With archaic laws that restrict breweries from selling beer directly to patrons, Georgia is far from leading in the craft beer craze. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fabulous breweries in the Peach State to visit for terrific beer and camaraderie among fellow drinkers.
Monday Night Brewing, just west of downtown Atlanta in a small industrial park, is a prime example. A $12 fee for a tour provides guests with six tickets for beers that are poured both inside a spacious tasting room and outside the brewery on a tree lined patio.
You literally can “tie one on” at Monday Night, as the brewery has a wall full of neck ties on one end. And all the draft handles are in the form of neck ties, too. Several great IPAs including Slap Fight, and Nerd Alert, a smooth Pilsner, were among eight brews on tap on a recent Saturday. I even had a special pour of the Bourbon Barrel Draft Kilt, a Scotch ale aged in bourbon barrels, which was one of best beers I’ve had all year — smooth mouth feel, terrific aroma of chocolate, caramel and coffee, and subtle bourbon taste flavor.
Aging brews in wine, gin, bourbon and other barrels has become increasing popular at Monday Night since it opened in 2013. Head brewer Peter Kiley let me and a friend see the barrel aging room with barrels piled 40 feet high. The smell was intoxicating.
Monday Night is about to go full throttle into barrel aging with the opening next year of a new barrel-aging and souring facility about five miles south of its current facility. The new 22,000 square foot brewery is opening on the Westside of Atlanta facing the city’s BeltLine, a popular walking, running and biking path around the city. When it opens next summer, it will have a tasting room, outdoor patio and something rarely seen at breweries– its own orchard.
The apple, peach and pear trees will be important as ingredients to add to beer but also to develop bacteria that is mixed with yeast to help in fermenting the beers. Open fermentation tanks will help the process. “We want to make it funky and interesting where different trees bloom at different times of the year and use the yeast and bacteria that is drawn to the trees to ferment the beer,” said Monday Night Brewing co-founder Jonathan Baker. The great advantage of a separate facility for sour beers is it will reduce risk of cross contamination with yeast and bacteria with beers that don’t need those extra ingredients.
“The orchard we are planting next to the building will not only provide raw, locally grown ingredients for our new beers, but it will also help with ‘wild’ open air fermentation,” Baker said. Intentionally souring beers using wild strains of yeast has grown in popularity amongst craft beer producers in recent years, as has aging beers in spirits and wine barrels. In addition to the orchard, Monday Night plans to grow hops as well—a challenging feat in the heat of the Deep South. They are currently focused on selling beer in Georgia, but they sell in Alabama as well.
While many new craft breweries have had interesting beginnings, Monday Night could be the only one tied to a bible study class.
Baker and his two other co-founders – all in their 20s – had met in a Friday morning bible study class in 2007 and since one of them had recently got a homebrewing kit they thought it would best to bond by making beers on – you guessed it – Monday nights in one of their garages. Pretty soon, they were making more beer than they could handle and their friends and family were telling them that the brews were quite good. Then they made the leap, leaving their jobs and began brewing full time, initially making their beers at Thomas Creek Brewery of Greenville, S.C. Then in 2013, they opened their own brewery in Atlanta.
Monday Night co-founder and CEO Jeff Heck said part of the goal of the brewery is not just about making great beer but having a place for people to connect — both friends and strangers. “Our purpose at Monday Night is to build community through beer, and working with the BeltLine on this project is a perfect example of that,” Heck said.
Baker, a former wine maker, said the brewery has worked hard to build a place that people like to come to hang out. And that vibe carries over into making beers. “Let’s make Monday Night cool,” Baker said is their goal. Outside of the brewery is a big sign that has their slogan — “Weekends are Overrated.”
Kiley, the head brewer, said building such a philosophy and image goes into the hiring process as well. Experience matters but so does attitude and character, he said. “We are a family here… we not try to be pretentious but happy and comfortable.”
On a recent Saturday afternoon at Monday Night, the place was humming with groups of friends, couples and families with babies and dogs and enjoying the fall weather and terrific brews. The long tables and cornhole games brought together strangers into a great atmosphere.
Phil Galewitz has been writing about the the craft brewing industry in the Mid-Atlantic states since 2011. He lives in Washington D.C. and South Florida. Twitter: @philgalewitz Instagram: Philmorebeer. He visits over 300 breweries a year across the United States.