“Albert Einstein was the most curious person ever,” declares Adam Beauchamp, cofounder and brewmaster at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in Athens, Georgia. “Einstein didn’t let the confines of traditional knowledge constrain his thinking,” he explains, giving a nod to the “no-boundaries approach” to beers that he and his business partners have adopted at the brewery.
“We’re just really inspired by passionate, curious, innovative people,” says Beauchamp of himself and his cofounders David Stein (head brewer), and Chris Herron (CEO). “We have individual inspirations, but our common thread is curiosity. People who are fiercely curious seem to have this energy and zeal in all of their pursuits.”
For the crew at Creature Comforts, that pursuit is envelope-pushing, world-class, award-winning craft beer. They launched Creature Comforts in the spring of 2014 after Stein had hatched the brand underground, so to speak, in the Decatur neighborhood of Atlanta. “Dave was homebrewing and offering samples of the homebrew at bars that would feature his brews as specialty kegs,” says Beauchamp. “For each beer, his friend Julian Bozeman would draw these strange, psychedelic, interesting creatures. It was intriguing for people; he developed this cult following.”
The story goes like this: Beauchamp is working at Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta when he gets a call from his college acquaintance and homebrewing buddy, Stein, out of the blue. Stein had found some people who wanted to open up a brewery in Athens in this amazing building downtown, a historic car dealership built in the 1940s. It has character for days—old brick, a half-barrel dome ceiling, dramatic trusses. It had a historic venue on one side and an art cinema on the other, the best beer bar in Athens right across the street, and so many great restaurants nearby.
Now Beauchamp and Stein have recipes and a place to make those recipes, but they’ve never stepped foot in a business class in their lives, and they don’t have a clue about accounting. That’s where Chris Herron comes in. “He had an amazing entrepreneurial spirit. We decided he was too talented and good to pass up,” says Beauchamp. “So we had a CEO, we had a location, and the beer recipes were fully developed. We were like, ‘Holy crap. We have to make a brewery now.’”
Mindful of the fact that they were a few guys from Atlanta posting up in Athens to make beer, Creature Comforts owners wanted to make sure they integrated well in their new community. They did so “with all kinds of partnerships,” such as the Get Comfortable campaign that supports nonprofit organizations focused on ending hunger, poverty, and homelessness. Also, during farmer’s market season, the Creature Comforts tasting room often hosts vendors from the Athens’ farmer’s market. “They bring in some of the most amazing produce I’ve ever seen,” says Beauchamp. “All of these agriculture students that come here and don’t want to leave. They’re passionate and quality-centric just like us.”
For Beauchamp, quality is the number one priority. “That’s the biggest thing I guard at the brewery. I’m the gatekeeper for quality. All the beers taste good because they are made with good, clean processes.”
Creature Comforts’ year-round beers include the Tropicalia IPA, Reclaimed Rye, Athena Berliner Weisse (see page 94 for our blind-tasting panel’s review), and Bibo Pilsner, named after Einstein’s pet parrot.
Tropicalia comprises 60 percent of Creature Comforts’ production, which is expected to be just shy of 20,000 barrels this year. “David was inspired to shift toward an India Pale Ale that’s not very bitter; it’s drinkable with ton of hops flavor and aroma,” says Beauchamp. “Tropicalia is a shift for the South because it’s super hoppy and not malty. It’s gone over very well in Atlanta.”
Reclaimed Rye, an amber ale brewed with rye and aged with French oak, reflects Creature Comforts’ desire to make a malty beer that wasn’t a porter or a stout. “Amber is a style that used to be more sought after,” says Beauchamp. “We think it’s absolutely worthwhile, but it got boring. We wanted to add intrigue, and we did so with flaked rye for a creamy mouthfeel and a good amount of hops that play second fiddle to the malty, chocolate flavors complemented by oak. We’re reclaiming the amber style.”
Creature Comforts is also staking claim in the Florida Weisse space, what Draft Magazine calls “an exotic spin on a German ale that’s become the calling card of the quirky beer scene bubbling up in the Sunshine State.” Florida Weisse beers are usually fermented with locally grown tropical fruits; Creature Comforts’ is a base Berliner Weisse to which they apply various fruit treatments. “Traditionally, Berliner is a background for other flavors,” says Beauchamp. “We make a passionfruit and guava version and a cucumber and lime version.”
Like all of Creature Comforts’ beers, the Pilsner is not brewed exactly to style. Instead of German hops, Bibo is brewed mostly with Continental hops and a touch of New Zealand hops that yield a hint of pineapple fruit character in its flavor. “Instead of brewing to style,” Adam explains, “we brew to develop layers of flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, and structure. Sometimes our beers are close to style, and other times we brew beers that can only be described as ‘it pairs well with food and you should try it.’”
In addition to Creature Comforts’ year-round core lineup, the brewery produces all sorts of seasonal, one-off, limited-release, and collaboration beers that guests need to visit the taproom to sample. One of those recent collaborations (with Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company—see “The Great Arizonans,” in the August/September 2016 issue) is a funky sour beer made with the juice of Arizona-grown oranges and lemons and honey produced in Athens. The beer was fermented with saison yeast and bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces. “We named the beer Transmission ... for the transmission of ideas during collaboration ... and because we were all driving to a beer dinner in a big bus and the transmission broke. We had to push the bus.”
One of their limited-release beers, Curious No. 2, took a bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Beers in The Curious series push their creativity and are extremely small-batch projects, says Beauchamp. The Curious No. 2 is a blonde American Brett beer refermented with kiwi and pineapple juice.
Collaborations, curiosity, community service, and high-quality balanced beers remain the focal points of Creature Comforts notwithstanding the brewery’s aggressive expansion. Its cofounders are actively planning a new production facility.
More capacity will allow Creature Comforts to meet demand for its year-round beers and stay curious with space and time to focus on new recipes. “Creativity is huge for us; we have such drive to create new, innovative things,” says Beauchamp. “We’re trying to push the envelope.”