To Drink or Not to Drink: A Look at Beer Off-Flavors

Every individual has her own palate and preferred styles and flavors of beer. But when it comes to brewing science, there are a few tastes that just don’t belong.

Akademia Brewing Company’s sous chef, Brian Johnstone, reacts to an off-flavored beer sample.

“When a beer gets really old, it starts tasting like morning breath or cardboard,” Owen Ogletree, founder of Brewtopia Events, LLC and local craft beer guru, said of the oxidized off-flavor. “It’s a common flaw. Some ways you can slow down oxidation are to drink it quicker and keep the beer cold. Cold beer oxidizes 30 percent slower than beer at room temperature. Cans oxidize slower; cans usually have much lower dissolved oxygen and less air.”

That’s just one off-flavor — tastes that don’t belong — that Ogletree taught Akademia and Terrapin Beer Co. staff about during a recent seminar held at the brewpub. Participants sampled beer dosed with off-flavors to better help them learn about, and thus identify, these tastes in beer.

“Thankfully it doesn’t happen often, but off-flavors do crop up from time to time. Consistency is a key factor when judging a brewery’s offerings overall. When a new batch of beer is ready to serve, it is imperative that any changes in flavor are explained — has the recipe changed slightly, or is that flavor undesirable?” said Sarah Dupuy, an Akademia server and bartender who attended the seminar. “If the staff is educated in what flavors are undesirable, they can better judge whether or not a beer is fit to serve, and make sure the customer is always getting a quality product.”

Detecting off-flavors

The off-flavor Dupuy noticed most was that of diacetyl, which Ogletree also said is his least favorite.

“Diacetyl is butter or butterscotch. It’s like artificial butter or cake icing. I am very sensitive to it,” Ogletree said. 

Diacetyl gives the illusion of sweetness, and it comes from alpha acetyl lactate, which is naturally produced by yeast. If beer gets warm or is run through a dirty line, the alpha acetyl lactate can turn into diacetyl. 

“I love buttered popcorn. My favorite flavor of Jelly Belly is popcorn. But as soon as they opened the diacetyl beer, it smelled like a movie theater that hadn’t had the carpet replaced in 20 years and I wanted nothing to do with it,” Dupuy said.

To prevent this off-flavor, Ogletree said brewers can cold-condition their beer for a couple of days, then warm it back up to 68 degrees for two days. That puts the yeast to sleep, then wakes them back up, and there’s nothing to eat but the alpha acetyl lactate. Once that is taken out of solution, there’s nothing to turn into diacetyl and give beer the off-putting butter notes.

“If you’ve ever had a beer that was like sucking on grape skins and made your mouth dry out, that’s astringency,” Ogletree said, adding that it’s an off-flavor that usually comes from grain husks added during the brewing process. “The grain husks help provide a filter bed, but if you do that too warm with water that’s too hot, all those tannins get sucked out of the husk and make our beer dry and pucker-y and astringent.”

Other causes of astringency are wild yeasts and high-alpha acid hops. As for beer that is meant to have some wine-like flavors or notes, Ogletree said it’s possible to get the proper flavor qualities without tannic properties by adding grapes or grape skins after the beer is fermented, so they’re not exposed to heat.

Sarah Abad, an Akademia Brewing Company server, waits for her next sample of beer during the off-flavor seminar.

And if your beer smells like a Band-Aid, that’s a sign of phenolics. Some beer styles are meant to highlight these flavors (think Belgian ales, Christmas ales and hefeweizens), but on others it’s an off-flavor that comes from wild yeast.

Sarah Abad, an Akademia server who attended the seminar, called this one “the most detestable.”

“To me it tasted like a shoe,” she said.

When off-flavors are “on”

Depending on the style of beer, an off-flavor might actually be a desired characteristic. Esters, which offer Belgian and English ales flavor notes of cherry, stone fruit and kiwi. Although some esters are necessary for certain styles, they can still be overpowering.

“Esters are the fruity qualities of beer,” Ogletree said. “There should be almost no esters in a lager, preferably. [In ales] most of the time the esters that are there are good. The problem is when the esters get out of control and that’s all you can taste. That’s what happens when the beer is fermented too hot. If you ferment a beer at 90 degrees it’s going to have a lot of esters. If your cooler ever goes out, you could have a really ester-y beer.”

Lactic acid, if used properly, is another off-flavor that is “on” point in styles like Berliner weisses and goses. It adds the crisp, tart bite in sour beers, and can come from controlled additions of lactobacillus bacteria. Take, for example, brewing Niobe’s Tears gose or Everything He Touches tart brett saison, which undergoes kettle souring.

While the wort is still in the boil kettle, lactobacillus is added and sealed inside the container overnight. The next morning, the wort is soured. The wort is then heated back up to boiling so the bacteria are killed, but the crisp, sour flavor is preserved.

Though fruity flavors are OK in some beers, vegetable-like notes are less so.

“Dimethyl sulfide is corn, cabbage, vegetables,” Ogletree said. “It’s horrendous and something you do not want in your beer. The best way to get rid of it is to boil the hell out of your beer.”

DMS can also present as a flavor of shrimp or shellfish, and Akademia head brewer and co-founder Morgan Wireman said it’s a common off-flavor that comes from pilsner malts that weren’t boiled long enough.

Wireman was most sensitive to the tannic and diacetyl off-flavors. He said it’s important that Akademia staff learn about these undesirable notes so that they can answer any questions customers have about a flavor they perceive in the beer, and can then bring up potential quality issues with brew staff.

Craft beer guru Owen Ogletree, left, talks with Akademia’s head brewer and co-founder Morgan Wireman during the off-flavor seminar.

“We follow very strict procedures for sanitation and fermentation. We’re constantly testing and making sure that the flavor profile is developing like it should,” Wireman said. “If it’s brought to my attention that there’s a potential off-flavor, there are scientific methods for confirming if certain flavors are, in fact, present.”

These tests can also show if an ingredient in the beer is giving off a false positive. For instance, when Akademia’s IQ IPA recipe was being perfected, the very first batch supposedly  had a diacetyl flavor.

“When we did the testing to see if there was diacetyl, there was no diacetyl present,” Wireman said. “One of the hops in the first batch actually gave off a characteristic that could be perceived as diacetyl. We’ve since taken that hop out of the IQ recipe.”

He said if tests ever did confirm the presence of an off-flavor, the beer would be pulled from sale and potentially dumped — an unfortunate decision that’s part of being a production brewery.

“For instance, Dogfish Head dumped a batch of 120 Minute IPA because it wasn’t right, and it was a quarter-million dollars down the drain. They have strict quality control so they didn’t want to release it if it wasn’t up to their standards,” Wireman said. “Akademia is the same way.”

Akademia Welcomes New Brewpub Consultant

Meet the newest member of Akademia Brewing Company’s circle — Eric Jackson.

If you follow the Georgia beer scene, Jackson’s face is probably familiar. He’s the man behind craft beer blog Uncap Everything, and he’s joining Akademia as its brewpub consultant.

“[Akademia owner and co-founder] Matt Casey has been a great supporter of Uncap Everything and has opened his brewery to my passion for learning about beer. When you’re pursuing something in a new industry and you have someone like [Casey], who is extremely smart and ambitious about the industry, his support is important,” Jackson said.

Jackson was introduced to Akademia shortly before it opened in October 2017. He was one of the first writers to cover the brewpub, and has since attended its events in both Athens and Atlanta, plus reviewed some of its beers for the blog. His favorite Akademia brew is The Dom kölsch-style ale, and he’s partial to the beer-battered Fish ‘N’ Chips on the brewpub menu.

“I’d also recommend the hand-cut fries with any of the Ale Sauces, my favorite being the Ale Cheese,” he said. “If I had my way, there’d be a flight board of Ale Sauces.”

When Jackson isn’t uncapping the latest brews for the blog, he’s working full-time in the restaurant and hospitality industry, most recently with Marriott International, the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee and W Hotels. His expertise with guest engagement and luxury service will add to and further energize Akademia’s culture and identity.

“I’m most excited about creating an elevated beer experience for the guest,” Jackson said. “If you think about hospitality, it’s about engaging with guests and creating an atmosphere that is comfortable and fulfilling. The same is with beer. I find a lot of similarities in their foundations and purpose.”

He looks forward to meeting many of Akademia’s Night Owls while partnering with the brewpub, and hopes some of his Uncap Everything friends take the time to jaunt to the Classic City for a visit.

“I think Akademia is a place to learn, and the variety of beer that’s served tells that story. You have your classics like the kölsch, ESB, gose and tripels, but also brew hazy IPAs, DIPAs and variations on stouts and sours. There’s something for everyone,” Jackson said.

Night Owl Spotlight: Brody Rowland

Athens artist — and owner of Goodboy Grooming — Brody Rowland is the man behind Phobia Dude, Academia Brewing Company’s mascot for its Paraskevidekatriaphobia 13 percent imperial stout. With the third iteration of Paraskevidekatriaphobia slated to be released on Friday, July 13, the Akademia crew thought it high time to spotlight this talented Night Owl in this new occasional blog series.

How did you get involved in art?

Accidentally, I think. I’ve always doodled, but I started working for a tattooer doing desk work, and I didn’t have any ambition to do anything art-wise. When I was little, I used to try to copy the cartoons, but I wasn’t serious about it.

[After my daughter Avery was born] I realized I’m going to have to do something to make money. I went to art school because I thought being a graphic designer was maybe more of a real-life job than working in tattoo shops as desk help.

I was still drawing cartoons. People told me 2D designs, as in like, animation, was dead — it’s either CG work or 3D, and if you don’t want to do 3D, there’s no point in doing it at all. I dropped out of that, and just started doing it on my own. I was doing murals and little designs on my own, just throughout the whole time, and I liked that a lot more than school.

How would you describe your style?

It’s kind of a combination of graphic design and cartoons. It’s mostly just static things, like sticker designs. It’s all based off of old cartoonists that I grew up watching.

I’m heavily influenced by 1930s and 1920s cartoons — people like Tex Avery and Max Flesicher. A lot of the images going around now are continuations on that; all these old-school cartoonists, like people who were competing with Walt Disney when he started.

Some of the work is a little bit racist because of the timeframe, but there’s other stuff there. And to see where cartoons came from, and compare that to all the 3D animation and the Minions and popular cartoons now, it’s worlds apart but it’s still insanely impressive for the time.


So how did you get to be the artist behind Phobia Dude?

Morgan [Wireman, Akademia co-founder and head brewer] kind of came up and said, “Hey, can you make a Friday the 13th design that kind of looks like me?” and he said something about a mash paddle. When I was doing it I was sitting in his basement drawing all these old Max Fleischer-type designs, like the old-timey cartoons. He didn’t even tell me what it was for, but I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do it.”

It was the least specific commission ever. I drew it on a piece of watercolor paper, like a scrap piece of paper, and handed it to him.

Once you realized what it was, how did you react?

It was cool. My honest reaction was, “Man, if you told me what it was for, I probably would’ve tried a lot harder, but I would’ve been way more stressed out about it and it may never have gotten done.”

You’ve had the beer that Phobia Dude represents, correct? What do you think of it?

It’s an awesome beer. All my friends are in love with it. I stay more in the IPA section or pale ales, but Morgan broke me out of my cheap beer, PBR and Newcastle phase and said, “Hey, you should try all these other beers that are not $1 a piece.”

Art’s not your day job, though, so what do you do?

I groom dogs all day, almost every day. I dropped out of art school partially because I hated it, but partially because I lost my part-time job. I was looking on Craigslist, just scanning for opportunities, and this place advertised that they needed a dog grooming apprentice.

How do you manage to pursue your art when working a full-time gig?

Right now, I’m doing just like T-shirt and sticker designs for myself and grooming. I’m putting out grooming shirts — it’s just like from old punk bands, like you make a really cheap and easy shirt that’s free advertising. I’m just translating that into being a dog groomer.

Your kids, Avery and Rigby, are big influences in your life. You even named them for artists and cartoons that inspire you. Are you honing their artistic skills as well?

Avery’s almost been learning along with me. She’s way more creative than I am. Her skill level isn’t as good — she’s 9 years old so she’s not doing these crazy elaborate things, but just the ideas and the places she’s trying to go with it are way more creative than anything I could ever do with it.

She’s so pure and uncontaminated by media and all these other things, and I’m  trying to make these things that are funny and might piss people off.

Brody’s Phobia Dude mascot will be available on limited-edition Paraskevidekatriaphobia Vol. III release koozies on Friday, July 13, while supplies last. The koozies will be $4 each or free with the purchase of a Paraskevidekatriaphobia take-home crowler. For more details about the Vol. III release, see the Facebook event.

Akademia to Release First Crowlers in Fructuosum Fruited Series

Akademia Brewing Company introduced its Fructuosum series of fruited sour beers just after Athens Beer Week this year. This Saturday, the brewpub will release not only a new beer to the series, but take-home crowlers of select Fructuosum beers for the first time.

Niobe’s Tears fruited with raspberries and key lime makes its debut at noon. This beautiful pink pour has a bright, fruity nose and a tart finish – but the lemony characteristics of the base gose still shine through. It will be available on draft and in a limited number of crowlers.

Everything He Touches tart brett saison with raspberries and cranberries returns on Saturday as well in crowlers only. There will also be a new draft-only Fructuosum series beer — Snow Day Haze amber kettle sour with plum.

Aaron Martin, beer consumption coordinator for Akademia Brewing Company, advised Night Owls to bring a cooler and plenty of ice to keep their crowlers cold on the way home. Adding the fresh fruit purees means the beer can undergo secondary fermentation if it gets too warm, which could potentially lead to a quite actual “juice bomb.”

The brewpub sources its purees from a company that’s been around for more than 80 years, and has plans in place for myriad upcoming Fructuosum flavors. Some will be released at the brewpub only, and some may be done in larger batches available wherever you want to find #ABCintheWild. Thus far, Akademia released Fructuosum series Niobe’s Tears with passionfruit, pineapple, blackberry-blueberry blend, mango and passionfruit blend, sweet and tart cherry blend and pink guava, and Everything He Touches in a three-berry blend and a cranberry-raspberry blend.

Fruited beers have been around “since pretty much the dawn of beer,” Martin said, but thanks to German purity laws and market forces, many fruited styles were not as popular. The Belgian lambic is one well-known fruited style, but it’s been more recent that the craft beer community began experimenting with fruit. Akademia calls its series “Fructuosum” after the Latin word for “fruited.”

“The rise of craft beer in the States was built more on the traditional British and German styles, with the Belgian traditions mostly being represented by abbey styles rather than lambic styles,” Martin said. “The current push of heavily fruited sours is in a lot of ways the spiritual successor more to lambics than say, a shandy or a witbier.”

Fruit can be added at any point in the brewing process, and comes in a number of forms: fresh fruit, extracts and syrups, for starters.

“Akademia follows a relatively unique method of post-fermentation fruit additions, which allows for the most retention of the essence of the fruit,” Martin said. “Right now we have committed to releasing Niobe’s Tears gose and Everything He Touches tart brett saison, on fruit, but we are definitely playing around with other options. We don’t believe in limiting ourselves by saying something like, ‘pink guava is for the summer’ … so while the pace we release fruited sours might slow down as the temperatures dip, I doubt we will see them disappear entirely any time soon.”

RSVP to the release! 

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.”