A building in Macon that once housed an electrical supply company became a lively place Saturday as people sampled craft beer from the city’s only microbrewery.
Within the first two hours of Saturday’s grand opening of the new serving part of Macon Beer Co., more than 150 people stopped by for a tour, to drink beers such as the cherry blonde Macon Love and socialize in the tasting room of the Oglethorpe Street microbrewery.
Macon Beer Co. may be the only brewery in Macon, but the industry has undergone a transformation in Georgia over the last several years, Macon Beer Co. founder and president Jeremy Knowles said.
“When I started planning (to open the company) in 2011 there were five breweries statewide and now we’re closing in on 40,” Knowles said.
The mechanical engineer founded Macon Beer Co. in 2013 and debuted his first craft beer that fall at Oktoberfest in Macon. The microbrewery typically makes about 60 kegs, or 300 gallons, of beer each week and sells it at 30 bars and restaurants in Middle Georgia.
Tours of Macon Beer Co. started in May, and Saturday’s grand opening celebrated the a state law that went into effect July 1.
The law allows people to sample up to 36 ounces of beer at a craft brewery and as much as to 72 ounces can be sold in growlers, which are jugs that can be filled with craft beer, sealed and taken off site.
The new law also allows food to be sold at breweries, so Saturday’s event included beer-inspired food such as bratwurst with beer mustard catered by Moonhanger.
The law is helpful, but Georgia still lags behind most states in regards to what’s permitted at craft breweries, Knowles said.
“Georgia is only one of four states where you can’t buy a pint of beer (at a brewery),” he said.
Jeremy’s wife, Heather Knowles, manned the lobby Saturday as she sold tickets for the beer samples, answered questions and provided suggestions for what type of beer some people might prefer.
She wasn’t much of a huge fan of craft beer before her husband decided to start the business, but she said she credits him for improving her palate. She also provides insight to craft beer newcomers.
“I kind of know where people who aren’t big into craft beer are coming from so I can see make a suggestion of what beer best fits their taste,” she said.
The company’s flagship beer is the Macon Progress, a beer described by Jeremy Knowles as a full body pale ale with a fruity aroma and taste.
“Craft beer has this trait of high bitter taste so I tried to back down on that,” he said.
Macon Beer Co. also offers seasonal beers such as Macon Movies, which coincides with the Macon Film Festival. Other seasonals include Macon Love, Macon Homebrew and -- sold around the same time of the Bragg Jam festival -- Macon Music.
Brewing a batch of beer typically takes about 10 hours and another 2-4 weeks for the final phase of fermentation and conditioning to be finished, Jeremy Knowles said.
That process involves yeast consuming the sugar thus producing the ethanol and the carbon dioxide that makes the carbonation.
Since opening the company, Knowles went from a full-time to part-time mechanical engineer to dedicate more time to the company. When asked during a tour Saturday why he cut down on hours in a field that pays as well as engineering, he said, “Instead of going to heating and air conditioning conventions, I get to go to beer shows.”
Husband and wife Jeff and Rachel Chabot said they came out to the grand opening to support a local business. They were accompanied by Rachel’s mother, Martha Veto, and uncle David Veto, who was visiting from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It’s a great thing to have a local craft beer in Macon,” Rachel Veto said. “This is the kind of place we visit when we go to Asheville, North Carolina, Atlanta and Athens.”