the Classic City!

“I am extremely excited to be a part of the amazing beer community that has built in Athens, and to be involved with our first Athens Beer Week,” said Morgan Wireman, head brewer and co-founder of Akademia. “I’m looking forward to the Paraskevidekatriaphobia release on Friday the 13th — I heard Mr. Phobia might be making an appearance.

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, there’s still time to snag a ticket to Classic City Brew Fest, the penultimate beer event in Athens during Beer Week. For the first time, this year’s Brew Fest comes with more than 50 cask ales from breweries, and each of the four Athens breweries will have a draft tent as well. Akademia’s cask ale is Paraskevidekiatriaphobia imperial stout with cocoa nibs, smoked chipotles and palo santo wood.

“The Brew Fest has gone from a huge event with lots of mainstream beers to a smaller, more intimate event with very rare special beers that appeal to today’s craft beer drinker,” Ogletree said. “Instead of having room after room of bottle beers that you can buy in several different places, we decided to focus on the most popular aspect of the festival. … For a town with only four breweries, Athens has a huge population of craft beer aficionados.”

Visit our events page for more details!

Akademia teams up with Athentic to release Bold-Faced Rye roggenbier

Night Owls visiting Akademia Brewing Company recently probably noticed a new collaboration beer on the menu.

Bold-Faced Rye roggenbier won the 2017 Athens Homebrew Classic, and as part of the prize package, its brewers got to make and sell it at the brewpub. In a fortuitous occurrence, Bold-Faced Rye will be the first beer to enter market from upcoming Athens brewery Athentic Brewing Company.

“It was really exciting how Southern Brewing Company gave us an opportunity, before we were able to open up our own facility, to come in and get a little bit of production brewing experience under our belt,” said Morgan Wireman, Akademia co-founder and head brewer. “The original plan wasn’t originally to provide that for Athentic — it was supposed to be the competition winner of the Homebrew Classic — but it turned out to be a lucky turn of events that they just happen to end up winning and are now opening a brewery.”

Paul Skinner and Mark Johnson, co-founders of Athentic, were surprised that Bold-Faced Rye took home the top prize.

“It was a complex brewing process because we were doing some decoction brewing, which means we were pulling off some of the wort from the mash and further boiling it and condensing it down and caramelizing those sugars, then adding them back into the mash tun and pushing them through,” Skinner said. “Once you go past that 20 percent threshold with rye beer it’s a booger because [rye] doesn’t have a husk. So it kind of turns into gelatinous material. It’s a little hard to get through — it can stick your sparge in your mash tun. Even when we brewed with Morgan here, I think we four or five times had to stop and unplug the mash.”

Bold-Faced Rye also uses a versatile yeast that has a lot to do with the end result of the beer’s flavor. If it’s brewed cooler, as Athentic did, the notes have more clove; warmer, it has more of a bubblegum sweetness, Skinner said.

“Rye has sort of a characteristic [spiciness] to it. It’s like, kind of a pumpernickel bread,” Skinner said. “I get a little residual sweetness on the front end and then a dry finish. I think for people who just want to try something totally different to their palate, they would be interested in this.”

Wireman and Aaron Martin, Akademia’s beer consumption coordinator, enjoyed working with Athentic, and have high hopes for Bold-Faced Rye.

“I’m really excited to see them doing a style that so far has been underserved,” Martin said. “We’ve had rye beers in Athens, obviously with Creature and Terrapin both famous examples, but the actual roggenbier is something that I haven’t seen coming out of Athens ever before. It was cool to help them out with a style that should be something new for most people in town.”

Authentically Athens

Skinner started brewing in 2011 as part of a church group. As group members moved on to other hobbies, brewing stuck with him and got Johnson addicted. The two knew each other from their day jobs working at Boehringer Ingelheim.

They attended the first Athens Homebrew Classic event in 2015, and during the next two years entered both the Beer Judge Certification Program and five-gallon competitions.

“To win best in show our competition has a couple of rounds. The first round, the beer is going to be facing off against a flight of similar style beers,” said David Ducrest, organizer for the Athens Homebrew Classic. “Judges will sample beers, award points and typically the ones ranked the highest will be considered in a little mini-count. Those might be re-sampled and awarded first, second, third in that category.”

First-place beers then face off against each other.

“It becomes a bit of a debate between the different, really skilled judges about, is that stout a better stout than that English bitter is an English bitter,” Ducrest said.

Homebrewing meant that Skinner and Johnson also had a lot of beer laying around for their friends to enjoy, so they began hosting tasting events as the Kudzu Brewing Company.

“Eventually it became a very strong passion for us, enough that we were very interested to start a business and could envision ourselves doing something in the craft beer industry,” he said.

As business plans became more serious, they realized that another brewery already had Kudzu copyrighted.

“We quickly went back to the drawing board and started brainstorming a ton of new names,” Skinner said. “We created our own word, essentially, by combining ‘authentic’ and ‘Athens’ and it fit the way we brewed.”

Basic brewing done well

Johnson said Athentic’s recipe’s aren’t trying to out-hop or out-bitter anyone, and it’s a goal of theirs to create beers that are unique enough to win competitions, but still be accessible to the average craft beer drinker.

“A lot of our beers are meant to be more on the side of easy-drinking,” Skinner said. “We’ve gone all over the spectrum, but it’s coming back to good ingredients, fresh ingredients. Trying different things and experimenting, and finding that tradeoff that is crafty and different, but also just a very drinkable beer.”

Next up for Athentic is opening the brewery itself. The expected debut date will be sometime this fall, and the anticipated location will be in downtown Athens. Skinner said Athentic will be more along the lines of a brewery than an Akademia-style brewpub.

He’s most excited to release Sister Goldenhair, a refreshing, hoppy pale ale, and his sour, fruity golsch. Johnson already has a following for Flower Power Blonde — the secret floral ingredient he wouldn’t reveal! — and his amber.

When it comes to opening a brewery, timing is the biggest hurdle, the two said.

“Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to take,” Johnson said. “That’s the biggest lesson. You think it’s going to take a week and it’s going to be at least three.”

Johnson and Skinner credit Brian Roth and Mark Mooney at Southern Brewing Company, Morgan Wireman at Akademia and the owners of Grumpy Old Men Brewing in Blue Ridge, Georgia, as their biggest role models in the business.

“Everywhere we go and we talk to brewers, whether it’s brewpubs or breweries, they’re all willing to share information,” Johnson said. “[Grumpy Old Men], those guys really I think were two that I look to because they’re older than we are and they decided to do this as a second act, and they made it happen.”

That’s a big goal for Athentic.

“We’re mid-50s, and this made us just a little bit different,” Skinner said. “We just want to represent that all groups and all ages and all backgrounds can get into this business and have a good time.”

Akademia Brewing Company Enters Distribution

Almost three months to the day after Akademia Brewing Company surprised Athens with an early soft opening, the brewpub will enter distribution for the first time.

Beginning with the first delivery on Jan. 12, select brews of Akademia beer will be in the market. IQ IPA and Niobe’s Tears gose are the first to be available to bars and restaurants in the Athens and Atlanta areas, with High IQ double IPA, Moirai Belgian tripel and Everything He Touches tart brett saison following soon.

“It was a milestone to be able to sit down at our bar and order an Akademia beer, but now the opportunity to grab a glass of Akademia at a bar or restaurant around town just feels incredible,” said Aaron Martin, Akademia’s beer consumption coordinator.

According to state law, breweries in Georgia aren’t able to distribute beer outside of their own establishments. That’s where the distribution partnership comes in: a distributor or wholesaler purchases beer from the brewpub and sells it to retailers. After much consideration, Akademia’s leadership team selected Georgia-based Modern Hops as their partner in this venture.

Eric Levin, owner of Modern Hops

“There are a lot of big distributors with hundreds of brands doing wine and liquor and nobody was really focused on craft beer. We wanted to start something that was 100 percent dedicated to craft beer, but also doing things on the brewers’ terms,” said Eric Levin, owner and founder of Modern Hops. “We designed a model to pick up beer directly from the brewery. The kegs stay cold the entire time. … We don’t want to store beer, we want to get beer straight from the brewery that’s freshly kegged and put in the retailer’s hands.”

This model allows Modern Hops to deliver cans and kegs from its breweries to shelves the same day it’s produced, something he’s not seen often in the industry. Modern Hops is a fairly new company to the craft beer scene. Levin saw a need for it and began planning its business model about 15 months ago. Its first run was in May 2017 with beer from Cherry Street Brewing, another Georgia craft brewery.

Since its inception, Modern Hops added D9 Brewing Co., Superstition Meadery, Blue Pants Brewery and Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen to its repertoire.

“Part of the differentiator of Modern Hops, we have a small portfolio and it’s very curated. We don’t want to get a bunch of competing breweries or breweries making the same sort of style,” Levin said.

He said Modern Hops was drawn to Akademia because of its team and its product — his favorite beer here is High IQ double IPA. Having a brewpub in Athens, Georgia, didn’t hurt either.

“We really wanted to do our part in helping make Athens be more of a craft beer scene,” Levin said. “I think it has the ability to be another Asheville at some point in time, where some people come in for a weekend and are driven by the beer tourism.”

For Akademia’s part, owner Matt Casey chose Modern Hops to partner with because of the company’s eagerness to do business with the new brewpub and its willingness to creatively work an agreement that would allow both young companies to grow together.

“We are Akademia’s outside sales and marketing team for Athens and Atlanta,” Levin said.

He said this allows the Akademia team to focus on brewing and brewpub operations, and Modern Hops takes on the role of getting beer samples to new locations, delivering beer, working with the Akademia marketing crew to plan events and tap takeovers, taking orders and handling service with retailers. Levin’s group also ensures the beer maintains its characteristics and freshness once its in a retail establishment by cleaning the draft lines before installing a keg. This gets rid of any potential bacteria or off-flavors, making sure Night Owls new and old get the optimal taste of Akademia beer.

“It’s easy for us to become experts on those brands and to put [Akademia] on the forefront,” Levin said. “It’s a hard model; it’s an expensive model, but it’s worth it.”

The first accounts that will serve Akademia beer are in the Athens and Atlanta area. In the Classic City, Night Owls can look to imbibe at Catch-22 Gastropub, Blue Sky Bar and both Five Points Bottle Shop growler shop locations. For Atlanta area fans, kegs will soon be tapped at the Hop City Krog Street and West Midtown locations, The Tap on Ponce, My Parents’ Basement and Argosy.

“By the end of the year, we hope to have our beer throughout Athens and Oconee in our home markets, and in key accounts in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb counties. We should also be branching out to key accounts towards Augusta, Savannah and coastal Georgia,” Casey said.

Interested in having Akademia beer at your establishment? Contact Eric Levin at Eric@modernhops.com for more information.

Celebrate 2018 at Akademia!

2017 was an unforgettable year for the team at Akademia Brewing Company.

For starters, we opened a brewpub! We brought y’all 21 beers in just a few short months. Our top five beers, according to Untappd review averages, were Noctua, Noctua Chaos, Paraskevidekatriaphobia, Accidental Tripel and Hoppy Ki-Yay Mr. Falcon. Have no fear if you don’t see your favorite on that list though, they are all our favorites — so no matter your choice, you aren’t alone.

But we couldn’t let the year end without bringing out one more surprise, because sometimes a single IPA just isn’t enough. Our final beer of 2017 is High IQ DIPA, on tap starting at 11 a.m. New Year’s Eve. This double IPA takes everything y’all enjoy about IQ IPA and makes, well, more of it.

With our double, we turned everything up to 11 (although the ABV only clocks in at 7.7 percent — a not too incredibly modest increase over the 6 percent base IQ model). Along with this ABV increase, we have an increase in just about everything: more malts, more hops, more bitter, more in-your-face. Our tasting notes include flavors reminiscent of grapefruit, pineapple, lemongrass and a bit of cantaloupe.

High IQ’s introduction isn’t the only treat during the holiday weekend, however. Chef Nate put together a grilled salmon special with mashed potatoes and asparagus for a festive last meal of 2017. We’re keeping our doors open for a midnight toast to ring in 2018, and come back Monday to tap our first cask of the new year! We cold-brewed bourbon barrel-aged coffee and added the cold brew to a cask of our Noctua imperial stout. It’s the perfect breakfast drink after partying the night before. Owen Ogletree of Southern Brew News will be on-hand to liven up the festivities.

The kitchen will be serving up traditional New Year’s Day fare until 8 p.m. or sell-out on Jan. 1, and if there’s any salmon left over from New Year’s Eve, we may wind up giving y’all a chance to add some to your salads from the regular menu.

Akademia now has a projection screen just in front of the brewhouse where we will play big games when the occasion arises. On New Year’s Day, this clearly is reserved for the Rose Bowl. Dress in your Georgia best to cheer the Dawgs on as they battle Oklahoma for a spot in the National Championship!

Worth All the Salt in Niobe’s Tears

Goses are known for their inclusion of coriander and salt, so what better beer to name for the Greek myth about Queen Niobe?

It may be hard for a mother to choose her favorite child — or a brewer his favorite beer — but it’s easy for parents to prefer their children over others, even children of the Greek gods.

That’s the basis of this myth.

According to ancient tales, Niobe had 14 children, and one day questioned why they weren’t worshipped like the goddess Leto and her twins, Apollo and Artemis, were. Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with any of the three. Apollo, god of music and knowledge, and Artemis, goddess of the hunt, descended to the ancient city of Sipylus and killed Niobe’s children.

She was so devastated that she fled to Mount Sipylus in tears and was turned to stone after pleading with the gods for mercy.

Today, there’s the faint image of a woman carved into a limestone rock on Mount Sipylus that cries every year when the snow melts. It’s said this is the image of Niobe, and the melting snow her tears.

We won’t do what Niobe did and brag that any of our beers is better than that of another brewery (what would happen to Akademia if the brewers turned into stone?!), but we thought our gose was a worthy way of taking on this tale.

Niobe’s Tears has the core ingredients of a gose, featuring pink Himalayan sea salt, pale wheat and pilsner malts. It’s heavy on the salt and herbal characteristics, and is kettle soured for a lemony essence.

We may be a little biased, but this beer’s worth all the salt in our tears. Available now at the brewpub in snifters, half-pours and flights!

4.8% ABV / 5 IBU

Noctua Chaos: The First [Barrel-Aged Beer] to Exist

In Greek mythology, Chaos was the first thing to exist. In the lore of Akademia Brewing Company, it thus made sense for Noctua Chaos to be the name of our first-ever barrel-aged beer.

Noctua Chaos is what we call our signature imperial stout after we age it in a bourbon barrel. This batch, coming out on Oct. 25, spent eight months in a W.L. Weller Antique bourbon barrel, where it developed notes of chocolate-covered cherries that add an almost sinful quality to this deep, velvety smooth brew.

We’re tapping the keg at 11 a.m. sharp, just in time for lunch. Chef Nate Eve said he’d pair this with just about anything on the menu, but if you were inclined to further enhance the decadence of Chaos, he recommends the beer-braised pork chop or Beeramisu (don’t worry; no one’s judging you if you eat dessert for lunch).

Akademia owes a special thanks to Five Points Bottle Shop for this hand-picked single barrel. The Five Points crew drove up to the distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, to find the perfect bourbon to keep in the store, and this was the one they chose. W.L. Weller Special Reserve wheated bourbon whiskey substitutes wheat for rye grain, giving it softer flavor notes, and imparting some of those indulgent flavors reminiscent of butterscotch and caramel — along with an unmistakable bourbon nose — to Noctua Chaos.

Available at the bar in half-snifters and flight pours, while it lasts.

11.3% ABV / 80 IBU