Freddy Bensch and Steve Farace of Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta came to Chicago with a launch team this week to open up what they hope will be an exciting new market for the brewery. These guys have quietly built a massive operation—currently in the top 20 largest in the country—and they’re working hard to make a strong first impression. For a lot of folks, the beer speaks for itself —well-crafted, hop-forward ales inspired by the founder’s time in Colorado more than 18 years ago.
But in far-away markets, markets you maybe never thought you’d be sending beer to some day, sometimes your story gets away from you. SweetWater is known in some places as a brewery that took on private equity to grow, made some scandalous beer labels, and made a deal with Turner Field that had other Georgia breweries wondering if they got shut out as a result. Those are the headlines. But at GBH, we like to go to the source and get the whole story—that’s what we had an opportunity to do with Freddy and Steve this week.
For what it’s worth, I found them to be straight-shooters, passionate beer guys, and maybe a bit exhausted from their launch week. But they have miles to go before they sleep, and they seem to have a second, third, maybe even a fourth wind in them.