published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Marietta, Ga., craft beer jumping the border into Tennessee

WHERE TO FIND IT

On-site: Red Hare is now served at a handful of Chattanooga bars, notable among them: Universal Joint, Urban Stack, Sigler's Craft Beer Bar, Tremont Tavern, Taco Mac and SturmHaus.

At stores: Red Hare is also available for off-site consumption at area Bi-Lo stores, Whole Foods and most other package stores.

Tastings: Red Hare offers tastings at its Marietta brewery, located at 1998 Delk Industrial Blvd., Marietta, Ga., on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For more info: www.redharebrewing.com, or 678-401-0600

The packed house is normal at Tremont Tavern on a Wednesday night. It's beer tasting night. The chalkboark says so.

Will Ford is working on a tea-colored beer in a clear plastic cup, Red Hare's Gangway IPA.

"I like it," he said. "It's not too hoppy, and it's not too mild."

It has that Goldilocks factor, somewhere in the middle, just right.

Ford's reaction amid a standing-room-only crowd eager to have what's in the red cooler keg makes Roger Davis happy.

"Chattanooga is much more crafty than I ever expected," he said.

Davis is the man behind Red Hare brewery, the beer with the bunny ear draft lever. He was in Chattanooga this week to officially introduce Red Hare to the Scenic City, a week after doing the same in Nashville.

It's the Marietta, Ga.-based company's Tennessee debut.

"No," said Davis Wednesday night, "Eight years ago, I had no idea" that he'd be doing this. He was a corporate man, working for a company based overseas.

In 2009, he left that career behind and began a craft brewing experiment in his basement. He and Buddy Thomas, a friend, were brewing beer in a 15-gallon brew pot with the assistance of a hodgepodge of household items. And within a year, they realized there was a greater demand for Red Hare booze.

Today, Red Hare is distributed all across Georgia and South Carolina. And now, in Chattanooga and Nashville.

"Now, there's nothing else I would even know how to do," said Davis.

Red Hare currently brews in its 11,000-square-foot Marietta warehouse. The facility boasts a 20-barrel brewhouse and can store 3,800 barrels of beer for fermentation. In only its second full year of business, the company made $1.5 million.

The brewery makes three year-round drinks: Long Day Lager, Gangway IPA and Watership Brown. Like many microbrewers, Red Hare also features a handful of seasonal and one-off batch lines -- referred to as the Rabbit's Reserve series. Long Day Lager is Red Hare's flagship drink.

Red Hare is also the first Georgia microbrewery to can its beer rather than bottle it. According to the company's website, canning better preserves elements which make the beer more tasty. Also, Red Hare prefers the recyclability of aluminum to glass.

It's a designation Davis is proud of, too.

"All those things," he said, explaining the logic behind going canned instead of bottled.

"There are a lot of beers following in behind us," he said.

Folks in other parts of the South -- including the rest of Tennessee -- need not get too excited just yet about Red Hare coming to their city. Davis said this is probably all the expanding he'll do this year.

"It's hard for us to make all the beer," he said.

But the brand has grown fast, and it didn't take long to overtake Georgia and South Carolina after Red Hare got a foot in the door.

Probably next year, said Davis, Red Hare will go state-wide here.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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