I decided to start a little early on the Georgia Brewery Tours 2017 series.
It seems fitting that my first post in this series would be about Red Brick. Red Brick, is the oldest craft brewery in operation in Georgia. So I feel it’s appropriate to start with them to launch this series. When telling the history of something it helps to start at the beginning and build to the present so you understand how things evolved the way the did. Having said that, the order of the breweries I visit and write about will probably have no rhyme or reason. My goal is to visit as many Georgia breweries as I can over the next year and make posts about each one. So lets begin…
Red Brick Brewing Company was founded in 1993.
The brewery was founded by Greg Kelly, and was originally named the Atlanta Brewing Company. After years of working as a VP for Guinness he decided the time was right to open his own brewery. The first location was a brick warehouse on Williams Street in Atlanta. Greg Kelly would run the brewery from it’s founding until 2005. The 1990s saw rapid growth for the first brewery in Georgia, and it was during this time they did a collaboration that would prove to be one their most popular beers… Laughing Skull.
If you have lived in Atlanta then you have almost certainly heard about the Vortex Bar and Grill. There are two locations, one in Midtown and one in Little Five. The Vortex has become an Atlanta Institution. They are known for their fantastic burgers and pub style grub along with their long list of craft beers and premium spirits. The unique Laughing Skull image the Vortex has created is an amazingly creative take on the common cartoon skull. This skull, however, is laughing and looks a little mad. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. A whole post could be devoted to the Vortex, but this post is about Red Brick… so to learn more about the Vortex and see their unique brand click here.
Red Brick and the Vortex would collaborate to produce a beer to pair with food. In today’s modern craft beer world with beer dinners and constant rotating tap handles it may seem like no big deal, but in the mid-1990s, this was pretty unique (especially for Atlanta). The beer produced was the Laughing Skull a bohemian pilsner that went down easy and paired well with Americana style food offerings. The beer was retired for over a decade but was rebooted in 2009 and released as an easy drinking Amber Ale. As an Amber fan myself, I think they made the right call by bringing it back.
Red Brick’s (Atlanta Brewing Company) first several years the company we very successful. The 90s were very good to the brewery and it helped launch the careers of several other now prominent people in the craft beer industry. Two of which would go on to start one of the most successful breweries in Georgia to-date. Brian Buckowski and John Cochran with Terrapin Brewing Company both worked at Red Brick before starting off on their own. It really is a small world in the craft industry.
New president, new location.
In 2006 Greg Kelly left and Bob Budd succeeded him as president. It was around this time that the brewery had to move locations from Williams Street to Defoors in West Midtown. Budd came in to do an overhaul of the company. In the past few years, sales had grown stagnant, in part due to some distributor changes the company had to make. It was also during this time that the brewery began to up its production of limited release beers (under the Brick Mason Seasonal Series), and build the recognition of their core beers including their Red Brick Brown (one of my favorites).
Under Budd’s management and as the craft beer movement picked up momentum in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the brewery grew as well. They extending their line up of beers and grew their distribution channels. Also, in 2010, having used ‘Red Brick’ to name so many of their beer options for the past several years, the company decided to officially change their name from Atlanta Brewing Company to Red Brick.
Bob Budd stepped down as president in 2015 and was replaced by Garett Lockheart. Garett was previously the head brewery for Red Brick during most of Budd’s reign as president. Red Brick Brewing Company has been growing steadily over the past several years. They even export to several countries now, including South Korea and Germany.
My visit to Red Brick Brewing Co.
Hopefully, as this series grows I will be able to hone in on the structure of these posts. For instance, I want to go over a bit of the history of each brewery I visit, but I don’t expect for it to take 700+ words each time. However, that is probably expected when you are trying to summarize any company that has been around for over 2 decades. So we’ll see what happens…
Red Brick is located in the end unit of an industrial complex on Defoors Road, Southwest of Buckhead. There is ample parking, which is a pleasant surprise when you visit anywhere in Atlanta. As you approach the brewery you will see a fenced off portion with picnic tables and chairs for patrons to enjoy the outside. The entrance of the brewery is located in this fenced off area. You’ll enter directly into the tasting room which I approximate to be about 2000 square feet. They finished a renovation a couple years ago and really decked out their tasting room. The room is split into two sections. One area has a bunch of high top tables and a few games hanging around for patrons to enjoy. There is a couple offices located off this section for employees.
The 2nd area has lower more casual seating and is where the bar is located to get your beer samples. On this visit, I tasted the Amber Ale, White Ale (also part of the Laughing Skull series), the session IPA and Hoplanta IPA. I’ve had each of those beers before and if you are every visiting make sure to try them all. Throughout the brewery tasting room, the walls are accented with posters, pallet wood, and medals they have won from different beer festivals. I really like the new renovation, but a very cool mural of the Atlanta skyline was one of the casualties of the new paint job and I wish that could have been left and incorporated somehow.
Large windows in the tasting room show off the production facility. Patrons can enter a roped off section in the production area and enjoy their beer while they check out all the brewing equipment. Red Brick is rocking a 50bbl brewhouse, and you can tell they are moving some volume with those 100bbl fermenters. The production area is large and doesn’t look cramped with equipment. Their canning line is fairly large and if I had to guess can probably move 80+ cans/min (maybe more). You can see the whole production set up from the roped off area for customers. I really enjoy the production room hang out area, which is big enough to have a couple games of cornhole going on rainy days. I’ve also seen bands perform inside on cold nights as well. It appears they have plenty of room for more growth at this location.
I’ve been a fan of Red Brick for several years now and I look forward to seeing their continued growth and success. They have a long history in Atlanta and I believe it will last much longer. If you want to learn more about Red Brick Brewing Company click here.
– Drink Up, SlyePup
*Brewery Visited on 12/14/2016 (probably my 10th time over the years)
**If I got any detials of the story wrong please let me know. I’d be happy to update anything. Thanks!