Well, it took a little longer than Savannah River Brewing Co.’s President and Co-Founder Steve Ellison thought, but it appears that the Augusta area’s second brewery is set to open very soon. With a starting lineup that includes five different styles of beer, Savannah River’s tasting room is almost complete and their grand opening will be announced via Facebook in a matter of days. To celebrate, check out this story that Stacey Eidson wrote about the new brewery last March.
Craft beers in Augusta are about to begin flowing just like the mighty Savannah River.
Just this week, seven brand new, shiny steel fermenters and companion equipment were carefully delivered from British Columbia, California, and North Carolina to a vacant warehouse near downtown Augusta at 813 Fifth St.
This warehouse, which is the former location of General Wholesale Company, is the new home of the Savannah River Brewing Co.
While the brewery is still currently under construction, Savannah River Brewing Co.’s president and co-founder, Steve Ellison, said he hopes the beer will be available for the public to taste and purchase by the second quarter of this year.
“This project has been going on for over a year now, so we are prepared and really excited to get started,” Ellison said, standing in the warehouse on Monday as tractor-trailers began arriving with fermenters. “And we love this location. We looked all around Augusta and there were a couple of facilities that were a little newer, but they weren’t in this area. In the end, we liked the idea of taking this warehouse that was pretty rundown and revitalizing it so it would be a showpiece for Augusta.”
But before Savannah River Brewing Co. can begin brewing and selling beer, it must still receive its federal and state licenses.
“The federal license has been on their desk for about six weeks now,” Ellison said, adding that the company hired a craft brewery lawyer that assured him that there shouldn’t be a problem in receiving the licenses. “Of course, it is like anything when apply for something like a license. You are at the mercy of where you are in the stack laying on a desk. But, if everything goes well, we are hoping to be putting beer out by the second quarter of this year.”
As for the types of beers Savannah River Brewing Co. plans to brew, Ellison said the company’s brewmaster, Mark Walters, has recommended that they initially concentrate on four main beers: an India Pale Ale, or IPA; a brown ale; a Czech Pilsner; and an amber ale.
“You can’t start off making all the beers you want to right off the bat,” Ellison said. “So, the brewmaster, Mark, and I narrowed it down to four basic beers for craft brewing. I think the Czech Pilsner is going to be a big hit. So, those are the four that we are going to start with, but, of course, shortly after that we are going to have other beers.”
Many of the beers at Savannah River Brewing Co. will also have local names.
“Once our taproom is up and running, it is our goal to let the public decide what kind of beer they want next,” Ellison said. “That is the beauty of having a taproom. We will have something like 20 taps and at least eight of them will be our base beers and the others will be all next phase beers. So it is going to be an evolution of what we ultimately put out. Five years from now, it might look completely different than right now. It is all going to be driven by what people want, but all the beers are going to be good.”
After being a homebrewer of beers for many years, Ellison admits he definitely has certain preferences.
“I tend to like more hoppy flavors, so my beers tend to be a little on the hoppy side. Even the brown ale is hoppy and the amber ale is also a little hoppy,” Ellison said, chuckling. “The brewmaster keeps telling me that we might have to tone that down a little bit, so we are still toying with that. But they are going to be on the hoppy side, which I think a lot of people like.”
When the taproom and event area at the brewery finally open later this year, Ellison said the public will have the option of three different tours of the brewery.
“One tour option will allow you to have 36 ounces of craft beer here that you can enjoy in the facility,” Ellison said. “The second option is you can take home up to 72 ounces. That can be either growlers or a six-pack or a mixed six-pack of beers. And the third option will be both. So each tour will be priced accordingly.”
Ellison is also confident that Savannah River Brewing Co. will have plenty of beer brewed for the public to enjoy when the brewery officially opens its doors.
“We have seven, 60-barrel fermenters here at the brewery,” Ellison said. “With 60 barrels, that can put out about 3,300 six-packs. And we have seven of those fermenters, so we hope to have a lot of beer available and fill the void of craft beers that currently exists in this area.”
Just last month, another Augusta company, Riverwatch Brewery, finally received all the state and federal licensing it needed to officially begin its locally brewed beer.
Riverwatch Brewery already has a launch party set for Monday, March 14, at Enterprise Mill.
It will be the city’s first locally owned and operated packaging brewery since the demise of the Augusta Brewing Company.
But Savannah River Brewing Co. isn’t far behind.
Ellison said the company plans to distribute both kegs and bottles through the area’s largest distributor of craft beers, A.B. Beverage Company.
“I have to say, I was shocked that Augusta didn’t have a brewery already,” Ellison said. “We had been to Augusta off and on for different reasons before and my daughter is in medical school here now. Her husband has lived here for a long time and we would come and visit. Well, when I go to a different town, I always ask, ‘What is your local beer?’ And people here in Augusta would say, ‘Well, we don’t have a local brewery.’”
Ellison said he was floored by that response.
“I was like, ‘What? Augusta is a pretty big town. How can it not have a brewery?’” he said. “I live over near the Atlanta area and breweries are popping up all over. We go to Charleston a lot and there are breweries everywhere. So I was like, ‘We need to put brewery in Augusta.’ That’s how we got started and we are committed and excited that this is going to be something really wonderful for Augusta.”