Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron leads a tour of the brewery under construction at Southern Mill.
To many beer-loving Athenians’ delight, this time last year Creature Comforts Brewing Co. announced it was opening a second brewery and tasting room in the Southern Mill building off North Chase Street.
Following an in-progress onsite tour led by CEO Chris Herron, Brewmaster Adam Beauchamp and Head Brewer David Stein, they drove three major points home: Creature Comforts is equipped with the space and equipment for major growth, reducing its carbon footprint and ready to produce more beer than ever.
Approximately 20 people in bright yellow hardhats and electric orange safety vests were led through the 40,000-square-foot brewery, imagining what each room will look like when all is said and done. With wide-open rooms, exposed brick walls, two loading docks and massive state-of-the-art equipment, which was lowered into the building through hatches in the ceiling, the new location will be a change of pace for customers and unlikely to disappoint.
“People talk about the Cadillacs of stuff—this is like a Bentley of brewing systems,” Herron said. “We are one of a few breweries in America that have this caliber of a brewhouse in the facility, so it’s definitely something that we’re really really proud of.”
At 43 feet tall, the cellar connected to the brewing room contains 34-foot-tall tanks, each able to hold about 5,000 cases of beer. In addition to their impressive capacity, they will also save over 1,000 pounds of barley compared to previous machinery.
Creature Comforts will be able to produce significantly more beer once the facility is ready to mill the barley, brew, ferment and package the beer. As of right now, the first cans and kegs are scheduled to roll off the assembly line in March.
The new brewery will help Creature Comforts keep up with demand—Atlantans routinely complain that its beers are hard to find, and even in Athens, some of its offerings can be hard to come by. That’s in spite of Creature Comforts being what Herron refers to as a pull-through brew, “meaning consumers pull the product off the shelves—we’re not pushing it onto the shelves and trying to get it in front of them.”
Production and packaging are the first priorities at the Southern Mill location; the tasting room is more of a Phase Two task. The tasting room and possible private event space are expected to be open to the public anywhere from six–12 months after beer production.
Other than the sheer volume of beer-producing capabilities, the new location comes stocked with some of the latest computer automated technology. This means the brewers will only need to insert a recipe into the computer, and the machine follows the recipe perfectly and consistently every time. Beauchamp said this will ensure every single single batch of Tropicalia, for example, will taste exactly the same.
In addition to the efficient and consistent beer, canning and packaging will also look a little different. New machines will can 250 beers per minute, compared to the mere 40 cans per minute Creature Comforts has done in the past. Specialized X-rays will ensure each beer is filled with the correct amount each time as well.
Along with the greater efficiency and quantities of beer coming out of the Southern Mill location, it also seems to be leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Strides have been made from purchasing higher-end equipment such as a Miura boiler, cutting back on thousands of pounds of barley. New technology will also allow for a longer shelf life for canned beers.
In addition to going greener, Athens-Clarke County gave Creature Comforts a $475,000 grant to help support the $11 million new brewery. In return, the company will create an estimated 25 jobs, which in a way also falls in line with its Get Comfortable initiative, where 100 percent of the money Creature Comforts earns every Wednesday from beers sold on-site and tours goes directly to a nonprofit combatting homelessness and poverty.
This year’s Get Comfortable campaigned launched Jan. 10, and beneficiaries will include Advantage Behavioral Health System, the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Athens Community Council on Aging, The Ark, Chosen for Life and Mercy Health Center.