Beer and fishing. They go together like lines and leaders. As every beer drinker knows, not all beers are the same. And not all brewers are the same. SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Ga., has made fly fishing and fly anglers the focus of their business. They’ve been a great TU Business Member and a great partner in events across the southeast and beyond.
Their story actually starts 1,400 miles west, in Boulder, Colo. Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney were students at the University of Colorado. These roommates found a part-time gig cleaning kegs at a local brewery. It must have been a life-altering experience, because both went on to careers in brewing. When Freddy came to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympics, he smelled not beer but opportunity. Kevin soon joined him, and in 1997 SweetWater Brewing was born.
As Head Brewer Nick Nock says, “You can’t make great beer without great water.” From the outset, SweetWater has been about water. Their name itself comes from Sweetwater Creek, a tributary of the legendary Chattahoochee River. Protecting America’s rivers is part of the business model at this brewery. For years, they’ve partnered with Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups, not only to raise funds but to raise awareness about conservation and fishing.
That commitment has made SweetWater an integral part of the fly fishing community. It’s evident in their packaging. Every bottle or can features fish and fishing. But more important, they walk the talk. Brian Miesieski says, “I never fish without a guide. That’s not just about catching more fish. It’s about learning to be a better fly angler, and it’s about having a great time on the water.” Their commitment to the guide community goes far beyond words. Their Guide Beer was developed with input of fishing guides across the US, and a portion of the proceeds from Guide Beer sales go back into support for fishing guides facing specific challenges. The folks at SweetWater walk the talk.
They were quick to take a stand on TU’s proposal to remove the lower four dams on the Snake River in eastern Washington. They said, “SweetWater supports our friends over at TU in their mission of conservation and recovery of salmon and steelhead on the lower Snake River. Protecting healthy river ecosystems and a diversity of fish species ultimately means protecting the source of clean, quality water that turns into the downstream beer we enjoy. Because protecting our great outdoors is in our DNA – you just can’t make good beer without clean water.” That’s them in three sentences – authentic.
That authenticity comes out in their products. They currently have a presence in over half the 50 states. Could they sell in a larger footprint? Sure, but they would rather sell great beer in a limited area than reduce the quality to sell in more states. It also comes out in their commitment to clean water and healthy fisheries. Like Brian says, “It’s not just something that we say, it’s how we live.”
SweetWater Brewing Company