By Jake Cantrell
While some would say Dahlonega is late to the local brewery party, which has exploded in Georgia over the past few years, when the city’s first brewery opens later this spring, it’ll be the first of its kind in the state.
Etowah Meadery, which opened in 2017, will be opening up Dahlonega Brewery, Lumpkin County’s first production brewery, allowing the company to make both beer and wine in house in the same building.
“We actually will be the first ones in the state that will actually be a farm winery and a brewery owned by the same company and operating in the same building,” Blair Housley, owner of Etowah Meadery Corp, said. “The way that we’ve been working with the state department of revenue for about a year and a half now is that we wanted to be able to have both of our products made by the same company and be able to serve at the same time.”
While Housley first got into business through making mead, making his own brews has been on tap since the beginning.
“It's like everybody was trying to open up a brewery but no one was really opening up a meadery at that time so it was kind of a brand new thing,” Housley said “It was like I already have the skillset, I've won a lot of awards doing mead, it's easier and more economical though to open up a winery than a brewery so I was like I'll open up a meadery first, get that going and then we'll bring in the brewery later.”
And while being first in the state to do anything is big, Housley doesn’t feel it’s that hard to believe that Etowah Meadery is breaking the mold.
“Etowah Meadery, ever since we opened our doors in 2017 has operated kind of in a quasi-setting,” he said. “We're classified as a farm winery, but if you look around and have come to any of our tastings, we don't act like a winery. We're not very pretentious. So it's more of a brewery setting to start with, because of the way our processes are.”
And Housley believes that incorporating the more familiar aspect of a brewery to his already existing business will only help drive more traffic into the store.
“I'd say 80, 90 percent of the people that come in here, never heard of a meadery. It's just one of these new things. It's one of the fastest-growing alcohol segments out there,” Housley said. “I have a lot of people that will come in, it's like 'I don't know what a meadery is, but we Googled it and it seems like it would be fun to try so we want to try it.' So we give them a little education about what it is and once they hear the term 'honey wine' it's like 'oh yeah I know what honey wine is, I've heard of that,' but it's the term mead or meadery is what throws a lot of people off.”
Housley grew up in Dahlonega so giving something back to this community has always been a point of interest.
“I grew up here and I wanted to bring something back to this town, so I really hope that it'll fit in with Dahlonega culture to have their own brewery for a change and actually enjoy something that's made from a true Nugget,” he said. “I'm from this town, so it'll be a little different.”
And with that came the inspiration not only to make Dahlonega’s first brewery, but also the inspiration for the beers themselves, including one particular name that is at least partially inspired by your favorite Lumpkin County newspaper.
“When me and my buddies were home brewing the beer, we'd come up with names from the Dahlonega area and that's why some of them are called, like the Dahlonega Nugget and some of them were called Placer Gold and Golddiggers and so it was always about the mining town.”
Dahlonega Brewery’s list of future products includes:
• IPA: “Little Buzzer”
• DIPA: “Instant Retirement”
• American Pale Ale: “Gold Digger”
• American Lager: “Dahlonega Nugget”
• Oatmeal Stout: “Boggs Creek”
“Little Buzzer is named after Little Buzzard Mountain,” Housley explained. “I looked at it like how can we spin these type of things? I can't just call it Little Buzzard Beer because no one will drink that, but it's an IPA and it gets you a little buzzed so Little Buzzer was a natural fit for that.”
Housley hopes to have Dahlonega Brewery up and running by the end of the spring. Approval has already been given at the county and state level, and is just awaiting federal permission before production can begin. In the meantime, patrons with a need for mead will still be served, as Etowah Meadery will not have to be closed during the setup process.
And while the plan at the moment following federal approval is simply to get the brewery operational, once business is running smoothly, Housley has another goal in mind.
“We want to be able to bring part of that system downtown Dahlonega somewhere, and find a spot where we can actually have the brewery downtown,” he said. “That’s our goal to actually be downtown Dahlonega on the square somewhere.”
Etowah Meadery is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 12:30 to 7 p.m.
For more information, visit their website at etowahmeadery.com.