Oconee Brewing Company Thrives in First Year

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Oconee Brewing Company ages eight barrels of the Renaissance Stout in Kentucky bourbon barrels.

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The event room at Oconee Brewing Company has hosted many events from company dinners to parties to weddings.

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The tasting room has twelve taps with eleven different styles of beer.

 

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Erica Garner

 

 

The 101-year-old building at 202 North West Street in Greensboro, Georgia was home to a Chero-Cola bottling plant before becoming a storage warehouse for a cotton mill. Though the structure has seen its fair share of business come and go in the last century, none have been quite as interesting or community-based as the Oconee Brewing Company (OBC).

 

Rescuing a Forgotten Corner

 

Before renovations for OBC, the 11,000 square foot building was literally falling apart. The roof over what is now the event space and patio had caved in sometime around 2012 and had taken half the wall down with it.

 

Taylor Lamm, co-owner and brewmaster, and developers Nathan and John McGarity, liked how the broken patio wall looked and decided to keep it, along with the building’s original brick.

 

“We try to utilize any of the original building that we possibly could,” Lamm said. “So all the exposed brick in here is the original brick, [with] hand poured concrete on the brewery side.”

 

Other parts of the event room were custom-built, such as the huge metal chandelier hanging in the center of the room.

 

“When we were under construction, and before they suspended it up there, they had it laid out on the floor,” Lamm recalled. “I remember looking at it and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, that is way too big,’ and then we got it up there and I was like ‘well that actually fills the space nicely.’”

 

In keeping with the rustic theme and their use of the building’s original parts, Lamm chose to preserve its surviving lumber as a barn door for the event space.

 

“It was reclaimed wood that came out of the original structure,” he said. “We had these guys up in Athens called Sons of Sawdust make that for us. It’s little touches like that that make this space unique.”

 

Brewing a Year of Beers

 

Having just celebrated their first anniversary in May 2018, the Oconee Brewing Company is one of Greensboro’s newest attractions. Owner Taylor Lamm began brewing as a hobby while working as a personal banker in Greensboro after graduating from UGA.

 

“I was very interested in how beer was made from scratch,” Lamm recalled. “I ended up buying a little brew stand where I could start brewing 5-gallon batches of beer, still in my parents garage.”

           

Lamm and his brew stand have come a long way from his parents’ garage. He now uses that same brew stand in the brewery to make 5-gallon test batches of new beers he creates, rather than making an entire 500-gallon batch on the brew line.

 

One of the 12 taps in the tasting room is reserved for those test batches, which allows Lamm to gauge public opinion on a new brew before making a larger batch.

 

The brewery, usually open to public only Thursday-Saturday, opened for a special event on the Fourth of July. Lamm took the opportunity to debut a new mix.

 

“We added some watermelon and lime juice to our blonde ale for a couple kegs for the pilot batch and it was incredibly popular,” Lamm said. “We actually blew through two kegs in about six hours before the day was over.”

 

“I think we need to bring back that watermelon lime one just due to popular demand,” he added, “at least for the next couple of months.”

 

Though the watermelon lime blonde ale was wildly popular for the day, the most popular beer the company sells has always been the Round Here Beer.

 

“The style is a kolsch.” Lamm said. “It’s a German-style beer, similar to a pilsner. Its clean, crisp, refreshing, and low alcohol percentage.”

 

Along with the Round Here Beer, OBC has four other beers in cans so far: Three One Thousand, Lion Lamm, Bird in Barley and Gran Dunkel. All canned beers, along with several others not yet in cans, are available on tap in the tasting room, as well as many bars all over Georgia.

 

OBC will also be releasing its red ale, Mean Machine, in cans in mid-August, just in time for football season.

 

In addition to the Mean Machine cans, OBC has another exciting drink in the works for football season.They recently received eight bourbon barrels from a distillery in Kentucky and are using them to age Renaissance Stout.

 

“The beer will take on the aroma and flavor profile of whatever bourbon was in there,” Lamm said.

 

The sweet stout beer has been aging for four months, but still has two months to go.

 

One of Lamm’s favorite beers to create has been Three One Thousand, a habanero pale ale with a subtle heat to it.

 

“We named that beer Three One Thousand with the thought that you could take a sip and count ‘one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand’ before you really notice any inkling of heat,” he said. “Our thought with that beer was to let the pepper compliment the pale ale, not overpower it.”

 

His other favorite is Bird in Barley, for which the brewery collaborated with a local Milledgeville coffee shop, Blackbird Coffee. The shop’s owners, Iona and Jimmy Holder, worked directly with Lamm to find a the right ratio of their coffee and OBC’s beer.

 

“Typically when coffee and beer are mixed together, it's the darker beer,” Lamm said. “We said ‘hey what if we tried to do something lighter?’ so we landed on this Saison style… a more summery beer.”

 

They originally brewed just one batch of Bird in Barley to see what people thought of it. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, they have since brewed other batches for canning and distributing. Lamm plans to bring it back as a seasonal beer every spring and summer.

 

“Those that are kind of outside the box a little bit are fun to come up with,” he said of Three One Thousand and Bird in Barley.

 

In the 14 months since opening, OBC has exceeded all of Lamm’s predictions.

 

“On the production side, we produced more beer than we projected we would in that first year, and we have more folks coming through the brewery,” he said. “We didn't even think we would be canning beer within the first year, but we ended up getting five of our beers in cans.”

 

Rather than the predicted 31,000 gallons, OBC instead produced just under 40,000 gallons.

 

But their sudden success was not the only surprise.

 

“One of the biggest surprises is how we were so warmly embraced by the local community and beyond. So many of the folks downtown and working with the city of Greensboro was awesome,” Lamm said. “They were so accommodating and easy to work with and willing to help us in any way they could.”

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