Sweetwater Brewing Company
An unpasteurized and aggressive West Coast style
Sweetwater Brewing Company was founded in 1997 by Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney, who were buddies and college roommates at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While in school, the guys worked at local breweries, cleaning kegs, and learning the basics of brewing craft beer. Not a bad job when you’re in college! After graduating, they decided to make brewing into a full time career and headed off to the American Brewers Guild in California to perfect the art of fermentation science.
Freddy and Kevin went on to work for a number of west coast breweries, gaining excellent experience and keeping the dream of opening their own brewery alive. The two had visited Atlanta, Georgia the summer prior during the Olympics, and quickly realized this town was in desperate need of some quality craft beers. Their goal was to bring an aggressive, hop-heavy, West Coast style brewery to the Southeast. Freddy and Kevin knew they were just the guys for the job, so they scraped up enough money to get started on their Georgia Brewery. That dream came true in 1997 with the opening of Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Georgia.
The name of the brewery came from the nearby Sweetwater Creek, which avid outdoorsman, Freddy, often kayaked down while the brewery was under construction. The motto “Don’t Float the Mainstream” became the guide, and it’s stuck ever since. They enforce this motto as a means to not be mainstream and instead make your own path, which is exactly what they did when constructing their brewery dream into a reality.
The two were off to an early start of success opening in January 1997 and selling their first keg in February 1997, only one month after opening. Since then, Sweetwater has: hosted the World Beer Cup, won 2002 Small Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, was ranked 26th among the top 50 U.S. breweries, and placed 19th among the top 50 U.S. craft breweries. The most popular style ale the brewery has released is the Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale, named after its brew date, April 20, 1997. On the day April 20th or 420, every year since 2004, they have hosted a Sweetwater 420 Fest. This celebration is a three-day craft beer tasting, live music, and arts festival inspired by Earth Day. In 2008, Freddy became the sole man in charge, for Kevin decided to focus on gaining quality time with his family by stepping away from Sweetwater Brewing Company.
Today, Sweetwater Brewing Company is located in its newer home in Midtown Atlanta in a 115,000 square foot brewing facility. In 2011 Bensch announced a $19 million, three-phase expansion from its previously 25,000 square feet to the now whopping 115,000 square feet. This project was completed in order to have additional office and event space, as well as a bottling line, packaging hall, and warehouse. It’s a favorite spot of visitors and locals, and offers a great place to taste and enjoy some excellent Georgia craft beers. In fact, many of Sweetwater’s brews have won medals across the country and are recognized for their consistently flavorful and unique creations. Sweetwater’s new home has the capacity to brew 500,000 barrels of their Georgia beer each year - a level they hope to achieve someday soon.
We are very excited to feature this great brewery and their amazing beers with our Beer of the Month Club members!