Beer Town: Creature Comforts Opens in Athens
by Bob Townsend
In late April, when Athens’ Creature Comforts Brewing Co. opened its doors to the public for the first time, it was the culmination of years of dreaming and doing for brewer David Stein.
Stein, who is a University of Georgia grad, developed the Creature Comforts brand as an Atlanta home brewer, giving away samples to friends and building a following while working at Brick Store Pub and Ale Yeah.
Later, Stein became better known as the brewer at Twain’s brew pub in Decatur, where he experimented with many of the recipes destined for the year-round lineup at Creature Comforts.
Right now, the brewery, which took over the landmark Snow Tire Co. building on West Hancock Avenue, has three beers on offer in its tasting room. Tropicalia is a balanced American IPA familiar from the Twain’s days. Reclaimed Rye is an amber ale brewed with rye and aged on French oak. Athena Berliner Weisse is a refreshing German-style wheat beer with a tart, fruity essence.
All three were on tap at the recent Classic City Brew Fest in Athens, where samples were very well received. A fourth year-round beer, Bilbo, is still in the tweaking stage, though the Old World-style pilsner was designed to be a signature beer for Creature Comforts.
“It’s an exciting style to brew,” Stein said. “Not many people in the craft beer world are brewing a pilsner. We kind of built our business model around it and creating enough capacity for it.”
At a sneak preview after Classic City, Stein showed off the shiny new 30-barrel, three-vessel brew house, which along with four 60-barrel fermenters and one 30-barrel fermenter gives Creature Comforts the capacity to brew some 6,000 barrels of beer yearly.
From the outside the brewery still looks like it could be a garage or auto showroom. Inside, the build-out is a combo of rustic materials and contemporary design elements.
“We did a lot of cool adaptive reuse,” Stein said. “We had hundreds of big pieces of wood that we reclaimed and used to make our bars and some of the ceilings. We used the old tire racks for the ceilings in the restrooms. We wanted to keep the building the same as much as we could.”
Along with an Athens investment group, Stein’s Creature Comforts business partners include co-brewer Adam Beauchamp, a longtime brewer at Sweetwater in Atlanta, and Chris Herron, who became the CEO after leaving a finance director position at Diageo, the international beverage giant.
“There are a lot of new breweries popping up, and it’s a huge deal to have people on board who know what they’re doing on a large-scale commercial level,” Stein said. “I started as a home brewer. Then I was working at Twain’s. I don’t have the experience on this scale. I was working on a 7-barrel system. Now I’m on a 30-barrel. It’s a totally different ballgame.”
Stein allowed that the Creature Comforts company name is sometimes difficult to explain or grasp.
“Our mantra is to crave curiosity,” he said. “That’s what Creature Comforts means to us. We believe that having a curious mind is one of the most important things in life. We didn’t want to focus our branding on offering you a creature comfort — drink it and you’re there. We want to promote a more active, curious lifestyle.”
Whatever the confusion, Stein said the welcome in Athens has been beyond his expectations.
“We had close to 1,400 people come through the brewery that first day,” he said. “It was kind of overwhelming. After five years in planning, it’s pretty much a dream come true. I couldn’t have asked for it to be any better. I feel fortunate and grateful and excited for the future.”
If you go
Creature Comforts tours, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 4:30-6:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturdays. creaturecomfortsbeer.com.
By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog.