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My best beer of 2019 was pure gold thanks to this Athens brewery
Plus, a top-10 countdown of the best brews produced in the Peach State last year
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Kelsey Podo. - photo by Austin Steele

Everyone made sacrifices in 2019. Mine involved trying a new craft beer every week. 

I’ve gained a little weight in the process and probably done a toll on my liver, but tasting locally brewed beer and talking with talented brewmasters has made it all worthwhile.  

I now have a treasure trove of craft beer information and fond memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. 

Now that 2019 has come to a close, it’s time to hash out my top 10 Georgia beers of the year. I’ve tried dozens of brews this year, so compiling a top 10 wasn’t the easiest feat. However, I feel confident about the beer on this list and would recommend them to all walks of craft beer lovers. 

Kelsey’s top 10 picks:

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Queen's Weiss from Arches Brewing. - photo by Nick Bowman
No. 10: Queen’s Weiss

Brewery: Arches Brewing

Alcohol by volume: 5.2%

International Bitterness Units: 20

Style: Hefeweizen

Overall: Worthy of being queen 

This hefeweizen was one of those beers that you barely have to sip to know that it’s something special. It’s easy-drinking without being bland, and smooth without relying heavily on malt, like that first plunge of a butter knife into a fresh jar of peanut butter. Queen’s Weiss also embraces a sourness despite its mellow nature and leaves pleasant subtle notes of banana and cloves. Its inoffensive flavor makes it a nice gateway craft beer for those who aren’t fans of punchy, hoppy brews. 

No. 9: Kentucky “Beer Dad”

Brewery: Atlanta Brewing Company and Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery collaboration

Alcohol by volume: 11.8%

International Bitterness Units: N/A

Style: Lagerwine 

Bottom Line: A scrumptious dessert beer with subtle surprises

John Roberts, brewmaster at Max Lager’s, has been brewing beer for almost 30 years. It’s no surprise that many in the Georgia craft beer scene refer to him as “Beer Dad.” Teaming up with Gavin McKenna, director of brewing operations at Atlanta Brewing Co., the two created a lagerwine, which doesn’t technically exist. They blended pilsner and pale ale malt, and used a strain of lager yeast to pull off this undocumented style. The boozy, 11.8% beer leaves traces of dark chocolate, toffee and raisins. It’s definitely a dessert replacement. 

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Cherry St. Brewing's Not As Advertised Milkshake IPA - photo by Austin Steele
No. 8: Not As Advertised Milkshake IPA

Alcohol by volume: 7.7%

International Bitterness Units: 16

Style: Milkshake IPA

Brewery: Cherry Street Brewing

Bottom line: An easy-drinking sweet IPA with a soft-hop profile

Cherry Street Brewing’s Not As Advertised Milkshake IPA is loaded with graham crackers, strawberry and pineapple purée, marshmallow cream and vanilla. This combination might seem nonsensical, but it works. Similar to most New England-style IPAs, this brew has a soft hop profile, resulting in a smooth, non-bitter finish. I applaud Cherry Street Brewing for pulling off such a fun combination of flavors, and I hope it returns as a seasonal brew. 

No. 7: Tritonia with Cucumber and Lime

Brewery: Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

Alcohol by volume: 4.5%

Style: Gose

Bottom line: Ridiculously refreshing 

Tritonia by Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is the type of beer that makes you schedule pool days, just to experience its refreshingness in an optimal environment. The birth of this beer was inspired by co-founder David Stein’s love for margaritas. The cucumber is the star of the show with this one, offering a cool-as-a-cucumber balance to the tart gose. The beer’s easy-drinking nature nearly makes you hesitate before grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge. 

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Wild Heaven's Dionysus Cuvée. - photo by Austin Steele
No. 6: Dionysus Cuvée

Brewery: Wild Heaven Beer

Alcohol by volume: 10.5%

Style: Wine barrel-aged cuvée

Bottom line: A bold tango between beer and wine

Every time I try one of Eric Johnson’s creations at Wild Heaven Beer or hear him talk about beer, I’m left slightly perplexed. Is he the spawn of Dionysus? Perhaps. What I do know is that he makes phenomenal beer and his mind is a bottomless pit of beer history and science. With Wild Heaven’s Dionysus Cuvée, Johnson used his sorcery to merge the robustness of bold beer with the elegance of French wine. The Dionysus Cuvée demonstrates how diverse and fun beer can be. 

No. 5: Lundi IPA

Brewery: Monday Night Brewing

Alcohol by volume: 7.1%

International Bitterness Units: 55

Style: “No coast” IPA

Bottom line: A beautiful beer with the potential to become Monday Night’s flagship brew

I truly hope the Lundi IPA climbs its way through Monday Night Brewing’s core beers to become its flagship brew. Peter Kiley, brewmaster at Monday Night, describes this beer as a no-coast IPA. The beer isn’t overly bitter like most West Coast-style IPAs, nor hazy with a short shelf-life like many New England-style IPAs. As someone who’s sensitive to intensely hop-packed brews, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how the beer struck a balance between juiciness, softness and bitterness. Monday Night knocked this core beer out of the park. 

No. 4: Peach State

Brewery: Red Hare Brewing Company

Alcohol by volume: 5.8%

Style: Peach pale ale

Bottom line: A peachy, Georgian-approved beer

Red Hare Brewing Company’s Peach State is a brew made for Georgians. Not only is the can’s design strikingly similar to the standard Georgia license plate, but it’s packed with delicious peach purée. Bobby Thomas, co-founder and head brewer of Red Hare Brewing, loaded 8.8 pounds of peaches into each 31-gallon barrel, creating a fruit-forward pale ale with just the right amount of sweetness and hoppy notes. 

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Three Taverns Craft Brewery's Lord Grey beer - photo by Austin Steele
No. 3: Lord Grey

Brewery: Three Taverns Craft Brewery

Alcohol by volume: 5%

International Bitterness Units: N/A

Style: Lacto-fermented sour

Bottom Line: I started a committed relationship with Lord Grey, and I’m more than OK with it. 

Whenever someone takes a sip of Three Taverns Craft Brewery’s Lord Grey beer, Charles Grey himself — the namesake of the Earl Grey tea — most likely nods his head from heaven in silent accord. To make this beer, Three Taverns’ brewers drop a giant mesh bag full of whole-leaf Earl Grey tea into the brew and let it infuse for several hours. This makes for a scrumptious citrusy and floral beer that unmistakingly pays homage to the famous bergamot-flavored tea. 

No. 2: Gran Dunkel 

Brewery: Oconee Brewing Co.

Alcohol by volume: 5.1 percent

International Bitterness Units: 13

Style: Dunkelweizen 

Bottom line: Ridiculously smooth and scrumptious — I’m obsessed.

This beer is smoother than Barry White’s greatest hit. Taylor Lamm, Oconee Brewing Co.’s brewmaster, took a chance with brewing a Dunkelweizen-style beer, which isn’t popular in the states. He used a hefeweizen strain of yeast and combined it with dark grains. The result: an easy-drinking, dark brown, slightly chocolatey work of art. 

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Akademia Brewing Co.'s Everything He Touches saison. - photo by Nick Bowman
No. 1: Everything He Touches

Brewery: Akademia Brewing Company

Alcohol by volume: 6%

Style: Red wine barrel-aged saison

Bottom line: Pure gold

When I said this beer was golden, I meant it. It has everything I love in a beer — a touch of sweetness, wheatiness and tartness with the perfect addition of funk. It’s like King Midas, the Greek mythological figure, plucked a plum from a tree and instead of turning it into solid gold, it transformed into this beautiful funky saison.

Honorable mentions: Alibi, a grits-brewed golden ale by JailHouse Brewing Company; Sour Continuum with Pink Guava by Six Bridges Brewing; Sol Crusher, a prickly pear Mexican-style lager by Pontoon Brewing; and Dooper Dubbel, a Belgian-style dubbel by Braselton Brewing Company. 

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