On the morning of 2/11/14 we prepared for Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse 2.0. As the day progressed, we realized the weather wasn’t going to get too nasty until late in the evening and decided to take advantage of the milder than expected afternoon to visit nearby 5 Seasons Brewing Company. They currently have 3 locations but we chose to visit the original Prado location where we met with Restaurant Manager, Casey Dryden, who has worked his way up from server in 9 years with the company. While we sampled a flight at the bar, Casey graciously answered all of our questions about the brewpub’s history.
5 Seasons Brewing Co. was opened in 2001 by Chef Dave Larkworthy with a focus on bringing customers great food and great beer at an affordable price and without a pretentious atmosphere. Chef Dave had an appreciation for fine food and recognized that craft beer naturally pairs well. At that time the Atlanta area was missing a place where you could enjoy both and when your goal is good beers, why not make your own? From that inspiration, 5 Seasons (the 5th season referencing what is fresh and seasonally available) was born and sets itself apart from many other brewpubs by focusing on organic, locally sourced ingredients for their kitchen from the very start. Casey shared that they have a close relationship with tons of local farmers – they literally have one vendor providing solely mushrooms – causing some extra bookkeeping labor, but it fits in with their philosophy and the quality speaks for itself.
After much success with the original location in the Prado shopping center of Sandy Springs, Chef Dave (sole owner of the original site) partnered on the North (opened 2007) and Westside (opened 2009) locations with a new Co-owner and Brewmaster, Crawford Moran, former owner and brewer of Atlanta’s Dogwood Brewing Company. While the food menu is essentially the same at each location, an active 15 bbl brewery is located in all three facilities and the beer offerings differ greatly between locations. For the sake of consistency and lack of confusion, going forward I will discuss only the location we visited which features beers courtesy of the fine work of Brewmaster Kevin McNerney. He has a vast brewing history including time as Head Brewer at Avery, opening Mammoth Brewing, and then as Brewmaster and Co-Founder of SweetWater. Kevin joined 5 Seasons in 2008 after leaving SweetWater and looking for a position that would allow him more time with his growing family.
Kevin went straight to work and his first beer released was the brewpub’s most popular to date, Hopgasm IPA. The next best selling beer is a mainstay, leftover from the previous 5 Seasons brewer – Seven Sisters Munchner amber lager. The only other reclaimed recipes are the Humdinger Hefewiezen and Munich Helles, the remainder of the current beer options courtesy of Kevin. There were nine beers on tap during our visit including all four that were previously mentioned. We also tried the Two Pence Porter, Saison, Long Strange Tripel, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, and a Kilt Lifter aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels called Redneck Reindeer. The brewery provides a wide variety of traditional styles throughout the year but occasionally will branch out and do something wild. For example, Valentine’s Day featured a cask of a smoked scotch ale with coconut, raspberries, and chocolate. We were informed that Kevin is currently the sole member of the brewing staff and keeps a steady stream of various beers by utilizing the previously mentioned 15 bbl brewhouse with accompanying fermenters: five 15 bbl and two 30 bbl. The bar pours out of six 15 bbl serving tanks which are housed upstairs and kegs off the remainder of the low tanks to clear space for fresh brews.
In terms of events, 5 seasons hosts beer dinners several times throughout the year, though not on a regular schedule. You’ll just need to keep an eye open when you are in the Atlanta area. Each spring, however, they host Sausage Fest that features a variety of vendors with sausage samples and beers sold on the patio. Following the loss of another local festival held in their shopping center, Casey, Kevin, and Fred Crudder – the previous Beverage Director at the Taco Mac located next door – worked on developing their own festival. They drew inspiration from the Denver Rare Beer Pairing and the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting, which is also held at 5 Seasons Prado and Taco Mac but is thrown by another organization. The three utilized their vast connections and contacted brewers across the country to see if they had any unique beers stashed in their cooler. Out of these efforts the Secret Stash Bash was formed. By purchasing the kegs rather than asking for them to be donated, they often get beers that aren’t even available in the Georgia market or outside of breweries’ own taprooms. It is also unique from many other festivals in that the breweries are required to bring a knowledgeable brewery representative so patrons can learn about the beer. The first annual event sold out within 3 weeks and this year’s 2nd event is being held on March 1st has already sold out two sessions.
The brewery does not distribute offsite and Georgia law currently prohibits growler fills. So to try these beers you’ll need to pay them a visit and, of course, support 5 Seasons and the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild in their fight to change restrictive laws. 5 Seasons Brewing Co. is open 7 days a week: Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm, and Sun Noon-10pm with the bar remaining open until Midnight every night except Fri-Sat where patrons can imbibe until 2am. Thank you to Casey for making himself available to speak with us and showing us around the brewery as we all awaited the ‘terrifying’ snow.
Author: Brandon Wurtz