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Visit to SweetWater in Atlanta, Ga.

That is the tagline for SweetWater Brewing Company, the second largest craft-brewer in the Southeast, located in downtown Atlanta, GA.  Just behind Abita in barrels.  And, it’s the largest in Georgia.

Atlanta, GAOn Saturday, January 11, the fiance and I were running around the Atlanta perimeter, hitting up the must-not-miss

DeKalb International Farmer’s Market, walked the streets and browsed the shops of funky little Decatur (my birthplace), all on our way to an annual house party with longtime friends.  So, we thought we could squeeze in a quick pit stop at the brewery.  Squeeze it in we did.

SweetWater Brewing Co.

On Saturdays, the brewery offers 3 to 5 untimed tours between the hours of 2:30 and 4:30 pm, each lasting approximately 20 minutes.  We got to the brewery around 3:50 pm, hoping there would still be one last 4 pm tour (and there was).  What we did not realize is the popularity of SweetWater and that the locals come out in droves when the sun comes out.

We were greeted as we approached the brewery that they were at maximum occupancy restrictions, and were currently around 800 people.  This is a lot at SweetWater for a weekend day in the Winter.  According to staff, they get 800 on a weekday in the Summer months and closer to 1,500 on the weekend days then too.  They were operating on a “one out, one in” policy and we were number one and two in the waiting line.  This would also explain why we parked WAY around back (in angled, wrong one-way spots that are very difficult to back out of and get turned around if you have a large truck).

SweetWater Brewing Co. Patio
The crowd overflowth on a warm Saturday in the Winter at SweetWater Brewing Co. in Atlanta.

If you take the tour, you get a small plastic cup and a couple of beer tickets for a tasting at the end.  However, the taps are turned off at 4:30 pm on the NOSE.  Or, for $10, you could get a pint glass and five drink tickets.  We opted for the glass.  And, immediately went to the bar, passing straight through the shop area.  There was a line at the bar.  Many lines at the bar.  We waited.  And, finally got a beer.  Now, 4 pm on the nose, we rushed back to the area where the tour group was gathering.

We made it to two stops on the tour before we bailed knowing we would not get any more tastings if we didn’t return to the bar now.  And, well, once you’ve seen one craft brewery, you’ve kind of seen them all.  The tastings are the important part, we thought.  On the first stop we learned that the attached DHL shipping building had just become vacant as DHL moved to a different building off property and SweetWater is in the process of turning it into its new shipping facility.  Great idea.

SweetWater Brewing Co. Bottling Line

Once we refilled with the second beer, we managed to quickly browse and pick up some sale items at the shop.  Most items were on sale for the Winter.  Once my fiance was in line to purchase our items, I took our glasses back to the bar for one last fill.  Got his filled up and quickly started downing mine to get beer number three for me.  It was a no-go.  I was seconds behind the taps being cut off.  Really?  Ugh.

So, my two cents: If you go, go early.  Expect a crowd and have lots of patience.  And, be prepared for some hoppy beers.

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