Stone Brewing Co.’s former brewmaster Mitch Steele plans to open a yet-to-be-named brewpub in Atlanta. Late last week, Steele and his team signed the lease on a space right in the heart of the city, just off the much-buzzed-about BeltLine. They're tentatively projected to open in the summer of 2017.
“I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career in craft brewing and I am excited for this next chapter in Atlanta,” Steele said in a statement. “I had an amazing time at Stone and I am very thankful for my experiences there. Now, I am looking forward to the opportunity to become part of the growing craft beer movement in Atlanta and the Southeast.”
WHY IT MATTERS
After spending 10 years helping to grow Stone into one of the country's biggest craft breweries, and 14 years at Anheuser-Busch before that, Steele has enough experience to choose his own adventure at this point. After all, this is the man who literally wrote the book on IPA. He could brew anywhere in the world, but he chose Georgia.
The Peach State has some of the most restrictive and antiquated beer laws in the United States. While brewpubs have gotten some legislative and regulatory relief in recent years (they can finally package their wares for retail sales; as of March, they're selling growlers), they're still not afforded many of the benefits of brewpubs in most states. While it's unlikely Steele chose Georgia looking for a fight, adding his beer and personality to the state's quickly growing beer scene will certainly help Peach State beer advocates continue to push for progressive legislation.
Another thing to consider is Steele's partners in the endeavor. No chef has been named for the project yet, but two men involved with the brewpub have spent considerable time working in the beer industry. CEO Carey Falcone and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Bob Powers each have more than 25 years' worth of beer experience at companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev and Constellation Brands. And while those perspectives will likely come in handy with this new project, they're the polar opposite of what Steele's old boss is up to these days.
According to LinkedIn, both Falcone and Powers are currently employed by American Beerworks, a company whose only web presence so far is their profile pages. And this description would seem to indicate that we'll be hearing a lot more from the company: "With an unwavering focus on core values, our philosophy is to employ the industry's best beer artisans, provide them with the industries [sic] best brewing equipment and resources enabling them to push the boundaries of the brewing art in order to locally craft creative and unique beers that our customers love to drink."
Steele certainly qualifies as one of "the industry's best beer artisans." While he and his team are being tight-lipped about this new project so far, a press release says the brewpub will include "a rooftop bar and a beer garden, with brewery tours and brewing classes for the home brewer."
Meanwhile, Steele's been pilot brewing an IPA with Refuge Brewing in Temecula, CA. It will be interesting to see what else he brings with him to Atlanta.
—Austin L. Ray