Waffle House is the watering hole of the South.
People of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds flock to the golden place for sustenance. Walking through the doors, the sound of the clanking plates, sizzling food and chatter offers a welcoming respite for kids, adults, seniors and even the college students who stumble in at 3 a.m. after doing whatever it is 20-something-year-olds do during the late hours.
I personally don’t feel like anyone can be a bonafide Southerner without having at least one fond memory tied to Waffle House. Yes, the health scores might be questionable at times, but that’s how we Southerners like it. What’s a true Waffle House without a little grime on the floor?
When Oconee Brewing Co. in Greensboro announced its beer collaboration with Waffle House, it was like a siren went off that could be felt in the depths of Georgia’s red clay.
Taylor Lamm, the brewmaster of Oconee Brewing, said people traveled from all over the country — including Chicago and parts of Texas — to get their hands on the bacon-infused red ale, cleverly named Bacon & Kegs. The beer was released on Dec. 18, 2020.
“I think it goes beyond the beer,” he said. “The thing I loved the most was hearing the stories of what Waffle House meant to folks.”
Lamm said the collaboration with Waffle House was prompted by the brewery’s media director, Leslie Tillery. When the chain announced that it would offer beer along with its food in the Atlanta Braves stadium, Tillery reached out to see if they would be interested in serving Waffle House-inspired beer made by Oconee Brewing Co.
Lamm said the idea didn’t come to fruition until a year ago when Tillery reached back out for a second time. Waffle House jumped on the collaboration and planned to line up a small-batch release of beer with Oconee Brewing for the spring of 2020, accompanied with a celebration.
Then, the pandemic hit, throwing a wrench in the operation.
In September 2020, the brewery and Waffle House decided instead to launch a small, limited run of cans, only available through the brewery.
“Even with all the buzz, we continued to stick to the original plan doing it out of the brewery,” Lamm said. “Waffle House viewed it as something fun and outside of the box of what they normally do.”
So, where does the bacon come to play in all of this?
When introducing beer options to Waffle House’s corporate staff, Lamm said he offered a spread of different breakfast-inspired flavors, including a beer that replicated the taste of waffles.
Oddly enough, the bacon-infused red ale came out on top.
“We decided that if we’re going to do something limited, let’s make it unique,” Lamm said. “How many bacon beers are there? This is surprisingly drinkable and unique.”
Bacon & Kegs
Brewery: Oconee Brewing Co. collaboration with Waffle House
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Style: Red ale infused with bacon
Bottom line: A surprisingly drinkable breakfast-inspired brew
I couldn’t agree with Lamm more.
When I first got my hands on a can, I assumed the brew would taste like smoked beer (Rauchbier), a style I’m not entirely fond of.
Bacon & Kegs offers a smooth malty red ale with a tiny hint of bacon on the back end. It’s not overpowering, nor is it too smoky. Lamm said he added bacon extract at the end of the brewing process to impart the subtle flavor.
The sweetness of the base harmonized with the meaty notes, leaving me stunned.
This beer is shockingly good.
Unfortunately, I have some bad news. This beer is as rare as finding a summer tanager (a bird) in the dead of winter. Lamm said the only cans that remain are a handful from people who haven’t picked up their orders. My cousin was able to save a few for me, so that’s how I was blessed with this elusive brew.
For now, Lamm has no plans to make the beer again. However, if Waffle House would like to revive the collaboration, the brewmaster said he would be more than happy to oblige.
“From the brewery perspective, we’d love to do it again,” Lamm said. “Our line of communication is always open. Hopefully, somewhere down the line we can have a re-release.”To check out more of Oconee Brewing Co.’s delicious beer, visit oconeebrewingco.com.