Photo Credit: Courtesy of Owen Ogletree
Hampton-based JailHouse Brewing Co. at the 2014 Classic City Brewfest
Local beer nerds, snobs, connoisseurs, enthusiasts and their friends get excited once the calendar flips from March to April. Alongside warmer temperatures and extra daylight, the first month of spring brings Athens Beer Week and the Classic City Brew Fest. This year’s festival will boast 200 brewers and 400 unique brews for attendees to sample at the Graduate Athens hotel. Every ticket sold benefits the Athens Area Humane Society.
The 2015 iteration of CCBF is shaping up to be a particularly good one, as the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. Flagpole recently spoke to founder Owen Ogletree about the festival.
Flagpole: Are there any beers for this year that you are especially excited about?
Owen Ogletree: Along with the tasty beers from sponsors Terrapin and Goose Island, I'm excited about having beers from so many new Georgia breweries like Southern Brewing Co., Creature Comforts, Reformation, Orpheus, Second Self, Eagle Creek and Eventide. These new breweries are making fresh, unique styles of beer like sour ales, wild ales, fruit beers, barrel-aged brews and more.
FP: Are there any breweries participating this year that are new to this festival?
OO: Every Athens brewery—Terrapin and Creature Comforts—has premiered their beers at a Classic City Brew Fest. It's sort of a tradition. This year, we are proud to say that the brand -new Southern Brewing Co., located over near Athens Tech, will follow the tradition by showcasing their very first beers at the festival. Southern Brewing's Brian Roth has produced hundreds of amazing test batches of beer, so we are so excited to see what he has in store for the festival.
FP: Do you have any special plans for the 20th anniversary?
OO: Our 20th anniversary event will will be the biggest and best ever. We will have 25 unique cask ales at the Classic City Brew Fest that can be found nowhere else. We'll also have a "special treats" beer table featuring three extremely rare beers that will blow the socks off any beer geek.
FP: How has this event changed over the past two decades?
OO: One year, we got up to 3,000 attendees at the Classic Center and realized quickly that the event was too big and had grown a bit impersonal. We moved the event to the Foundry [now Graduate Athens] the next year and have been so pleased. We hold the Brew Fest in all areas of the hotel complex—ballrooms, Foundry music hall [formerly the Melting Point], outdoor terrace and have 25 cask ales on the wedding pavilion. Now we sell only 1,000 tickets and focus on the really special craft beers, and the result has been tremendous.
FP: Any advice for attendees?
OO: Classic City Brew Fest is a fantastic way to try dozens of great beers made by talented folks who love what they do. Attending a beer festival is a lot of fun but can be dangerous if you get overly ambitious. Here are a few tips:
Don’t try to taste every single beer—you won’t be able to walk. Instead, try to sample a more reasonable amount and spend time talking to brewers about their beer. You’ll learn a lot about the brewing process and what makes each brewery unique.
Do spend time at the cask pavilion, as those beers are spectacular one-offs that will only be available at the festival.
Do stay hydrated and eat food—your body will thank you on Monday if you take time to replenish lost fluids.
Don’t try to park at the Graduate; there won’t be any space.
Don’t be an asshole and try to drive home after the event, either. The police are out in force and will find you. Take a taxi or Uber, instead.
Additional info can be found at classiccitybrew.com.
WHAT: Classic City Brew Fest
WHERE: Graduate Athens
WHEN: 2:30–6 p.m. Sunday, Apr. 12, 2–6:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $40