CREATURE COMFORTS CHAMPIONS COMMUNITY
BY: SCHAFER SIRMER
Beer from Creature Comforts Brewing Co. can be found at restaurants, stores and events around Athens, but its brews aren’t the only way it steeps through the town.
At the end of tours, the brewery gives their guests a tab that tells the guests to “go eat local.” On their own accord, other local Athens businesses began to support the company’s sentiment.
“To start, we were just encouraging people to go eat local, and it kind of took on a life of its own to where these certain places were like ‘Well, if you bring that here, we’ll give you 10 percent off,’ or ‘If you bring it here, we’ll give you a free appetizer.’” said Katie Beauchamp, office and floor manager of Creature Comforts. “So it just kind of took on a life of it’s own which was really cool.”
The process is not promotional as breweries in Georgia have restrictions against directly promoting their product; the “go eat local” program began as and grew into a way to connect with and fortify neighbors in the Athens community. The brewery’s neighbors responded without prompting, and there’s a list in Creature Comforts’s tasting room of places to take the tab for a deal or discount.
“So it’s really more about going out and people spending their dollar in downtown Athens, supporting more local business and really boosting the economy in Athens as a whole,” Beauchamp said. “We, on average, have anywhere from 100-300 people on a night, so that many people leaving our brewery and walking downtown and getting some food can really help boost the economy in Athens.”
Though they don’t serve food, the brewery has managed to extend a menu to guests nonetheless – in more ways than one. The Athens Farmers Market used to be on a sidewalk by the Athens-Clarke County City Hall, but the brewery extended an invitation for the vendors to join the company a little closer to home.
The market has opened up shop in the lot right next to Creature Comforts. Here, both shoppers and vendors find convenience, hospitality and harmony.
“It’s a good synergy. People come into and sample and take a tour, or some people just come shop at at market; they don’t even come into the tour which is fine. We have really great restrooms for people to use; it’s cool inside,” Beauchamp said. “We really love to use the brewery as kind of a hub in the community for different purposes, so having something like the market set up here where the farmers can come in and use the restroom and get cold water ‒ you know, it really works out great, it really does.”
One of the vendors, Chris Luther from Rhonda’s Blueberries, has a similar take on the Creature Comforts vibe.
“The farmer’s market is fantastic. I owe great gratitude for my success to all the other great farmers and the brewery people for having all their products and bringing forth all the people there,” Luther said. “They’re very interesting, good customers, and they all come in, and sales have been very, very good with blueberries.”
Not to mention the atmosphere is much-improved from their old location at City Hall, according to Luther.
“[The customers] can sit and listen to a live band, have a beer, buy their produce, buy some blueberries; it’s real nice,” Luther said.
Though it’s clear the shoppers and vendors enjoy the convenience and atmosphere of their new home, the benefits go both ways in this neighborship between the market and brewery.
“[The market] inspired us to use those ingredients that are coming practically to our door to just put in beer, so thats been really fun as well,” Beauchamp said.
In fact, Creature Comforts has started the Locally Grown series, pioneering the chain with wheat from DaySpring Farm.
Next up is a blueberry-based brew, and those with a sweet tooth will be relieved to hear of Luther’s farming experience.
“That’s the whole key to the sweetness, is the full ripeness. It has to be totally blue, on the bush for four consecutive days, and then it’s a perfectly sweet blueberry,” Luther said.
The blueberries have been brewing for a year and have recently moved into a new home.
“We used some blueberries from Rhonda’s Blueberries farm, and we put that in the barrel so it’s not quite ready yet,” Beauchamp said.
Though the beer has yet to be released, Luther hopes to be first in line to try the new co-op creation.
“I can’t wait to drink some of it. I like beer, by the way,” said Luther, laughing.