Brewery Showcase | Eventide Brewing
When I pull into the parking lot at Eventide Brewing, a squat, red-brick structure in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood, a guy is standing atop a 20-foot ladder angled against the building. Wearing protective headphones the size of coconut shells and holding a drill, he watches me get out of my car.
I take a guess at who he might be:
“Yep,” he says. “Shawn’s inside, she’ll get you set up. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
The drill, the ladder — none of this would surprise folks who know Cowan. Besides his role as the CEO of Eventide, he is also its head engineer. Having spent a decade working in the field of mechanical engineering and construction, Cowan still maintains Professional Engineer status with the state of Georgia, and practices his trade on much of Eventide’s brewing equipment. On this sunny Thursday, however, he is hanging a large banner announcing the brewery’s upcoming three-year anniversary celebration.
I go through two sets of glass double doors to the tasting room, a welcoming, open space that could be called craftsman meets industrial, a broad area with iron-legged tables, plenty of reclaimed wood, and a tap-lined bar along the back wall. When I walk in, Shawn O’Neill, who handles PR for the brewery, is taking pictures of a cupcake topped with a candle shaped like a three. Next to the candle sits a pint of Anniversary Ale, a special, limited-release beer brewed for select accounts and 100 people lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the party.
She steps away from the camera to pour me a pint of Eventide’s Dry Irish Nitro Stout, and we chat until Nathan Cowan completes his banner-hanging duties. She’s a bit concerned, she confides, with the threat of snow dampening the anniversary party in a couple of days. Atlanta does not handle winter weather very well, and the day of the party, January 7, is set to be the coldest and perhaps snowiest in a while.
After Nathan comes in and introduces himself, we sit at one of the tables for a conversation about Eventide’s past, present and future. (The Dry Irish Nitro Stout was terrific, by the way, complex with maltiness, light hops and smoke. It’s a wonderful year-round offering and it pours with a creamy nitro head.) Future anniversaries for Eventide are not a question, but an inevitability. As far as expansion is concerned, Cowan admits there are a few unknowns, but plenty of knowns as well.
“We’re going to be at capacity, again, this summer. We’re landing four more tanks, we’re going to expand our fermentation footprint by 75 percent. And we’ll be at max.”
The way their system is set up, they can overlap brews, thus turning them out faster, which has served them well. Although they operate on a five-barrel system, they can produce 4,500 barrels a year, which is actually typical for a brewery with a 10-barrel warehouse. As Cowan discusses the operation, a soft-spoken positivity smolders beneath his sentiments. It’s clear he is a can-do person, and this has served him and his team well. Originally, he admits, ignorance helped fuel the confidence it took to tackle the job of creating Eventide. “I think it was a benefit to us to not know all the aspects opening this place would take.” With a brief foray into dandelion wine making in college, and then a quick pivot to beer via a Mr. Beer kit, a gift from his longtime friend and current Eventide brewmaster Geoffrey Williams, Cowan and Williams eventually tried their hand at craft brewing.
One day, years after college and the dandelion wine, the two were enjoying a couple of bottles of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and Williams wondered aloud if they could make beer like this. After all, Michigan’s great, but it wouldn’t it be nice to have local quality like this? Cowan’s characteristic positivity came to light, and he figured someone made the Bell’s, so there wasn’t any reason, they could make good beer of their own, right here in Georgia. They began researching, brewing and learning as they went, eventually heading in their own direction to create what is now a successful Atlanta brewery with terrific beer that stands on its own. Cowan gives a lot of credit to Williams’s expertise: “If it wasn’t for Geoffrey,” he says, “we’d be bottling water.”
The two flagship beers are the Kolsch and the pale ale. At 5.3%, the Kolsch pours a soft straw amber’ish or peach color with a bit of a head. You get a faint malt mixed in with some lemongrass and pear on the nose. The taste is refreshing, as a Kolsch-style should be, with light malt, and lighter, grassy hops and a nice, dry finish. The 6.2% pale ale is a bit hazy and amber in color. It is a citrus hop-forward beer, with caramel malt in the body and bitter hoppiness on the finish that hangs on a little while. The complexity of the beer is achieved through a mix of American hops and an English yeast strain, a combo that marries old and new world notes. Also on the horizon, the brewery is excited to announce the launch of their first year-round IPA — The A IPA — available on draft and in cans this spring.
When asked why they don’t venture down the wilder routes to satiate some modern craft beer tastes, Cowan points to their catchphrase: “Great doesn’t have to be complicated.” This is Eventide’s underlying philosophy. “There are all these styles of beer out there, and all these breweries trying to create abstract art before they figure out impressionism. We like those interesting beers, but basically, we like drinking beer, and we don’t want it to be an arm wrestling competition every time you put the glass to your face.”
Their beer is no less exciting for its traditionalist bent, and the variety is impressive. Along with their pale ale and Kolsch styles, you can also try their Kattegat Baltic Porter, Citrus Grove Hefeweizen or their Highlander, which is a strong Scotch ale. Check their site for the full gamut of Eventide beers. Overall, Cowan says, their beer stems from the basic idea of personal preference: “It’s what we like to drink,” he says, “so it’s what we make.”
Alongside the busy brew schedule, the tasting room doesn’t see much downtime either. Each Thursday is Single Release Thursday, where they tap a keg of something they don’t plan on brewing again. They bill it as a “once in a lifetime experience every Thursday.” Winter hours for regular tours and tastings are 5:30-8:30 on Thursdays and Fridays and 12:00-4:00 on Saturdays. If Sunday rolls around and you crave something brunchier, drop in from 12:00-4:00 and you can enjoy micheladas and beermosas along with the regular offerings. When the weather warms, Eventide hosts comedy nights, and they are also home to what they call a Curiosity Club, where local artists, craftsmen, and hobbyists present their passion, kind of a show and tell for adults — only I assume kids are welcome also. You may learn about blacksmithing one night and return later to hear about banjo making.
What you’ll find when you go to Eventide is a warm inviting space with good, solid beer on tap and great company with which to enjoy it. Cowan sums it up thusly: “We focus on making good beer. We’re not in it for global domination. What our passion is, and what drives us, is the beer, and to not bastardize what’s in the glass, but make it something wholesome and good and local.”
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the Anniversary Ale. It’s timely, a bit of a winter-warmer. Officially, it’s a Doppelsticke style, with a malt-forward profile, semi-sweet, and medium-bodied, with a bit of toasted-nut on the finish, and a slight bitter pop at the end. It’s spectacular. Want to try some? You may be able to savor it at one of these locally hosted anniversary parties:
And as for the specially planned anniversary celebration on the 7th? Eventide postponed it to January 14th. Like everyone else in Atlanta, they were ready for a winter blast of the Southern variety: 2-4 inches. But as we all know, Mother Nature’s a bit of a mad scientist. The snow-storm became a no-storm. So you still have time to stop by Eventide and enjoy the celebration: three years + a week of great beer.