Creature Comforts Brewing
The South has long been home to top-notch BBQ, college football teams, and mosquitos. (Damn you to hell, you flying bloodsuckers!) But it’s about time we add craft beer to the list. Staunch temperance laws have constricted alcohol production for over a century, giving the region a sadly sober rep and squashing the efforts of many aspiring brewers. Thanks to a growing crop of inventive and determined boozehounds, however, the times, they are a changin’.
From creamy Mississippi stouts to hoptastic Nashville jammers, the following seven world-class brews prove there’s way more below the Mason-Dixon than moonshine and sweet tea. And mosquitos.
Farmhouse Ale, 5.5-6.8% ABV
One of the most exciting spots to come out of NC in recent years, Burial’s diverse lineup has been turning heads for the past four years. This bubbly gem is brewed with local honey and Asheville’s own Riverbend Malt grain, then spiked with seven native flowers and herbs, including chamomile, elderflower, lavender, heather, and hibiscus. The result? An intensely floral, honey-soaked masterpiece showcasing a balance of spicy, crackery, and tangy flavors against a velvety, effervescent backdrop. This guy ranges in ABV depending on the year it was made, so be sure to peep the label before you crush.
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Milk Stout, 4.65% ABV
Proudly brewed in the deepest pocket of the Deep South, Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout has been pleasing the palates and warming the hearts of Dixieland’s finest since 2005 -- quite a feat for a state that didn’t legalize homebrewing until 2013. This balanced wonder’s blend of toasty chocolate, rich coffee, and caramel sweetness makes it an ideal companion for autumnal porch-sitting. But what really sets it apart is its luscious, downy-soft body, thanks to an extra touch of lactose (or milk sugar) and a bundle of locally-harvested sweet potatoes. This is one Mississippi sipper even old Julep-touting Faulkner could appreciate.
Rye Beer, 8.6% ABV
Against The Grain is a beloved six-year-old brewery famous for its cheeky labels and curious names; their punny amber, aged in rye whiskey barrels and housed in a glass bomber festooned with synthetic feathers, is a case in point. Beneath the kitsch lies a peppery, oaky ale, as layered as it is smooth, and with just enough booze to keep you interested without overwhelming the senses. It pairs beautifully with smoky, saucy barbecue, and for good reason -- not only does ATG crank out a boatload of brews, it also operates a perpetually-packed Louisville smokehouse where you can have your chiquen and drink it, too.
Berliner Weissbier, 4.5% ABV
Named after the lively college town it calls home, Creature Comforts’ cider-like kettle sour provides some much-needed relief from those sticky-hot Georgia summers. Extremely crushable, with a subtle, citrusy tartness akin to a lemony white wine, it’s as approachable as a backyard barbecue, but packs the complexity of UGA’s toughest philosophy course. Toss one of these little babies to any beer skeptic and, trust us, you’ll be be splitting sixers over a friendly game of cornhole in no time.
Fruit Beer, 4.5% ABV
Back in 2009, Back Forty made waves as one of the first breweries to set up shop in the Yellowhammer State since Prohibition, and it’s been pushing out its creative, warm weather-friendly fleet without pause ever since. Dosed with a bounty of farm fresh, Southern peaches and a handful of grassy hops, this light, fluffy summertime favorite leads the seasonal pack with its invitingly juicy nose, flowery, stone fruit-tinged flavors, and clean, crisp finish. And at just 4.5% ABV, this belle’s been known to take home the W at many a ‘Bama tailgate, whether or not the tide gets rolling.
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Imperial IPA, 7.2% ABV
The Grand Ole Opry has long represented the pinnacle of country music fame, and Yazoo Brewing Company’s Hopry, a double IPA brewed with an extra shot of twang, is the cornerstone of the 14-year-old Nashville outpost’s award-winning roster. Imbued with buckets of grapefruit-scented Amarillo and dank Nugget hops, it’s got enough big, bold flavor to temper a hot chicken sandwich, yet still manages to slide down easier than a whiskey lullaby. Fuel a night of honky tonk karaoke with a few of these potent puppies and you might just find yourself one two-step closer to gracing that hallowed stage.
Cream Ale, 4.4% ABV
Opened in 2011 by a couple of NYC transplants, Hardywood has played an instrumental role in Richmond’s craft boom, paving the way for stunners like The Veil Brewing Co. and Triple Crossing Brewing Company. And despite their forward-thinking mentality, these guys are determined to shed light on the city’s rich brewing history. Encased in a shiny green aluminum, this sudsy, unfiltered slammer pays homage to Richmond-brewed Krueger’s Cream Ale, the world’s first canned beer. This classic, thirst-quenching, lager-like style is revered for its seemingly effortless simplicity and is best enjoyed ice cold while floating along the James River.