CREATURE COMFORTS BREWERY: MOVING ON UP
By Josh Brown
Last night, we were invited to the Creature Comforts Brewery media night where they shared with us some of their successes and challenges from their first six months and where they plan on going over the next year. They also officially released their new Tropicália and Athena cans to the public as they hit your favorite bars around Athens today and were sold for the very first time last night at the Georgia Theatre’s Can Release Party.
Let me be up front for a minute, it is a little weird for us to go to a press event. We are insanely flattered that they would think to include us, but big disclaimer – and I sure hope we don’t disappoint anyone with this earth shattering news – we’re not the best journalists. We could start with our propensity for bad spelling and grammar (or at least on the posts I write). But ultimately, we just don’t know how to write all official like. We started as Athens fanboys/gals and we want to be that until the end.
It was a very surreal thing to be a participant in this event – as every other day of the week we’re like giddy school girls talking about our favorite places and people. In all honesty, Creature Comforts was one of the main sources of inspiration for us as we started The Broad Collective. Some friends came out with us on opening night during Twilight for their big unveiling. We drank great beer, listened to good music, and got super motivated to finally put our idea into the world.
As Creature Comforts launched that night, our conversation (beer influenced no doubt) went something like this . . . “They’re doing it! They’re really doing it! Fuck man. They’re putting it out into the world. Shit. They created something out of nothing. But now it’s something. They’re shipping it. They’re making it. They’re putting themselves out there. This is it. This is where it’s at.”
You know those conversations when you’re drinking and you can’t catch your words quick enough so you just curse a lot as you try to articulate the inspiration running through your head and the angst running through your bones? Yeah . . . that was that kind of conversation. I think I rambled like that for a good hour as we walked around and checked out the custom woodwork from Oneta Woodworks. The hand chalked lettering. The names of their beers that came out of a specific context. The team of people who were working there that we either knew or were meeting for the first time. The rolling doors . . . god the rolling doors.
We were set. We were hooked. We became fans.
It is an odd thing to find a place that is saturated in the culture that they “talk about” on their website. Every company does it. They have a mission statement. Pillars. Vision. Competencies. They paint the picture and narrative that they want you to see. But to actually pull it off and have it literally drip off everything you have done and are doing, from the physical space to the smiles of the staff, that’s rare.
We were reminded of that last night as Chris Herron, one of the three co-founders and CEO, gave us a tour around the brewery before settling down for a fifteen minute presentation. The first thing we noticed was how well prepared and well spoken Chris was. While he was no doubt going through a “presentation” it never once felt like it as he plainly spoke about everything that was going on. Both his intelligence and passion came through in everything he said.
Chris met David Stein and Adam Beauchamp (the other two co-founders) in January of this year as the stars aligned and they met for the first time. Turns out they all went to high school just miles form each other in suburban Atlanta and despite never meeting until the beginning of this year, they quickly found out they had common friends, a shared dream, and strangely enough, similar business plans. It seems crazy that they would be able to pull of what they have done so quickly . . . from an introduction in January to running one of the best upstart breweries in the country, but it goes to show you what happens when you combine passion with experience and knowledge.
Here is a quick rundown of their early accomplishments:
- They have gone from 3 employees to 11 employees and 20+ members of their tour staff in only 6 months
- They have already won a bronze medal from the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, the largest beer competition in the world with over 5,500 entries, for their Curious #2, an American-style Brett Ale
- Gone from brewing 50 barrels a month to 230 barrels a month of draft beer
- One of their 4 year round brews, Tropicália, was voted the best year round beer from a Georgia Brewery by the Beer Advocate
- Their tour staff has all become Cicerone Beer Server Certified, which is like being a sommelier for beer
Not bad for a first 6 months.
Oh by the way, you may have noticed, their brewery is packed all the time, they’ve managed to get their beer into nearly every bar or restaurant in Athens, and have started shipping their kegs to Atlanta as they open up that market.
They have done it so quickly by being able to blend smart business with the culture discussed above.
Part of that synergy between the business side and the passion side is taking both the science behind the beer and the art behind the beer seriously as Chris described. A good example is when they dumped the first 90 barrels of Bibo, another one of their 4 year round beers. It took them 5 months to make it and was about 180 kegs worth that they didn’t deem “good enough” to sell. So they poured it out. That would be a hard thing to do for a big brewery, but for a start-up . . . ? It just goes to show you the dedication they have to their craft and mirrors the customer journey they’ve laid out.
Crave Curiosity > Find Your Passion > Follow Your Passion > Find Happiness > Enjoy The Creature Comforts Life
As Chris described, it’s not just about getting you to buy more beer. It’s about doing things the right way so that you are inspired to find and follow your passion.
This passion has them exploring with all kinds of interesting new hybrids. In their “cellar” they have a base brew called Albert that is being experimented with dozens of different ways, all in old wine and bourbon barrels. From infusing it with blueberries hand picked from Rhonda’s Blueberry Farm, to letting Albert soak in old maple syrup barrels. These are great examples of Creature Comforts embodying their slogan, Crave Curiosity.
Their passion also has them deeply involved in helping reform Georgia beer laws which are terribly antiquated. Because of that, Georgia is 48th in the country in breweries per capita. Despite the craft beer scene blowing up in nearly every other state, Georgia laws are still incredibly restrictive, don’t encourage scaling up, and cut out some profitable areas of business that Creature Comforts is having to ignore for the time being. Areas of business that would create more jobs in Athens and the state. They are major participants in the Georgia Craft Brewing Guild’s Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to help bring about changes that would strengthen and grow this part of the state economy.
With the release of their new cans today (Athens only), Creature Comforts has become a staple in Athens and is representative of what it looks like when you combine smart businesses with creativity. You can check out their site to peak behind the scenes (one of the best websites in Athens) or follow along on Facebook or Instagram to get all the updates on their limited releases and special events before anyone else.