Brew Your Story
The great thing about craft breweries is no two are the same. They can make similar beers, work together on a collaboration, or have similar taproom vibes. What makes them unique is their story. The story of how and why they put everything they had at risk to open a brewery, which was once a pipe dream, and turned into a functioning brewhouse that churns out delicious libations for the masses to enjoy is always different from one brewery to another. Because of this, the fact that every brewery has their own unique story that’s itching to be told, we’ve decided to do the ‘Brew Your Story’ series to give craft brewers a platform to tell those stories. These stories are the newest chapter of the American Dream.
The third installment of this series features a brewery located in Macon, GA.Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen is a brewpub, which really serves as a restaurant first and brewery second. The brewing operation is small, but they pack a mighty punch. I sat down with the owner and head brewer, Brian, on a Sunday morning and sampled numerous beers, and every single one of them was delicious. Of all of the breweries I have visited in Georgia, they are definitely in the top 3 in terms of quality beer. The food is not so bad either.
Piedmont Brewery & Kitchen store front in Macon, Ga
Upon arriving at Piedmont, my initial impressions were that this was going to be an everyday restaurant that brewed a little beer on the side. I realized I was wrong as soon as I walked in the door. This place is simply awesome. You walk into a restaurant that has a really cool vibe, it's very open, spacious and welcoming. I walked in and made my way to the bar, which has plenty of seating and great views of the kitchen and the rest of the restaurant. If you decide to go downstairs, you'll find a classic game room where fun can be had by people of all ages. I'm no expert, but I think Brian and his team have knocked this one out of the park.
When asking Brian what sets Piedmont apart from other breweries, he said "I feel that Piedmont is one of those third places. You know, home is a first place and work is a second place. Piedmont is a place that feels comfortable and warm and that’s what makes it special, a third place." I think this describes Piedmont perfectly. If you want to get out of the house, you can bring the whole family here for fun. You can eat as a family, or mom and dad can enjoy a beer while the kids play games. Plus, their hand-breaded chicken tenders are a favorite among local children, so you won't hear much of an argument from them!
Classic game room downstairs
Getting this operation started did not come easy. Brian began as a home brewer, and after 6 years found himself brewing the same 4 recipes on repeat. He had won several home brew awards and decided he wanted to do this for a living, but not as a production brewery. He wanted to own a brewpub. The only problem with this is that he didn't know the first thing about running a restaurant. So picture this, a man with a grizzly beard randomly going to restaurants and asking them if they wanted to build a brewery and turn their business into a brewpub. As you can imagine, he heard "thanks, but no thanks" a lot. But he didn't quit trying. He eventually met Richie Jones, owner of a steak house called the Downtown Grill. Richie said he was not interested in adding a brewery to his existing business, but "let's find somewhere else to do it." Finally, the idea for Piedmont Brewery and Kitchen was born in 2015. After meeting with investors and getting the proper funding, Brian and Richie set out to make their dream into a reality. In 2016, they started construction and opened their doors on March 27th, 2017. According to Brian it's been "one hell of an adventure ever since."
However, it wasn't all easy. When asked about setbacks, Brian said one particular challenge came to mind. Saying, "when our equipment was loaded onto a container ship and headed to the USA. The shipping company that ABS chose to use filed bankruptcy about a week after the ship left its port. Well, the shipping company owed a lot of people a lot of money. Unbeknownst to me, there is a maritime law that allows creditors to “arrest” a vessel and hold it until the debt to that particular creditor is cleared. With technology being what it is today, we were able to literally track the vessel in real time. Thant damn boat probably got arrested 4 or 5 times on its way to the USA. It delayed the delivery of our brewing equipment by over a month. It was one of the most frustrating things I have ever had to endure, watching that little boat icon on my computer screen just sitting there in open water." I can't imagine how frustrating that must be, knowing that the equipment you will be using to make your product is just sitting out in the ocean and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
When it comes to the brewing operation, Piedmont is very small. They currently have a 5 barrel brewhouse (steam heated), 10 barrel hot liquor tank, 5 x 5 barrel fermenters and 7 x 5 barrel brite tanks. All of the equipment was sourced from Atlantic Brewing Systems (ABS) out of Raleigh, NC. Brain says he "really, really loves our brewing system and plan to purchase from then again when we expand in a about 2-3 years." As of now, production can only keep up with the demand of the brewpub. However, when they do purchase that other equipment, they plan on opening a second location that focuses on distribution. I, for one, can't wait for the day that I can go to a store here in Atlanta and purchase their beer.
Piedmont's "small but mighty" brewing operation
When it comes to what makes Piedmont Brewing unique, they use music as their inspiration in almost everything they do. Macon has a rich musical heritage and they have really embraced that. Every beer is inspired by and named after music. Brian says "music is a universal language and people seem to be able to relate to our inspiration." Their food menu compliments their beer selections. Being small and being a brewpub (versus a distribution brewery) allows Piedmont to always be creative and take chances with their beers. They have 12 beers on draft (and currently considering adding 4 more taps), 5 of the 12 beers are mainstays: Satisfied Local Lager Beer, Porch Song Pale Ale, White Rabbit Belgian Wit, Sunshine Daydream Tropical IPA and Midnight Rider Robust Porter. Every single one of them is amazing. Satisfied, the local lager, recently won a silver medal in the US Open Beer Championships. You can see my review of some of the beers I tasted during my visit below:
Sunshine Daydream IPA - This is a beer that can be enjoyed year round. It has an intense fruit-forward bouquet of orange, mango, papaya and a bit of pine achieved from massive amounts of whirlpool hops.
Token Rhyme West Coast IPA - Brewed in collaboration with New Realm Brewing and Cherry Street. This beer honors both the birthday of the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead (aka Jerry Day) and celebrates IPA Day. It has rich piney flavors and notes of citrus lemon peel and grapefruit zest.
Rhymin' & Stealin' - This is a standard kettle-sour beer but with the juicy additions of blueberries, pomegranates and cherries. Vanilla beans added for an extra dose of deliciousness.
Promise Land Dry-Hopped Pilsner - Brewed in collaboration with Stereo Brewing (Placentia, CA). German-style pilsner that finishes crisp & refreshing and is meant for porch drinking
Satisfied Local Lager - A refreshing lager that finishes clean and somewhat dry. Silver medal US Open Beer Championships.
Satisfied Local Lager pictured with the Us Open Beer Championship Silver Medal
Everyone has someone they look up to in their industry. When asked who he looks up to, Brian said "This is easy for me to answer as there are a handful of people that really helped me to get to where I am at as a professional craft brewer. John Roberts at Max Lager’s is my Sensei! Ethan Wurtzel at Twains started welcoming me into the brewing world in 2014 when I used to go up and brew with them on a regular basis. That was great experience! Eric Johnson at Wild Heaven answered so many questions from me early on (I really admire him for his technical brewing knowledge). Nick Tanner at Cherry Street is my homeboy. He has also helped me more than I can ever express. There are many, many more people in the Georgia Craft Brewing scene that have helped me out but these were the ones that were instrumental early on."
When it comes to brewpubs, Brian and Richie have hit this one out of the park. These guys have teamed up to create a place where families can enjoy a meal, then the adults can have a few beers while the kids play games downstairs. I haven't found too many places that can do this successfully. Normally, it's catered to adults and kids probably shouldn't enter these establishments, or it's catered to kids and parents go because they love their kids and want them to have fun. Piedmont brewery has found the perfect balance where everyone can have a good time. If you are ever traveling between Atlanta and Savannah, or find yourself in Macon, GA, be sure and stop by and have a bite to eat and wash it down with one of their delicious beers. You won't regret it. Oh, and tell them Brew Your Story sent you!