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Ingesting the Opposition - Orange Bowl Edition: Red Hare Brewing Company

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Before Mississippi State can consume a comically oversized citrus-filled goblet, we must deal with Georgia Tech and appease the emboldened football deities of the ACC. To prove worthy of the orangey fruit filling that awaits the victor, take a moment to give some dap to the beer-bearing rabbits of Georgia's Red Hare Brewing Company.

After five straight days away from the office over the holidays, most of which I spent oogling at my amazing eight-month-old daughter, I find that my brain has turned into a Christmas-candle-scented ball of goo. The vaguely rhythmic, assuredly dissonant goofball scatting I rattle off when entertaining her—which, I should add, has evidently become one of the most prized contributions to our burgeoning father-daughter relationship—flows unprovoked as if it's a normal reaction to the mundane.

I observe the cat jumping out of the chair walk toward the stairs.

Ah skiddly doop doosh a pow!

I open the cabinet to remind myself which whiskies I have in stock.

Da da dat dat dat dop!

I end a conference call with a client and glance over to the email I was working on before the phone rang.

Woppi zop po po doo!

This is your brain on Christmas break with a baby.

Not exactly conducive to linear thought. Or to extended excursions with prose.

But you know what? I can totally dig it. I mean, if I'm taking off work, what better way to really escape than to immerse myself in the world of an infant whose manifestations of wonder, surprise, happiness, and excitement are all identical—pure laughter.

In fact, if made to pick a single quasi-secular thing that best reflects what the holidays are or should be, my vote goes to the gleeful sounds that greets my head poking out from behind the wall when a small child realizes that yes, I do indeed still exist when I leave her field of vision.  

So, with this joyous and goofy sound resonating in what is left of my mind, my approach to bowl games and the offseason has been surprisingly tempered. I've tried to tune in to my usual digitized feed of football information over the past week or so, but something's not clicking. What's all this about coaching changes and staff salaries? Why do I care that Jim Harbaugh is wearing a hat? Who flipped what recruit now? Grey . . . shirt?

I just wanted to watch a loop of this every day leading up to the Orange Bowl.

As luck would have it, there's a brewery about twenty minutes from Georgia Tech's campus that fits my mood to a T. It's the kind of place that can start with one of its owner's gingery appearance and end with solid red beer taps shaped like rabbit ears. Let's see if Red Hare Brewing Company down in Marietta can't bring a smile to your face before our boys play for a giant bowl of oranges later on tonight.

Tap

That's just plain awesome, people.

About five or six years ago, Roger Davis and Bobby Thomas were a couple of North Georgians with solid sales jobs. Roger was the Director of Sales in North America for an international corporation that manufactures plumbing and climate-control infrastructure systems, and Bobby was a sales rep in the same industry. Pipe fittings, butterfly valves, PEX manifolds, Johnson rods . . . . They were living the dream.

In addition to their love of gaskets and so forth, though, they also loved beer. So when Bobby decided to try out a home brew kit one weekend, he invited Roger to join in the fun.

After a brew with the kit, they decided to try to give it a go with all grains. The first weekend turned into another weekend. And another. And another. And then a random weekday when the two decided to skip work in favor of brewing. And then another weekend.

This went on for a solid year.

It was around this same time that the economy messed itself and hid in the closet. Nearly every industry was affected by the crash in some way, but residential and commercial construction were hit especially hard. Bobby and Roger saw the writing on the wall, and were not eager to leave their long-term futures up to chance.

One of those potential futures, it turned out, wasn't too far from what the two weekend warriors were doing anyway—apparently Roger had always fantasized about owning a winery when he retired. Well, it may not have been quite a fancy as a vineyard and chateau, but he and Bobby essentially had a small functioning brewery in Bobby's basement.

So why not just turn that into a business?

Hundreds of hours of research, investigation, reading, touring, networking, and training later, a business is exactly what they decided to make it. In November 2010, they announced their plans to all their friends and set about the business of actually opening a full-sized, functioning production brewery.

After another ten months, in September 2011, Red Hare opened the doors to its stand-alone, 11,000 square foot facility in Marietta just north of Atlanta.

Basement home brew

Red Hare's first location came complete with a lawnmower, broadcast spreader, and old real estate listing signs.

Red Hare has done remarkably well since it brewery's opening. It began by selling to bars and restaurants around Atlanta, and now only three years later, it sells its beers at retail stores in Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. And because they'd like to have their beer available across the southeast, in 2015 the folks at Red Hare will be expanding their brewery by about 4,000 square feet, which will allow them to increase their brewing capacity from 8,000 barrels to about 12,000 barrels.

But really, this shouldn't be a surprise. For one thing, the brewery's lineup is well conceived. Up until now, Red Hare's three core beers have the bases well-covered: the above-referenced and amazingly named Watership Brown Ale, a malty but well-rounded, mildly sweet dark brown; Gangway IPA, an American IPA whose reviewers on BeerAdvocate use the word "solid"—or its cousins "sturdy" or "strong"—quite a bit; and Long Day Lager, a "Bohemian" style lager that the company's spokesperson described to me as the "flagship" beer that also happens to be "the hardest beer [they] make." (Remember our earlier lesson about southern craft brewers and lagers, people. The more you know . . .) Add to that the newest member of the year-rounders that will debut in 2015—Cotton Tail Pale Ale—and you've got something for everyone without even reaching the seasonal varieties. (The current seasonal, by the way—Sticky Stout, a chocolate/coffee/oatmeal stout—has not only been well-received, but also has some viral commercials to stand behind, like this and this.

And then of course there's the art on the cans. Who could turn down beers with labels like these?

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Red Hare's beer cans aren't all fun and games, though. In a twist that pairs wonderfully with the Georgia Tech side of the upcoming battle for the Big Ass Bucket of Oranges, Red Hare just so happens to be the only beer manufacturer in the United States whose cans are composed of rolled aluminum sheets that contain at least 90% recycled aluminum.

You see, Atlanta happens to be the home of a humongous company called Novelis, which specializes in the manufacture of rolled aluminum. Novelis happens to be the world's largest recycler of aluminum, and one of its newest brainchildren happens to be a beverage can—called the "Evercan"—made primarily from sheets of aluminum that are third-party-certified to contain at least 90% recycled aluminum. (The goal here being a completely closed-loop manufacturing process. Since aluminum is infinitely recyclable, Novelis envisions a product that will eventually be entirely composed out of itself.) And it just so happens that Novelis approached Red Hare about being the first to take the plunge.

Red Hare wisely agreed, and that's that. Now all the cans it makes at its brewery—the canning process all occurs onsite at Red Hare's facility—are about at technologically and ecologically advanced as they can be.

Not sure if the dude who invented the Evercan was a Ramblin' Wreck. But whoever they were, they must have been a hell of an engineer.

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