Savannah, Georgia is known for its elegant grid of park-like squares in the downtown historic district, the hospitality of its residents, and for being the site of one of America’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day parades. The Hostess City of the South also has a reputation as a party town, where you can legally stroll along the street with an open container of beer. And now, those “go cups” can easily be filled with local suds, thanks to recent changes in state laws and a thriving brewery scene.
In 2017, Georgia state legislators passed a bill that allowed breweries and distilleries to sell small amounts of their product directly to consumers. Those sales can be packaged (like growlers or 6-packs) or open (like pints and tasting flights). For a young brewery in need of working capital, taproom sales are a welcome source of income. The taproom also helps brewers connect with customers, creating solid business relationships in the community.
Moon River Brewing Company
The anchor of the Savannah brewing scene is the Moon River Brewing. Co-owner and Brewmaster John Pinkerton is a long-time force in Georgia brewing and a founder of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. Moon River opened in 1999 and is a classic brewpub, serving up a full menu of food in addition to its site-brewed beer and rotating list of guest taps. The brewery’s historic (and reportedly haunted) building sits in the heart of downtown, across from City Hall and central to tourist hot spots. The recent addition of an outdoor beer garden makes Moon River a must-visit for thirsty beer lovers looking for a place to rest their feet and people watch.
You must try: Swamp Fox IPA, Dixie Krystal Tripel
Southbound Brewing Company
Opened by former SweetWater Brewery alumni in 2012, Southbound is Savannah’s first full-scale production brewery. With a unique iconography based on the culture of jam bands and Southern music, the brewery promotes a fun, lively atmosphere. The outdoor beer garden and tasting room are just a short drive from downtown. Co-founder Smith Matthews has a fondness for complex twists on traditional and sour beers, which is evident in the diversity of brews produced.
You must try: Scattered Sun Belgian Wit, Moonlight Drive Coffee Stout
Coastal Empire Beer Company
Brothers Chris and Kevin Haborak founded Coastal Empire Beer in 2011. After a few years of contract brewing, the team opened its Ross Road facility in Savannah and has been steadily turning out award-winning beer and earning medals from the US Open Beer Championship and the Great American Beer Festival. Coastal Empire’s beers are frequently named and branded for local attractions, making them a perfect take-home souvenir for Savannah visitors. The brewery’s tasting room is the place to try its one-off test batches and creative takes on a variety of styles, including barrel-aged versions of its base beers.
You must try: Blood Orange Citrus Breeze Sour Pale, Inshore Slam IPA
Service Brewing Company
Army veteran Kevin Ryan took his passion for home brewing to the next level by opening Service Brewing Co. in 2014. The question “How Do You Serve?” adorns a large chalkboard in the tap room. Patches, parachutes, and other military paraphernalia decorate the walls. But even if you’re not a military veteran, you’ll immediately feel at home thanks to the friendly staff and the decidedly artistic brews being poured. Plus, you’ll feel good knowing a portion of your brewery purchase goes to local, regional and national charities like K9s for Warriors and the Savannah Tiny House Project.
You must try: Old Guard Biere de Garde, Battlewagon Double IPA
Two Tides Brewing Company
The newest player in Savannah’s beer scene, Two Tides’ operating format couldn’t have existed without the recent changes in distribution laws. The brewery, located in the up-and-coming Starland District, sells cans and drafts out of an old converted house. The interior walls have been left up in the tasting area, creating intimate spaces to gather with friends and try the brewery’s broad array of IPAs. Kegs are sent out to a select few restaurant clients, but if you want to taste the beer, your best bet is to go directly to the source. New can releases happen most Fridays, and food trucks are a staple on weekends and special release events.
You must try: Hydrus Double IPA, Tan Lines Pilsner