Everyone has some places they have an emotional or nostalgic connection to. Places for one reason or another you always remember them fondly and enjoy visiting them every time you go. Akademia Brewing Company in Athens, GA is one of those places for me. Back in August 2019, after my daughter turned twenty-one, we had our first beers together there. It was the perfect place because we could grab dinner and it had a variety of styles available to satisfy just about any palate. She had Hidden Hazards Hefeweizen and I had Tell’em All To Go To Helles German style Helles lager. We both loved the beers and the food was delicious too.
The brewpub is located in a single building off Business U.S. Hwy. 78/Atlanta Hwy. on the west side of Athens-Clark County between downtown Athens and the tiny community of Bogart. The building is spacious and bright on the inside with plenty of parking. As you enter the building, immediately to your left is the To-Go area with a cooler filled with cans of beer where you can pickup your orders or grab a couple of four/six packs on the way out. In front of you is table top seating for diners and to your right, hidden somewhat by a divider, is a lounge area with a big screen TV. To the right of the dining area is the bar, where you’ll find anywhere from 14 – 16 different beers on tap, and the exit to the outdoor beer garden. If you walk straight through the dining area, you can easily see where all the magic happens – the production area complete with shinny stainless steel fermenters and brite tanks. There’s nothing pretentious about the place. It’s bright, friendly and casual. Just what you want in a brewpub that invites you to come in any time for lunch, dinner or a few beers for the game or after work. The staff is super-friendly. Nate was tending the bar the most recent day I was there. He quickly greeted the regulars by name and with a suggestion of what’s new they may be interested in. I was flying solo that day and Nate easily involved me in the conversations, which I appreciated.
Anyone that has spent much time in Athens, GA knows what I mean when I say it’s a quirky, fun town. It’s home to the University of Georgia, the oldest state chartered university in the United States, giving it that Southern college town feel, yet it is only about an hour and thirty minutes northeast of Atlanta, allowing it to have a big city connection. It’s one of those places where the more things change, the more they stay the same. People in my age range (early to mid- 50’s) who spent time there remember such places as T.K. Harty’s, The Uptown Lounge, Papa Joe’s, Sky’s Place and Herbie’s; but those names have been replaced by ones like Five Bar, Allgood Lounge, The Rooftop at Georgia Theatre, Trappeze Pub, Wonderbar and Southern Kitchen. Craft beer enthusiasts recognize the name Creature Comforts Brewing Company, but there is also Southern Brewing Company, Athentic Brewing, Terrapin Brewing and Normaltown Brewing. But if there is one place that epitomizes Athens it’s Akademia Brewing Company. It’s a most unsuspecting place; but this little brewpub releases some great beers on a continuous basis and the food is very good.
The menu is terrific and quite varied. My first visit I had a prime rib sandwich, which was tender and flavorful. I haven’t seen that on the menu since, but hopefully they bring it back at some point. You’ll find standards like wings, brats and burgers; but you’ll also find salads, flatbreads, grilled salmon and vegan choices. The prices are quite reasonable. Appetizers run from $7 to $14, salads $6 to $10, sandwiches and flatbreads $10 to $15, and main dishes $12 to $19. I have yet to have a bad meal there. Generally, they are open Sunday to Thursday 12pm – 9pm, and Friday and Saturday 12pm – 11pm; however, their hours can vary, so be sure to check before heading over.
Now to the important stuff. How’s the beer? Akademia focuses on producing quality, small batch craft beers and they release an amazing number of beers during the year. Similar to a number of newer breweries, they are most well known for IPA’s, sours and stouts; but they are also very underrated for more classic styles. My two personal favorites are The Dom Kolsch and Tell’em To Go To Helles. The Dom was canned and released to distribution early in 2020. It was snapped up so fast I was lucky to find some after a little diligent hunting. They have four core beers you’ll find on every visit:
Shiver Pilsner 5.4% ABV – A German style Kellerbier (cellar beer). This a pale version of a Helles lager style that is brewed and served “young”. It is “hoppy” (that’s right, hops can be more than just juicy) with spicy and floral notes from German Nobel hops. You can drink this beer with darn near any meal.
Skal 5.8% ABV – Norwegian Wheat Ale brewed with unique Scandinavian Kveik yeast. This is a fantastic beer for hot Georgia summers as it light, zesty and flavorful. The Kveik yeast provides some funky aromas and flavors you don’t get with a German Hefeweizen.
Two Personal Favorites
The Dom 4.6% ABV – A German Kölsch style. Features Hallertauer Mittelfrueh and Perle hops. It’s crisp, clean highly drinkable beer with spicy and floral notes. Refreshing with a mild bitterness. This beer won a Gold Medal at the 2019 U.S. Open Beer Championship. Kölsch is the renown style of Cologne, Germany. We are fortunate that Morgan Wireman decided to replicate it for us to enjoy here in Georgia.
Tell’em To Go To Helles 4.8% ABV – Helles is the lager style of beer that originated from Munich, Germany. Medium bodied, malt forward with bready and grainy notes. It’s well rounded with restrained bitterness. A beer drinker’s beer that will pair well with steaks, BBQ or seafood dishes.
Get To Know Akademia
Co-Founders Matt Casey and Morgan Wireman officially opened Akademia in October 2017. Their goal was provide an alternative venue to have quality beer and food outside of downtown Athens. They have focused on small batch brews and release an amazing number of beers throughout the year. Morgan Wireman serves as Head Brewer. He had been home brewing for over ten years before meeting Matt and the two deciding to open a craft brewery in Athens. While they brew the more popular styles such as IPAs, Stouts, and sours, they take great pride in brewing traditional/classic styles.
I had the great pleasure of Matt and Morgan coming out and introducing themselves to me during my recent visit. I’ve had some correspondence with Morgan previously and he has always graciously answered my questions, so it was nice to meet him in person. I chatted with Matt for quite a while on subjects ranging from challenges of beer distribution, surviving as a small business during the pandemic and how they are able to put out so many quality beers. It was very interesting getting one of the co-owner’s perspectives on the business and I wished we had more time to chat, but I greatly appreciate him taking that much time out of his day.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Matt and Morgan’s efforts to support their community. This is something I have grow to love about craft beer breweries, they get very involved in their local community in many different ways. During the pandemic, Akademia started their #thinkwenotme campaign. They teamed up with BottleShare (a 501(c)3 charity) to help those who found themselves in need. They raised over $7,000 and were able to provide hundreds of hot meals to those in need through Our Daily Bread and other charities. It was a win-win for everyone. Kudos to Akademia for jumping in where needed.
There are a number of great places to hang out and have a beer or two. Akademia Brewing Company tops the list. It’s well worth a day trip from Atlanta, where you can have a great meal and sample some ever better beers. I am confident you’ll find something you like. Look for their beers at retailers around the Atlanta metro area, as many of their core and seasonal beers reach distribution outside of Athens.
Thanks for reading and until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!
Be sure to support your local brewery!
As always, please remember to drink responsibly.