Last week I had the pleasure of learning about two of my favorite things: adaptive reuse and beer. Creature Comforts is opening a microbrewery in the former Snow Tire building on the corner of Hancock Avenue and Pulaski Street. Co-brewers David Stein, formerly of Twain’s Billiards and Tap in Decatur, and Adam Beauchamp of Sweetwater Brewery hope to start brewing in August.
Stein and Beauchamp, both University of Georgia graduates, led a casual tour of the Snow Tire building Mar. 9 for a group of very curious, beer-swilling Athenians. Changes to the Snow Tire building, formerly University Chevrolet, include removing the dropped ceiling to expose the trusses, knocking down interior walls and relocating the Snow Tire sign on the front of the building: all fairly minimal changes. The removal of the dropped ceiling will have the biggest impact on the 1940 building, and while a dropped ceiling is very much a feature of mid-century architecture, the ceiling is in disrepair and has to be replaced or removed. Removal is less expensive and will expose the truss system that Beauchamp compared to the trusses in Farm 255, a nice-looking ceiling indeed.
The building’s few interior walls will be removed to make more room for tours and brewing space. While plans are not yet final, Stein and Beauchamp intend to give tours in the front of the building and brew in the back. From what I gathered, it will be an open space similar to the way the Terrapin Brewery is laid out.
The current boiler room will eventually become a beer cellar for specialty brews, and the former tire storage areas will become barrel storage. The rooms for barrel storage will have to be reinforced underneath because, as heavy as tires may be, their weight doesn’t compare to barrels full of beer. Although the dropped ceiling is going, the large hanging lights (also indicative of the period) will be staying, Beauchamp says. They are a big part of the historic fabric of the building.
The most obvious changes will be the Snow Tire sign moving inside—although someone recently stole the “w”—to be replaced with a Creature Comforts sign, and a new rooftop patio in the back over the barrel storage area.
Creature Comforts continues the transformation of this part of downtown. The Snow Tire building, the former tire recap plant Ciné shares with The National, and the Ted’s Most Best building (once a storage facility for Snow Tire) are great examples of automotive structures being adaptively reused to suit modern needs. (The Biotest Plasma Center building nearby used to be an Athens First Bank & Trust branch.)
This section of downtown was mostly residential in the early 1900s. As the automobile became a part of American culture, the houses were torn down and replaced mainly with auto-oriented businesses. As with most cities, those businesses eventually relocated to the outskirts of town, leaving empty buildings in the downtown core. While the original businesses may be gone, the preservation of these buildings is the preservation of American cultural history, a fact that many local business owners seem to be well aware of.
Now, on to the beer. Creature Comforts plans on releasing four core brews, including a Berliner Weisse and pilsner. These four core brews will be available in cans only, while seasonal and specialty beers will be available in 22-ounce bottles.
Since it is a microbrewery, it will be open to the public during tour hours. Just like at Terrapin, customers will purchase a glass and receive beverage samples. Also like Terrapin (and every other brewery in Georgia), their beer will be distributed through a distribution company, not distributed directly from the brewery, meaning they won’t be able to fill growlers or sell cases of beer directly to the public.
Finally, Creature Comforts is not a brewpub, as rumored. That means my and Ort’s beloved Copper Creek Brewing Company will remain the only brewpub in town.
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