Visit the Brewery. Please. And before I get in trouble, this is not an attack on distributors, retailers, restauranteurs, etc. NOT AT ALL. But … visit the brewery.

As a licensed beer snob*, I could not be any happier about the explosion of craft breweries over the past decade. What used to be the rarity, finding a local craft brewery is now the norm. According to the Brewers Association, there were approximately 1,800 craft breweries in the US in 2010; almost 6,000 by 2016; and nearly 10,000 by the end of 2022. This is absolutely a great time to be alive! However, with the onslaught of new breweries comes an inevitable issue of sustainability. If craft beer consumption is a relatively finite number, more breweries equals less market share for each. Unless the pie grows, many breweries will get a smaller piece as new competitors enter the marketplace. No, I am not an economic, and this is about beer not math.

What has been predicted for a long time is beginning to happen with greater frequency. Your local craft breweries are starting to make the painful and difficult decision to close their doors. Listen – I get it. In some instances, it’s not a great brewery or has personnel issues or is stuck in a terrible location. We’re rarely shocked when these situations force closure. What I’m focusing on today are the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere.

In days of yore (i.e. a few months ago), I would come across a Facebook post about a brewery set to close and explore with mild curiosity to learn which was closing. Usually, that led to either “never heard of it” or “that doesn’t surprise me.” Recently however, I am now researching those posts quickly and with trepidation, fearing the worst for ‘my’ brewery. It’s starting to hit closer to home, and I don’t like it. So, back to the title of this diatribe – Visit the Brewery.

This is my plea to give the best support to your brewery. Yes, it’s all well and good to buy from the local grocery store or package store; and yes, we should order local craft when we’re at the watering hole or corner tavern. But every one of those sales has other sets of hands in there, pulling some of the profit. Do you know want to know a pro tip** on how to provide the best support to the brewery?

Visit the Brewery

There are myriad advantages to YOU, the consumer, but it’s also beneficial for the company … the artists who create those tantalizing elixirs.

  1. Beer is at its best when enjoyed directly from the tap where it is manufactured. THIS is what the brewmaster envisioned when creating it.
    No – I don’t mean literally from the tap. That would be gross.
  2. Beer is about community. Saddle up to the bar and get to know the other people who love the same place you do.
  3. This is best opportunity to try several flavors and styles. Unless uber crowded, most breweries I have visited enjoy talking about their product and want to help you find something you’ll love.
  4. Every dollar spent there stays there. There are no merchandisers, distributors, retailers, etc who get their fair share of the tab. Every dollar spent there stays there.
  5. You can support the staff! The people who work there everyday, listening to an unending sea of people saying things like “This IPA is too hoppy. What do you have that tastes like Blue Moon?” deserve to interact with people who appreciate a good pint and a good time. And generous gratuities are readily accepted as well.

This is a win-win. And it’s a small thing we can all to do to support those places that we cherish. I don’t want to ever have to think these thoughts again:

  • They always look so full
  • Everyone loves their stuff
  • They’ve been here forever

Cheers! And I’m hitting my neighborhood brewery at 5pm. See ya there!


*No I don’t actually know of or have a ‘beer snob’ license. Maybe we should work on that next?

**It’s not really a pro tip – this is pretty flipping obvious, right?

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

My two partners in crime (and hops) and I recently planned a brief but exceptionally action-packed trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The city has been referring to itself as Beer City USA for 10 years now, and after having spent some time there, I feel it’s fair to say that the title has been earned. There are 40 breweries in Grand Rapids, which has less than 200,000 residents – roughly 20 breweries for every 100,000 residents. To put that in perspective, listed the top large cities for breweries, and Portland OR led the way with 13 breweries per 100,000 residents. Not close. So, this was an easy call as the venue for the Grand Beercation.

I’ll give away the end of the story up front: over the course of two days, we visited 18 breweries and sampled over 240 different beers. More on how we came up with this plan, itinerary, and dizzying lineup of beer in a future post. This post is just about our trip to Beer City, USA … aka Grand Rapids, MI.

The App

Before visiting Grand Rapids (I’m just going to call it GRMI for the rest of the post … to make life easy), it’s essential to download the Beer City Brewsader app. The app has handy information about each spot and is pretty useful to help you plan which breweries to hit next, based on your location. There is a GPS-based check-in ability at each brewery with a unique code. Once you’ve checked in at eight different locations, you score a free t-shirt. (No, we didn’t get a second shirt once we hit the 16th brewery.) Hit all 40 breweries and you become the Ultimate Brewsader. Life goals …

The Breweries

Too many to write about each of them, but I’ll hit a few of the highlights here.

Archival Brewing

We actually didn’t have this one on our short list initially, and it would have been a huge fail if we missed it. This may have been my favorite stop on the trail. Archival Brewing sits in Plainfield Township just north of GRMI on an old golf course site. The concept here is the use of naturally occurring local ingredients while focusing extra attention on lesser-known styles of beer. Sure, they still brew an IPA, a Mexican lager, etc. But the thing that really stuck out to me was the vast array of distinct and oftentimes overlooked styles of beer. It’s harder and harder to find a California Common, a Kottbusser, an Altbier, or a Sahti. We really enjoyed the visit, and the staff there was more than happy to discuss these forgotten styles of beer with us, too. Archival is an absolute gem … and provides an amazing view of the surrounding area. And to think we almost missed it!


New Holland

Yeah – I know. You know New Holland and you’ve had several of their beers. But when in Rome …

We just had to include this beer-Mecca of sorts. I love Dragon’s Milk. And I have really enjoyed sampling the varietals that have come out in the past several years. So, obviously we had to go to the source. We were not disappointed. The beer … just, yeah. From kölsch to IPA and sour to stout, New Holland probably makes it, and they probably make it well. The drumroll moment of the night (at least for me) was the last beer we had. 2022 saw the emergence of Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Maple Cinnamon. I didn’t think that anything would ever top the Cherry Chocolate version from a few years back, but this one is tremendous.

Brewery Vivant

This place wins out for the exceptionally cool vibe. (Yes, the beer was good, too – but just wait ..)

The building was initially a livery for 16 white horses; and then part of a funeral home; and then a chapel was built there to support the funeral business. And now it’s a place that aims to create and serve ‘the good life’ – and that’s where Brewery Vivant get its name. This is an absolutely gorgeous and unique spot for a beer. The food is amazing, the beer harkens back to traditional European styles (specifically Belgian and French styles), and the vibe was super lively. Vivant is the right word – there was an energy in the room that was equal parts palpable and intoxicating (pun intended.)

My favorite part of this stop was the beer that became one of the highlights of the entire trip. I needed a last beer to finish off the flight. You’ve been there before: you need to fill one last slot on the flight card and nothing really jumps out at you, so you just scribble something down as a bit of a throwaway choice. I eventually rated my ‘throwaway choice’ as a 4.8 on Untappd. This beer comes from the Unapologetic Fruit series – and I love that name. “Yeah – there’s a crap-ton of fruit in this one. Don’t drink it if you don’t want to!” Fruited Farmhouse + Sour = Sangria. And yes – it’s tastes like a sangria that includes every fruit ever. It seemed like each subsequent sip brought out a different fruit flavor: oranges, pears, grapes, blackberries. Kinda wish I had one in hand right now.


Beer-Mecca, part 2. We ended day one at Founders – another bucket list-esque brewery for the gang to hit. 1) We were not disappointed, and 2) we came away a bit surprised. The beer was every bit as good as we thought it would be. To be able to have CBS, Nitro Breakfast Stout, Barrel-Aged Nemesis, and so much more was an absolute treat. I also really liked 86 Bananas (Belgian Blonde) and Green Zebra, a fruited gose that is NOT usually something I’d go for. That’s the beauty of a trip like this with great friends – we had an amazing opportunity to sample so many different styles and flavors that we might otherwise skip.

The surprise of the night came in when looking at the food menu. Yes, boys and girls. it’s important to put some food in the belly when going all day! The food was delicious! I’m sure the pizza, salads, and soups are all fine. But the sandwiches. Oh my goodness – the sandwiches were outstanding. Get The Dissenter and then thank me later!


Bottom line here … get to GRMI … Beer City USA … Grand Rapids. Whatever you want to call it – call it the spot for your next beercation. You’ll have a GRAND time!!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

When looking back on the history of Roswell, GA, there are several distinct periods in its evolution: Native American territory, gold rush town, mill village, quiet suburbs, and now … great place to find a pint of beer! In this two part (for now) series, we’ll dig into the breweries and then the watering holes found in the city, 20 miles north of Georgia, that is repeatedly named one of the top places to live in Georgia.

The Breweries

Gate City Brewing Company

This is Roswell’s OG, or OB I guess. In 2015, Pat Rains and Brian Borngesser brought the first craft brewery to Roswell, and I guess they opened the floodgates. Good for us. Born in garages and moved to a converted mechanic shop, GCBC is now the anchor tenant on a fantastic and vibrant downtown Roswell scene. And it seems like they’re slowly taking over more and more real estate in Roswell. This is simply a great place to sit and sip a beer with friends. The original tap room spilled out behind the building, which brought about a new taproom back there. And then the expansion continued with a new entrance on Canton Street, the amazing new Artillery Room (you have to read about this place), and liquid expansion into craft cocktails.

Gate City is doing what I wish all breweries would. They have 16 beers on tap consisting of regular year-rounds, seasonal favorites that come back from time-to-time, and one-offs. The year-round selections include a Baltic Porter (Terminus), an IPL called Citras Maximus, my favorite – the Copperhead Amber (although you know I’m a sucker for an amber.) For the seasonal releases, some people gravitate to Gourd Vibrations in the Fall, but for my money, nothing beats Golden Ember. It’s a white stout that has a deliciously smooth finish and just makes you think that you’re sitting next to a fire. And now there’s barrel-aged version. Just … yes.

Now … I can’t vouch for the cocktails, because this isn’t BabyGotCraftVodka. I’ll leave that to the experts.

Variant Brewing

Seaweed-based beer. Delicious!


Just a few blocks away, you’ll find Variant Brewing. This has quickly developed a huge and loyal following as one of the highest-quality breweries in the state. Yes, the state. “Hey Mike, what does Variant specialize in?” Beer. Good beer. It’s not like it’s just a hop house or a place that only does the dark & heavies. They do just about everything, and they do it really well. A few of their year-round beers are absolutely insane in my opinion: Cashmere NEIPA, Norcross Street (a West Coast IPA), and Dark Alchemy, a fantastic oatmeal stout.

But it’s impossible to talk about Variant without discussing two main things. Variant has been producing special batches of barrel-aged stouts for a long time now, and they are the one thing that creates FOMO in more than any other. It all started a few years back with Cinnamon Roast Brunch and Good S’Morning. They have since added a Barrel-Aged Good S’Morning (which is one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted), Dark Alchemy, and many more. Simply amazing.

The other is a total departure from the others I’ve mentioned so far. Variant has a year-round Raspberry Lemon Gose. It’s very good, and very sessionable at south of 5%. It’s not overly tart and drinks closer to a nice raspberry lemonade. Delicious and refreshing. But then it happened. The Imperial version came out. 4.8% became 10.5%; like became crave; sessionable became dan-ger-ous. Suffice it to say that this is a must-visit if you’re anywhere near.

From the Earth Brewing Company

Remember the old commercial by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?
“You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!”

I think about that when I go to From the Earth.
“You put a brewery in my restaurant! You put a restaurant in my brewery!”

Our flight has been cleared for enjoying

I will admit to you that I was wrong. My first visit to FTE didn’t really impress me on the beer side of the house. It was okay to me, but not great. But the food – holy crap, the food was amazing. That’s what brought me back. And then I tried the beer again, and I was very pleasantly surprised. But, being an intrepid researcher  and reporter, I was afraid that my lowered expectations made the beer seem better than it was – only because I wasn’t expecting much. Nope – the beer was legit. And it keeps getting more legit-er. (It’s a word – no reason to look it up.)

You want the lighter stuff? Have a smooth drinking Golden Spiral. Wanna head for something in the middle? Brown Eyed Girl is your huckleberry. For the hop heads out there …wait until they come back out with Can’t Find My Way Home – a powerful and amazing triple IPA (aptly named when it comes in at 10.2%).

This place is amazing – and it’s equally as fantastic for the beer and the food. Oh, and the amazing concert series in the parking lot, but that’s a story for another day!


We’ll be back soon with part 2 in this series, including information on the award-winning Topside Tap Trail. In the meantime, you can find me at, basically, all the above.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Enough has been written about it …
All the cliches have been over cliched …
We all  know that we’re unprecedented times and that the ripple effects and long-term repercussions will go way beyond what we could currently envision.  I mean, if I would have told you 6 months ago that all sports would be cancelled or postponed and we’d be in a police-state lockdown emergency, you’d have assumed that I had been way too deep in the beer. But that’s where we find ourselves. At least we have this: breweries have been deemed essential services so that we can maintain our sanity.

And that’s what today’s post is all about. It’s vital, now more than ever, to support your local breweries. My brother-in-law and I have turned Saturdays into “let’s see how many different breweries we can visit” days. Last Saturday – there were three. Yesterday, we hit four more. The challenge is on – how many will you visit this week?*** Something feels great about visiting and supporting local businesses. And the staff is always SO thankful. I can talk for days about drinking craft beer versus the mass-produced stuff I usually rail against. But let’s get into some deeper reasoning here. I give you the top 5 reasons to drink local, especially now.

  1. Your local craft brewery is not flush with wads and truckloads of cash. They operate on pretty thin margins, which means that major economic chaos (kinda like this whole Corona thing) could have devastating consequences to your local watering hole. You love your local brewery. So do I. Now close your eyes, and imagine that it has been boarded up. That IPA or amber that you loved is now just a memory. The good times playing cornhole in the parking lot or just discussing beer at the bar … all long gone. This isn’t some kinda-sorta-maybe-potential future. It’s a realistic concern and something that we can help mitigate. I am certain that AB-InBev and Molson Coors can weather this storm … so let’s work to bring the craft guys through, too.
  2. These are your neighbors. I’m not talking about the building – I mean the people working there. Again … close your eyes. Think about your favorite local brewery. If you’re like me, there are people working there that you recognize. The same amazing and friendly faces that you see day-after-day, week-over-week. They’re likely either on the doorstep of being laid off or are in very a dire financial situation because their income has been severely diminished. Every visit to a local brewery helps them. You have a choice – help them remain at the brewery, serving the community, or you can envision them waiting in the unemployment line.
  3. They’re working their tails off for us. Most breweries have turned to online sales and curbside delivery. These businesses have 100% shifted their operations in a way to 1) stay afloat and 2) still get delicious craft beer in your hands. Watching these people that I know walk to my car curbside, wearing gloves and masks, to deliver beer is very humbling to me. They’re serving and working extremely hard. I feel like I owe it to them to continue supporting them and telling as many people as I can to do the same.
  4. They’re not ceasing to innovate. I’ve visited a LOT of breweries in the last week. My bride may tell you that it’s because I’m rapidly emptying the beer fridge because of three kids locked in the house with no end in sight. (She’s right, by the way.) But it’s also because these breweries are still working on new flavors and dropping fun new releases. Some might think a business would circle the wagons and go uber-conservative now. So many breweries are being bold and innovative in the midst of the crisis, and it’s awesome! (More to come in a future post.)
  5. The beer is delicious. That is all.

Go. Yes, in most places it’s still legal. Go and visit a brewery. Buy a 6-pack or three. And if you can’t do that, go online and buy a gift card for future use. Get a shirt, a glass, a frisbie … just do what you can to support them. And make sure you tip BIG. Remember, tips can be a decent portion of the income for your friendly neighborhood brewery worker. I’m going with no less than 25% … will you do the same?



*** Just for fun. Since the ‘Rona hit us, I’ve visited Pontoon (twice), Burnt Hickory, Glover Park, Schoolhouse, Cherry Street (Halcyon), Jekyll, Currahee, and Reformation.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s that time of year again: it’s time to mortgage our vital organs and children’s’ futures so that we can find the biggest, baddest, bestest deals on the latest in consumer goods. Black Friday will be here in just a few days. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been there. Yes – I have camped out at Target to make sure I was in the door at midnight to save $11 on the ‘it’ toy of the year. And with the way people treat each other inside those stores, I’d rather become a hermit and never see the light of day again.

But, I bring to you today a new version of Black Friday specials … brewery specials. Below are some of the Atlanta-area breweries that are either opening their doors super early on Friday, releasing special beers, or offering other specials. Sure, you can go and sit in traffic at 4am to duke it out at the outlet mall for a parking spot, so that you can to arm-wrestle over the last piece of discounted Fisher-Price platic; or you can saddle up at one of the city’s finest watering holes for some delicious beer. I’ll let you choose …

Black Friday Beer Specials!

(note: not meant to be a comprehensive list. If there’s something you think I should add, leave it in the comments below.)

Dry County Brewing

  • Open time: 5-10 am; 4-12 pm
  • New release: Mint Chocolate Stout
  • Also on tap: Old 41, Gourd 41, KBA, Barrel-Aged Quad and More
  • Live Music: Steven Brooks Band
  • Food Truck: Joella’s Hot Chicken


Creature Comforts

CCBC has created a new event for this year, special re-releases of a ton of special beers. And they’re adding a few new ones too. Head by if you’re interested in finding some bottles of:

  • Concurrence Blend (#1-4)
  • Subtle Alchemy Blend (#1-3)
  • The Curious #14 and #15
  • Many, many others

Live music from True Born Sons & the Lucky Jones.


Cherry Street Brewing

Cherry Street is back again with their Kegs N Eggs Black Friday event.

  • Bottomless mimosa and Bloody Mary bar? Check.
  • Live music? Check.
  • Breakfast buffet with classic Southern favorites? Check.
  • Holiday beers tapping at 9:30 am? YES!


Reformation Brewery

Reformation will open Friday morning at 6am and will have breakfast available from the Maple Street Biscuit Company.

Other than offering discounts on swag, Reformation and will also be busting out some vintage bourbon barrel-aged Jude and some Pinot-aged Cadence. Color me there! First come, first served.


Scofflaw Brewing

Go big or go home. Scofflaw is crushing the Black Friday world with a six-bottle Absentium release. Available this Friday:

  • Cognac Barrel Aged Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Vanilla Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Coffee Absentium Stout
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Hazelnut Absentium Stout
  • Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Absentium Stout

You can get a 6-pack or individual bottles. And I want all of them. ALL of them.


Pontoon Brewing

And it wouldn’t be Black Friday if there wasn’t someone ready to start the fun on Thursday night. Pontoon did a collab with Variant, Gate City, and Sprayberry Bottle Shop. It was a stupid-good Imperial Milk Stout that came out about a year ago. And now it’s back!  This one is a must-have and Pontoon will open at 9pm Thursday night, releasing this monster into the wild. This year, it’s coming in two versions:

🍫Mexi-Cocoa – Peruvian chocolate, Vietnamese cinnamon bark & Madagascar vanilla caviar
🌰Rocky Road – Peruvian chocolate, toasted marshmallow & almonds and Madagascar vanilla caviar.

Translation? Yes, please.


Of course, there are plenty of other specials from breweries and pubs all over the city. Feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below. And I’ll see you out there on Friday!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Borrowing again from my favorite comedian, Brian Regan …

Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck. Somebody put our engine in upside down, and there’s only one tool in our galaxy that can fix this … and it’s in Madagascar. Apologies for the delay.

But we’ve all been there. Sitting in the airport when you get the announcement or phone notification that your flight has been delayed 1, 2, 6 hours. What to do? If you’re like me, you’re faced with several options. I usually decide to be less unhealthy and use the ‘opportunity’ to get some Fitbit steps in. That usually lasts no more than 30 minutes as I grow weary of dodging people either walking at a zombie pace staring at their phones with zombie face or the people late for flights doing the OJ Simpson thing through the airport. (This OJ thing, not the other one.) I could peruse the shops in the airport and buy something that I don’t need at 8 times the price I could get it at home. But I want to do most is to saddle up at a watering hole and have a good local beer.  I don’t mean some sports bar that only serves mass-produced national stuff through questionable keg lines. I want to find somewhere that serves a good pint of local beer.

During my most recent flying-home-experience, I found myself with 6 (yes, six) hours in the airport, trying to get home from DC. (Note: I do not recommend drinking for 6 hours before flying home. For about 37 reasons.) But the delay made me think. I did the Google-thing to find the best places to get local beer in airports, but I could not find a good list. There were lists per city, or the top 7-9-10 places to get a drink. But there wasn’t a single good list.


So, here is my first stab (no, not another OJ reference) at a good list. PLEASE comment below with your suggestions.

ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Sweetwater Draft House (Terminal B)
  • Chicken + Beer (Near gate D5)
BHM – Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Birmingham Brewhouse (Concourse A)

BNA – Nashville International Airport
  • Yazoo Brewing Company (Gate C23)
  • Fat Bottom Brewing Company (Gate C14)
  • Tennessee Brew Works (Terminal A/B food court)
BOS – Boston Logan International Airport
  • Harpoon Tap Room (Terminal A)
  • Boston Beer Works (Terminal C)
BTV – Burlington International Airport

The Skinny Pancake (past security – both concourses)

BWI – Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
  • DuClaw Brewing (Main Terminal near B)
  • Flying Dog Tap House (A/B food court)
BZN – Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

Copper Horse (main level between escalators)

CLE – Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Great Lakes (Gate C14)

Bar Symon (Concourse C)

CLT – Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  • Carolina Beer Co (Concourse D/ Gate D7)
  • NoDa Brewing (Concourse A)
  • Captain Jack’s Tavern (Between gates E3 & E4)
DEN – Denver International Airport
  • New Belgium Brewing (Near Gates B32 & B80)
  • Boulder Beer Tap House (Jeppeson Terminal)
  • Root Down (C Gates/ Center core)
DTW – Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Shed Bar (Gates A2 & A38)

EWR – Newark Liberty International Airport

Caps Beer Garden (Gate C120)

GRR – Gerald R Ford International Airport (Grand Rapids)

Bell’s Brewery (Grand Hall near food court)

GSP – Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport
  • RJ Rockers Flight Room (Concourse B)
  • Thomas Creek Grill (Concourse A)
IAD – Dulles International Airport (Washington, DC)

DC Chophouse & Brewery (between ticket counters 2&3)

IND – Indianapolis International Airport
  • 317 Tap Room (Civic Plaza)
  • Sun King (Concourse B)
LAX – Los Angeles International Airport
  • Rock & Brews (Terminal 1)
  • The Parlor (Terminal 3)
  • Point the Way Cafe (Terminal 6)
LGA – New York LaGuardia Airport

Biergarten (Terminal C)

MCO – Orlando International Airport

Cask and Larder (Gates 100-129)

MKE – Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

Leinenkugel Leinie Lodge (Concourse D)

MSP – Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport
  • Stone Arch Craft Lab (Terminal 1)
  • Lolo American Kitchen & Craft Bar Terminal 1)
ORD – Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Publican Tavern near K Gate

PDX – Portland (OR) International Airport
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery (Concourse E)
  • Country Cat (Concourse D/E)
  • Deschutes Brewery (Concourse D)
  • Laurelwood Public House & Brewery (Concourse A)
PHX – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Four Peaks Brewing (Terminal 4)
  • O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery (Terminal 2)
PWM – Portland (ME) International Jetport

Shipyard Brewing (Gate 5)

SAN – San Diego International Airport

Stone Brewing Co (Terminal 2)

SAV – Savannah Hilton Head International Airport

Southbound Brewing Co (Pre-Security)

SFO – San Francisco International Airport

Anchor Brewing (Terminal 3, near gate 70)

STL – St Louis Lambert International Airport
  • Schlafly Beer Bar & Grill (Terminal 1, Concourse C)
  • Three Kings Public House (Terminal 2)
TPA – Tampa International Airport

Cigar City (Airside C)


Cheers! Here’s hoping you’re delayed in one of these airports soon. Wait … that didn’t come out right. You know what I mean.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Spring is approaching, and that means a few things: March Madness is right around the corner, and beer festivals should soon get into full swig. (See what I did there? Swig instead of swing?)

Last year, we talked about strategies to use when approaching a beer festival: what to do when there are so many choices. That still sits as one of the most viewed posts we’ve ever had. And then we did a follow-up piece on how it went. It was as much a review of the Roswell Beer Fest as it was a retrospective on the planning we had done the week before.

And now the Roswell Beer Fest (March 23) is almost here, and it’s time to revisit those strategies. (Word on the streets is that they’re looking at having over 400 unique beers this year!) This time, it’s an anticipation of what might be there. I have a good feel for the lay of the land (and love how they break up the areas based on style, rather than by brewery.) I’d like your feedback this time. There have been so many new breweries and new beers released into the wild in the last year – both locally and around the world.

What is the ‘it’ beer we need to be looking for?

If you were to name the top new breweries and top new beers (anywhere – doesn’t have to be local), what would you name? Obviously, we know all about Wild Leap and Variant and Pontoon, etc. They’re killing it, and everyone knows it. I’m talking about the breweries and brewpubs … the specific beers that are outstanding that not many people know of yet. What are the top 3 “must-have” beers and breweries for a beer fest today? Read between the lines here, you could potentially have a say in what beers are being offered! When else have you had that opportunity?

Share this post in your beer snob circles … comment below with those beers that should be at the top of my list for the event. You can always email as well. Thank you in advance – and also let us know if you’ll be at #RBF2019.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
The Dingle Peninsula. Not a draught beer anywhere

The brewery. Why go and visit a brewery? Why did beer enthusiasts in Georgia work tirelessly to pass legislation allowing us to buy beer from a brewery last year? (Other than the fact that prohibition ended a century ago … it was time to be slightly less archaic.) I love having a beer at home – while grilling, watching the game, hanging with friends, enjoying breakfast – there is absolutely plenty of reason to visit your local package store and stock up the beer fridge at home. But what is it that creates that moth-to-the-flame attraction of visiting the local brewery? I’ll attempt to paint the picture for you …

The brewery is the US equivalent of the pub atmosphere in the UK.

Packed house at Gate City

My mom and I disagree. Now, I’ll admit that neither of us is wrong, but we disagree. Several years ago, we took a family trip to Ireland and Scotland. For a beer nerd, that’s the trip of a lifetime … sitting in the local pub, getting to know your new best friend at the seat next to you. That’s what I envision as the highlight of the trip. My mom prefers to get away from people and noise and enjoy the admittedly stunning scenery. These are two very different vacations. (And was actually able to enjoy both sides of it while there.)

But, sitting in a warm, packed pub, listening to local musicians, sipping on a pint, hearing stories from the locals … drinking in the local culture. To me, that’s the allure. But here is the point of this post … The brewery is the US equivalent of the pub atmosphere in the UK.

But why? What is it that draws us in?

Flights at Variant

  • The Vibe. We’ve talked about that in several posts (and more to follow.) It’s the warm, vibrant atmosphere that creates such a positive energy for everyone there. Hard to describe, it’s just something you feel. I think it was Martin Mull who first said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I would say that writing about that feeling in a brewery is like dancing about architecture.
  • You never know who you’ll sit next to. It could be someone who wants a place to read. Or maybe you sit next to a guy who works for another brewery and wants to share some of his beer with you. Or what about that time when I’m enjoying a flight at Variant with my bros and bump into a pack of guys who work at Wild Leap? (Bonus when it’s their CEO and he recognizes the blog logo on my shirt and compliments my review of their newest release!!)
  • Learning from the brewers. I love saddling up at the counter and speaking with the staff about their beer. Almost without exception, people working at breweries enjoy talking about beer. This must be the nerd in me, but I love those conversations!
  • Next level awesome vibe at Appalachian Mountain
  • And maybe the most important part … the variety of beer. Yes, you can stroll into a brewery and taste the same beer that’s in cans in your local package store. And it’s even better because it’s fresh and from the tap. That’s all well and good, but I absolutely love trying the other stuff. The one-offs, seasonals, special releases, etc. A brewery may package or distribute 3-4 flavors of beer. But they may have 15-20 on the wall at any one time. It’s a great opportunity to explore new flavors.
So, what does it for you? Why do YOU love going to a brewery?
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington


You probably remember recent posts that Russ and I shared about our trip to the 2018 Beer Bloggers Conference in Sterling, Virginia. Along the way, we regaled you with stories of the visit to Dogfish Head, Farm Brew Live, and other awesome experiences. There was also a brief hint that I checked in 106 new and unique beers into Untappd. In other words, I sampled 106* beers that week that I had never tried before. One-hundred and six.
* These are only the ones that I remembered to check in. Who knows? There may have been more.

May I also point out that the majority of these were samples. I don’t think it’s advisable to try to drink a case of very heavy beer every day for four days. I’m assuming that if I did that, I’d be writing this post from the great beyond. I found it quite interesting that I didn’t see people interested in drinking a lot … trying to get drunk. These were people who legitimately wanted to experience as many different beers as possible. And I truly didn’t see anyone getting in trouble or getting out of control. But that’s a story for another day.  For today … here’s the list (my Untappd ranking in parentheses).

  1. 2 Silos Brewery
    1. Bill-iner Weisse Sour (2.75)
    2. NOVA Witbier (3.25)
    3. Old Dominion Imperial Stout (3)
    4. Planet Druidia Galaxy IPA (1.5)
    5. Silobration Marzen (3.75)
    6. Virginia Cream Ale Cream Ale (4)
  2. Adriot Theory Antithesis DRANK (red punch) Sour – Gose (3)
  3. Alewerks
    1. Pumpkin Ale (4)
    2. Weekend Lager Helles Lager (3.25)
  4. Ardent Craft Ale IPA X NE IPA (3.5)
  5. Aslin Double Orange Starfish DIPA (4)
  6. Barnhouse Quarter Horse Porter (3.75)
  7. Bear Chase Mr. Pink Belgian Blonde (4.25)
  8. Bearded Iris
    1. Ever Clever NE IPA (3.25)
    2. Homestyle NE IPA (4.25)
    3. Offbeat NE IPA (4.5)
  9. Belly Love 50 Shades of Gold Belgian Strong Golden (3.75)
  10. Beltway Brewing 1776 Stout (4.5)
  11. Bike TrAle Yellow Jersey Pilz Pilsner (3)
  12. Black Hoof Island Pond Hefeweizen (2.5)
  13. Blue Mountain
    1. Dark Hollow Imperial Stout (4.25)
    2. Raspberries on Acid Witbier (3.75)
  14. Bolero Snort La Taureau Tripel (3.5)
  15. Brothers Craft The Admiral DIPA (4)
  16. Canon & Draw Welchers IPA (2.25)
  17. Crooked Run
    1. Heart and Soul IPA (3.75)
    2. Katana DIPA (4.25)
  18. Deschutes
    1. Fresh Squeezed IPA (4)
    2. Mirror Pond Pale Ale (3.75)
  19. Devil’s Backbone
    1. Black Lager Schwarzbier (3.5)
    2. Gold Leaf Lager (3)
    3. Mile 842 India Pale Lager (3)
    4. O’Fest Marzen (3.25)
    5. Pear Lager Fruit Beer (4)
    6. Trail Angel Weiss Hefeweizen (3.5)
  20. Dirt Farm Som Peach Fruit Beer (3.25)
  21. Dogfish Head
    1. 120 Minute (2008) IPA (4.75)
    2. Ball Peen Hamster Kolsch (3.5)
    3. Covered in Nuggs IPA (3.75)
    4. Firefly Pale Ale (3.75)
    5. Flesh & Blood IPA (3.5)
    6. Fruit-full Fort Strong Ale (4)
    7. Green Light Means Go Belgian Pale (3.75)
    8. Liquid Truth Serum IPA (4)
    9. One-Eyed Cheshire Pale Ale (3.75)
    10. Outdoor Shower “other” (3.5)
    11. The Grownups Are Talking Pilsner (2.75)
    12. Wood-Aged Bitches Brew Imperial Stout (4.25)
  22. Finback Telephone Lines Pilsner (3.25)
  23. Free Will Ella Quadrupel (4.25)
  24. Garden Grove Tri-Lemon Saison Farmhouse (4)
  25. Heritage B-A Kings Mountain Scotch Ale (3.5)
  26. House 6 El Bombero Kolsch (4)
  27. Jackie O’s Herringbone Sour (4)
  28. Kindred Spirit Orange Dream Cream Ale (3.25)
  29. Legend Imperial Brown Ale (3.25)
  30. Lithermans Limited One Hit Wonder IPA (3.25)
  31. Lost Rhino
    1. Dawn Patrol Session IPA (3.75)
    2. Final Glide Hefeweizen (3.5)
    3. Meridian Kolsch (3.25)
    4. My Imaginary Girlfriend IPA (2.25)
    5. Pumpernickel Honker Rye IPA (3.75)
    6. Rhino Chasers Pilsner (3.25)
    7. Shooter McMunn’s Irish Stout (3)
  32. M.Special  Barbeerian Special Belgian Strong Dark (4)
  33. Mast Landing Wessie IPA (1.75)
  34. Monocracy Riot Rye Pale Rye IPA (3.25)
  35. Moonlight Meadery
    1. Breathless Mead (4.25)
    2. Indulge Mead (4)
  36. New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Beer (4)
  37. Odd Sides Pineapple Tangerine Fruitsicle Fruit Beer (3.25)
  38. Old 690
    1. Oktoberfest Marzen (3.75)
    2. Gnarly Boar Pale Ale (2.25)
  39. Old Bust Head
    1. Table Talk Witbier (4)
    2. Vixen Red Ale (3)
  40. Old Ox Funky Face Sour (1.75)
  41. Ono Brewing Island Time Brown Ale (3.5)
  42. Phase 2 Thank You, Babe Cream Ale (4.25)
  43. Port City Oktoberfest Marzen (3.75)
  44. Quattro Goombas Resistance is Fruitile Pale Wheat (4)
  45. Reason Saison Grisette (4)
  46. Rocket Frog Angry, Angry Alice DIPA (3.5)
  47. Rogue
    1. Combat Wombat NE IPA (3.25)
    2. Dead Guy Maibock (3.25)
    3. Honey Kolsch (4)
    4. Hot Tub Scholarship Helles Lager (3.75)
    5. Marionberry Sour (3)
    6. Paradise Pucker Sour (2)
  48. SingleCut Beersmiths Softly Spoken Magic Spells DIPA (3.5)
  49. Sinistral
    1. Hello Sunshine NE IPA (4)
    2. Jackson’s Fish Taco Lager (3.5)
  50. Solace Partly Cloudy NE IPA (3.5)
  51. Starr Hill
    1. Grateful Pale Pale Ale (3.5)
    2. Last Leaf Brown Ale (3.75)
    3. Raspberry American Sour Fruit Beer (3.25)
  52. Strangeways Woodbooger Belgian Brown (2.25)
  53. The Farm Brewery
    1. Acoustic Science Belgian IPA (3.75)
    2. Cherrydactyl Fruit Beer (3.5)
  54. Three Notch’d Ghost of the 43rd Pale Ale (3.5)
  55. Twinpanzee
    1. Galaxy of the Apes IPA (3.25)
    2. Galaxy of the Chimps IPA (2.75)
  56. Vanish Farmwoods Andre Brut IPA (3.75)
  57. Waconia Chocolate Peanut Butter (4)
  58. Water’s End
    1. HopDrop White IPA (3.25)
    2. Sauvin Saison (4)
  59. WeldWerks Brownie Batter Milk Stout (4)

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

If that title makes you say “Gesundheit” – I wasn’t sneezing, I’m talking about the German Beer Purity Law. If you don’t already know what it is, it’s a 502-year old law that only allows for four ingredients in the production of a beer: water, barley (or malt), hops, and yeast. Beer brewed in Germany must have nothing else in it.

This law was first created to protect citizens from beer that may have included toxic ingredients that were causing sickness and even death. (Delicious stuff, like wood shavings, nightshade, poisonous tree roots, etc.) The law worked and continues to still today. Having attended a very authentic German Oktoberfest celebration, the quality of the ingredients led to no nasty side effects of excess indulgence the next morning. So, it definitely has its advantages.

On the other hand, US brewers are quick to throw just about anything into a beer in an effort to create recognition and break new flavor barriers. Chocolate, every fruit imaginable, pizza, bacon, smoke, wads of cash, habanero … basically anything. It would seem that German brewers and US brewers are on different sides of the aisle.

Side note: German brewers ARE starting to brew with crazy ingredients and bowing to the pressures of craft beer enthusiasts. But there’s a catch … they cannot refer to the final product as beer. They have to market it as “mixed beer drinks” (Biermischgetränke). And as it turns out, Germans are choosing to stay with the traditional beers, leaving the ‘mixed drinks’ for visitors and tourists.

I attended a Beer Bloggers Conference last week and was able to hear from the founder and CEO of Dogfish Head, Sam Calagione. He said that DFH’s stance was to almost fly in the face of the half-millennium old Reinheitsgebot … focusing on bringing in flavors that you wouldn’t expect in beer. They took a lot of arrows, especially when they were doing this in the years before craft’s big boom in the US. Once told, “Fruit belongs in a salad, not in your beer, a**hole,” Sam and the team ventured on, believing in what they were creating. They now stand as one of the preeminent craft brewers in the world … and have not changed that stance. (Read an article by Sam himself on what he calls ‘beer censorship.’)

Listening to the presentation, I found myself torn. Part of me was in love with the nostalgia and the quality borne of the Reinheitsgebot. And part of me was excited about the almost brash nature with which Dogfish Head eschewed it. Which was right? Who was right and who was wrong?

After a few days of reflection, something amazing occurred to me. What if they’re both right? We don’t have to live in a binary society where there has to be a yin and a yang; an up and a down; a hero and his foil. Isn’t the world a better place because of the variety that we have these days? I love that I can go to Germany and order a traditional lager with only those four magical ingredients. But why shouldn’t I be able to slide down the road and have a “mixed beer drink” that includes coriander and orange peel? And then I can fly home and have Terrapin’s Raspberry Truffle Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout!

So, who’s right? The German purists or the Dogfish Heads of the world? If you ask me, the answer is yes.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington