Troup County will go from zero breweries to three in less than a year, but the competition has been good for everyone involved

Published 9:55 am Monday, April 30, 2018

Three’s a crowd may be a popular saying, but it couldn’t be further from the truth for the three new breweries in Troup County.

A new brewpub, Beacon Brewing, is set to open in LaGrange in August, and Wild Leap Brew Co. and Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse opened for business in September 2017.

Chattabrewchee co-owner Mike Denehy said about this time last year, the brewery was still in construction and he and his wife Kathy decided to push back the opening to Sept. 1, 2017.

“The big difference between now and September, we have a totally new source of income now, which is distribution,” Denehy said.

Chattabrewchee is distributing its beer in LaGrange, West Point and Columbus. Some LaGrange locations include Mare Sol, C’sons and Longhorn’s Steakhouse.

“We are in no way, shape or form rushing anything. We want it to be planned, we want it to be deliberate. We want it to be under control,” Denehy said.

Denehy said they are planning on distributing in Auburn and Montgomery, Alabama. They hope Chattabrewchee will saturate the Auburn, Montgomery and Columbus area with distribution.

“We’re just now at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that. We just started distributing a month ago. That can’t be understated,” Denehy said. “We’ve been open for six months, and we’ve brewed more in the last month than we did in the previous five because of distribution.”

The brewery is receiving a canner and will be able to start selling crowlers, or canned growlers, in July. Patrons can buy four 16-ounce cans and fill them with whatever beer they want from the 12-tap tap wall, Denehy said.

Mike and Kathy are both U.S. Army veterans. Mike retired in June last year. Kathy is currently stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“There are a handful of breweries out there owned by a handful of female veterans. There are a handful of breweries out there owned by a handful of female veterans in the national guard,” Mike said. “But she is the only one who puts on a uniform every single day and goes to work [with the military] as her primary job.”

Kathy has eight years left in the military before she retires. Mike said she will move to Fort Hood, Texas this summer.

Mike said they chose West Point for Chattabrewchee since Kathy is from Valley, Alabama.

Wild Leap Brew Company co-owner Rob Goldstein said having breweries close together makes them all better and creates an atmosphere where people want to visit and try them all out.

“I think the growth has been great since we opened,” Goldstein said. “You’ve had Chattabrewchee open in West Point and of course Beacon Brewing coming in the next few months. And in the craft beer world, more breweries is actually not a bad thing.”

Wild Leap opened about three weeks after Chattabrewchee. Both breweries were under construction simultaneously.

“We were just a couple weeks into distributing beer locally. We had another brewery brewing our beer for us,” Goldstein said.

When Wild Leap first opened, the tap room was open Thursday through Sunday. It is now open every day of the week.

Since opening, the LaGrange brewery has also released cans for sale in 75 counties in Georgia and Alabama.

“The goal is that now that we’ve been open, and we’ve really acclimated ourselves to the process of brewing and canning and all of that, you’re going to see a lot more can releases to come this year,” Goldstein said. “Moving forward, all of our releases are going to be canned.”

Wild Leap has 15 different beers featured in their tap room. Goldstein said a surprise for him and co-owner Anthony Rodriguez was when they put Upright Double IPA in the tap room.

The IPA sold out quickly and has since been canned.

“We’re constantly releasing small batch beers that people can only get here. We want to create an environment where people come in and try the newest and freshest and latest creations, and also a bit of it is to see how folks react to certain styles of beers,” Goldstein said. “That helps make more informed decisions on larger releases.”

Goldstein said they will be releasing an IPA series in the coming months.

Wild Leap has helped host events in LaGrange such as the St. Patrick’s Day Downtown Block Party, the craft beer and music festival and has now partnered with Sweetland Amphitheatre for a summer concert series.

“If there’s one thing that we learned, it’s that we can create all the plans we want, and sometimes they go according to what we’ve laid out, and sometimes they completely take a different direction,” Goldstein said. “What we’re finding is that the beer industry is becoming hyper-local, and it has been our goal from day one to really embed ourselves in the community and make Wild Leap a place where everyone is welcome.”

Goldstein said in the future they will distribute beer further in Georgia and Alabama and host large scale events.

“Our goal is to continue to strengthen our relationship with the community,” Goldstein said.

Wild Leap Brew Co. co-owner Anthony Rodriguez pours Upright Double IPA, a beer that has been unexpectedly popular. –Gabrielle Jansen

Like Wild Leap, Beacon Brewing co-owner Chase Hudson said they chose Beacon’s location on Lincoln Street to help strengthen the community.

“We ended up choosing Hillside and the name Beacon because of my family’s mills that were over here,” Hudson said. “And so much of this area was vibrant then and just has kind of withered not having anything over here. [We] just wanted to make sure we did what we could to put something back.”

While it will be the latest brewery to open, Hudson said they have been planning it for three years.

“We started really talking to people in the industry about three years ago, trying to figure out if LaGrange is ready for this,” Hudson said. “In that process, we decided to try to [get] on this, (and with) that beer festival that we did a few years back, LaGrange was all about it and really seemed to welcome the idea. The Wild Leap guys actually put that on, and so they saw the excitement and decided to come down here, too. So, it’s really helped out a lot.”

Beacon Brewing Company will open in August, according to Hudson. Construction is expected to be finished along with landscaping around May.

“Our big holdup really right now is getting all of the licensing,” Hudson said. “It takes a while to get the federal license and the state license to brew. We’re just waiting on that right now, but our goal is sometime in August.”

Unlike Chattabrewchee and Wild Leap, Beacon is going to be a brewpub. Hudson is also a co-owner of C’sons and Mare Sol.

“We’ll be a full restaurant and we’ll also have a full bar, but our beers – most American craft breweries are done in a Belgian style,” Hudson said. “We’re going to focus on Bavarian.”

Beacon Brewery co-owner Chase Hudson poses in the brewpub, which is under construction. –Gabrielle Jansen

When it opens, Beacon will start with four kinds of beer. Hudson said they want about eight to 10 on tap.  Hudson said for sale and distribution, Beacon will also have crowlers and will be able to fill growlers.

“With the Cart Barn Grill over here, they’re kind of [bring your own beer], so we’re definitely going to work with them,” Hudson said, “Try to have some kind of partnership where people can come over here and buy a crowler and take it over there.”

Hudson said from day one Beacon is going to be a heavily-distributed brewpub. They are focusing on LaGrange, Newnan and Columbus, but hope to be statewide by year two, according to Hudson.

“Our long-term goal is if we can end up with the two breweries in town and maybe a distillery, if we can find someone to do that, that would be the ultimate goal. Make LaGrange more of a destination,” Hudson said.