Celebrating St. Paddy's At Dry County? It's A Lot Better Than It Sounds!
The second night of the Georgia run was also in the metro Atlanta area, albeit (like Ironshield the night before) on the outer reaches... and that was at Dry County Brewing Company in Kennesaw.
The first thing that probably catches your attention about Dry County is their name... a brewery in a dry county? For those of you not too familiar with Georgia (or much of the U.S. South, for that matter), there are actually counties here in modern America that forbid the sale of alcohol (usually dating back to religious reasons, as the region is rich with Southern Baptists and assorted evangelicals who frown upon Satan's sauce). The guys behind the brewery actually started brewing and distilling bootleg beer and booze in their dorm rooms. Georgia only fairly recently came around to legalizing breweries and distilleries, and they formed Dry County Brewing & Distillery... which became the first legal brewery and distillery in Georgia. This was about five years ago.
Dry County Brewing Co. - Kennesaw, GA
Fresh pours and growlers and cans are available at the taproom, pints are available at finer restaurant and drinking establishments in Georgia, and cans are available at retailers throughout Georgia.
Now the brewery/distillery has a healthy business and following in the region, and I happened to be playing their St. Patrick's Day celebration, which was the Saturday before (as this year St. Paddy's fell on a Wednesday). Their bay doors were open, connecting the taproom with the outdoor area on a gorgeous day just a week before Spring's official arrival, and both spaces were packed (while safely distanced) with beer enthusiasts decked out in their best greens. A local artist was providing live music when I arrived, and then I was on hand to close out the rest of the evening.
As you might imagine, the fact that Dry County is not only a brewery but also a distillery knocked up the festivities a few notches, with the crowd getting totally authentic Irish and pairing their local brews with local whiskey! They even combined the two into a seasonal limited edition offering called (yes, they did....) Irish Car Bomb, which is a rich Irish stout with whiskey and vanilla cream (similar to the cocktail), available in cans while they last. Sure, it may be a bit politically incorrect in these times, but that just makes me find it all the more amusing... so kudos for the naming, folks! I made an early decision to stick to beers, as I had to drive to Cincinnati the next morning, but peer pressure once again got the best of me, as a couple of appreciative music fans kept sending whiskeys to the stage (thank you, ladies!).
I was pretty thirsty when I arrived, so I enjoyed the last few minutes of the early artist's set with the name sake Dry County IPA (6.4%), which is a nice traditional IPA, clear and golden on the pour with a foamy white head, and a reminder of what a great IPA tasted like back when you first discovered great IPAs and before there were so many variations to muddy (or, ehem... haze) the waters. Crisp and hoppy, a little bitter, with the hops delivering notes of grapefruit and pineapple, with virtually no pineyness. Medium bodied and carbonated, just a great IPA for all the reasons we fell in love with them.
With it being a St. Paddy's party, and me being a Mick, I of course had to move to the stouts, and the first one I had was a pint of their Old 41 Oatmeal Stout (5.9%). Named for the main road through the community, this one took the gold medal in the World Beer Cup Oatmeal Stout category, and there's really no mystery to why...it's a REALLY good stout! The chocolate, coffee, and caramel touches you'd expect, with a rich body and smooth drink. Nearly black in color with a beautiful tan head, you start enjoying it via the aroma as it nears your face, the well balanced flavor makes it a pleasure to sip, and the creamy finish leaves you wanting the next sip. I could have continued on with this on, but alas, I had a job to do....
The Kennesaw Bourbon Amber Ale (7.5%) surprised me for several reasons. First, I think when I ordered it I missed that it was an ale... I think I heard “bourbon” and my mind just defaulted to “stout”.... so when it was poured and had a rich amber hue and a lighter head I was a little taken aback, but when I had my first sip the surprise was how evident the bourbon was without being overbearing or overpowering the fine ale that served as the foundation. Bourbon, oak, toasty malt, and just a hint of alcohol perfectly balanced, with a medium body and medium-light carbonation that provided for a clean finish. Bourbon brews can be a tricky business... if they are too bourbony they get sweet and a bit hard to finish, other times they are too woody from the barrel... the Kennesaw Bourbon Amber Ale was fantastic. My only wish is that it was more widely available! Mental note to self: remember to find some next time I'm in Georgia!
My last pour of the night was the Bone Music Barrel Aged Stout (11.1%). This was one of those treats I like to retire the evening with. Aged on vanilla beans in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels (right???), this was a delightfully rich and smooth, perhaps a little sweeter than I normally prefer due to the vanilla and hints of chocolate and toffee, but the sweetness was somewhat offset by the booziness, which actually did a pretty good job of balancing it without being too much. I'd put this in my “dessert beer” category, which means it is probably a bit too rich or sweet for me to have more than one in a sitting, but sure is a tasty way to end the evening... and even better that it packs a bit of a punch to say goodnight.
I should probably mention the whiskey (or it might have been bourbon... I'm not sure because I didn't order them... they just kept mysteriously appearing on my little table on the stage). I'm not a big liquor drinker, so I'm in no way an authority. When I drink liquor, I drink Jameson almost exclusively, neat. Every now and then I'll have a Makers for Woodford from the bourbon bar... also neat. That said, throughout the evening I sipped periodically on these drinks that kept appearing... I can't say for sure as they were slightly diluted by the melting ice, but I'd guess from the slight woodiness that it was bourbon on the rocks. Regardless, they were tasty little treats, and I should have learned specifically what they were so I could share with you. Suffice it to say they were tasty and no regrets even though I planned not to go beyond beer, so when you visit Dry Country Brewing Company definitely check out their distilled options!
There are a good number of brewery options in the greater Atlanta area designed to suit all sorts of tastes, but if you're looking for some unusually great brews in a friendly, casual atmosphere a little outside the crowded city, take a drive toward Cobb County Airport and experience Dry County... it's definitely worth the trip. I certainly hope to return soon! (food is provided via visiting food trucks, or bring your own)
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