If you spend much time on Facebook, you probably notice stories that bemoan everything millennials are supposedly killing. Retail shopping centers. Cable TV. Chain restaurants.
But it’s not like millennials are done contributing to the U.S. economy. The younger generations seem to be seeking out how they can support the little guy (small businesses) — and one thing they’re participating in is drinking more craft beer than previous generations, according to a report at brewersassocation.org.
Craft beer is defined as that which is made by smaller, more local breweries; we have two right here in Augusta, Riverwatch Brewery and Savannah River Brewing Company. Those two breweries, along with others in the region, will be represented at the sixth ETCP Springfest at Evans Towne Center Park on March 10. Along with fine craft beers, the free festival also offers local bands the Scarlet Begonias, the Mason Jars and the Robbie Ducey Band, as well as many local food vendors.
Craft Brand Manager Logan Stansell, who works for A B Beverage Company, helps with beer selection at the festival.
“So most people, if they’re just asking about craft beer, the first thing they’ll want to know is, ‘Well, what does it taste like? What color is it? How is it made?’ … If you get somebody that drinks Bud Light, the best way to approach somebody is to say ‘What’s your favorite beer?’ and when they tell you Bud Light, then you try to find something light, not hoppy, not bitter,” Stansell said. “Hops are used in bitter beers, so … if you’re not very familiar with IPAs, IPAs are bitter beers. Very hoppy. But that’s basically what I do when they walk up and they don’t really know what they want to drink, I go ‘What are you into; what kind of beer do you normally like?’ If they don’t drink beer, I try to give them something that’s easy to drink. Craft beer’s just real small, basically. You know, you’ve got big beer, which is Budweiser, Miller Lite and stuff like that. And then craft beer is small breweries, start-up breweries. It’s very hands-on.”
He said younger drinkers seem to be into expanding their horizons past the big names in beer, like Budweiser and Miller Lite. Craft beers are known for offering all different types of flavors, as well as higher ABV (alcohol by volume).
“Craft beer in Augusta probably within the last three years has come on very strong, as far as people just getting more educated about beer and how beer’s made and wanting to know how it’s made,” Stansell said. “In fact, when we were younger, nobody really cared about how it was made. These days, you can talk for hours about how beer’s made. So the culture’s definitely changed around here; I mean, four years ago, you didn’t see any of it. And it started to come on strong. And it’s picked up; I mean, we saw it four years ago in Atlanta. And the crazy thing is, it’s still so much stronger outside of Augusta; up toward Atlanta and stuff, craft beer’s huge. And it’s steadily making its way this way, because you can see it’s totally different in the last four years. And that just comes with people coming into our territories that have experienced beers from outside of here, and just, their taste buds are different. People just want to try new things.”
Stansell said part of the reason for craft beer growth in Augusta lately is the fact that there is a military base here.
“The military post and those people have been all over the world drinking beer. They’ve been in Belgium, which a lot of these beers are influenced from Belgium,” he said. “A lot of these ales and stuff like that. So that’s a huge thing. They’ve traveled outside of here, so people have tried different beers in different cities, and then they bring that back to Augusta with them, and then they get their friends to try it, and that’s just constantly what grows.”
Besides the two Augusta breweries, other breweries that are planned to be represented at ETCP Springfest include Holy City Brewing out of Charleston, Wicked Weed Brewing out of Asheville, Monday Night Brewing Company out of Atlanta, Jekyll Brewing out of Alpharetta, Red Hare Brewing out of Marietta, Reformation Brewery out of Woodstock, and Nantahala Brewing out of Bryson City, N.C.
Another beer festival will be coming up about a month later, in North Augusta. World of Beer is presenting their third annual Augusta Craft Beer Festival at the new home of the Augusta GreenJackets (SRP Park) from noon to 5 p.m. April 21. Keith Edmondson, director of the festival and president of Augusta Sports Leagues, said people who attend ETCP Springfest will have a chance to win tickets to the Augusta Craft Beer Festival, as well as to play games.
“We’re not specific to an area of town, and so we’re open to all areas of the CSRA,” Edmondson said. “I think that’s one of the things that we love the most about it, is it kind of gets people of their routine. And so you’ve got people from Grovetown and Fort Gordon hanging out with people from Aiken and North Augusta, and all points in between. And that’s what we’re really excited about is to get people out and about that don’t normally meet each other.”
Havird Usry, vice president of operations and development at Fat Man’s Mill Cafe, will be running the beer operations at the ETCP Springfest. He is looking forward to the festival.
“It just always seems to be a beautiful early spring day with some live music and good beer that folks enjoy, and then also a variety of beer,” Usry said. “And we from a concession standpoint, I think we just enjoy being busy and taking care of all the guests that come to the concert and having a little backstory along with A B Beverage of where each beer comes from and kind of a profile of the beers.”
He said the beers will be cold and on tap, served from kegs (no bottles or cans). He said spring is a good time to be in Augusta.
“Folks have been cooped up through some cold weather, and they’re just ready to get out into a warm climate and hear some good, local music, and then enjoy a beer,” Usry said. “I think the craft beer part of it is really just a third of it. I think we want to have that good weather and live music component, as well, but between those three things, I think those are what draw folks out. It’s kind of the first outdoor event of the year that people can go to Lady A and enjoy the outdoors.”
Like Stansell, Usry also said the craft beer culture in Augusta is looking good.
“I think our culture is strong here, as far as craft beer goes, and I hope it keeps getting stronger,” he said. “I think the more we support it locally and the more we have that critical mass of population in Augusta, we’ll be able to accommodate and support more breweries, as well. And to speak about both of the breweries that are in Augusta, for such a kind of a small to midsize market in my mind for craft beer, I think both of our breweries in Augusta do an excellent job.”
Evans Towne Center Park
The Lady A Amphitheater
Saturday, March 10
Noon – 6 p.m.
Admission is free