Dogwood Brewing Company, Atlanta, GA

 

 

 

Crawford Moran

Dogwood Brewing Company

Atlanta, GA

It was not the most opportune time to be opening a microbrewery. But typical bureaucratic red tape had delayed the first brew until just before the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, so Crawford Moran opened Dogwood Brewing Company anyway. Traffic, terrorist bombs and hordes of foreign tourists aside, Crawford Moran was happy to be brewing under any circumstances. Almost overnight, the shaggy haired owner jumped from experienced homebrewer to novice professional brewer. Five gallon homebrew recipes were painstakingly converted to 20 barrel batches, all brewed using traditional techniques.

Traditional? The west Atlanta micro uses only whole leaf hops, even in their numerous dry hopped brews. No common brewery yeast here either. Moran and head brewer Matt Speece maintain many strains, each specific to an ale or lager style and, of course, a Dogwood beer. Most of the brewery’s malts are imported. Lagers receive minimum two months in fermentation and conditioning cycles. Taking tradition one step further than most, all Dogwood beers – kegged and bottled – are naturally carbonated, without the boost of priming or bottled carbon dioxide, even in the bottling process. Talk about a stickler for tradition, but that’s Moran’s philosophy and he’s keeping the faith.

With a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature, it took only a matter of days for graduate Moran to realize that teaching was not his lifelong career. He hated it. Entrepreneurial spirit and love for good beer led to the next, though unexpected step, Dogwood Brewing. As the business grew, Crawford turned over brewing responsibility to Matt Speece, about a year after the doors opened. While attending engineering school in Boulder, Colorado, Speece worked first for Rockies Brewing and later with Oasis Brewing, two high production regional breweries. After a short stint with a Panama City brewpub, the lanky redhead sought other employment. He found the head brewer’s job in Atlanta, relieving Crawford of part of his responsibility. Brewer Tony Camblor is the third gear in the Dogwood brewing machine.

Housed in a former dairy products warehouse, Dogwood brewed 3,000 barrels in 2000, dreadfully close to the brewhouse’s capacity until two new fermenters were install in the unheated brewery, bringing the tank total to seven. Some of the recipes hail back to Moran’s homebrewing days. Others were developed or modified in the brewery. Regardless, Dogwood’s recipes are as close to traditional styles as is feasibly possible. For instance, the cold temperature seasonal Winter Ale, dubbed the best local brew in 1999 by Atlanta Constitution writer Michael Skube, is a Belgian Brown Ale. Invitingly brownish-copper in hue, this medium body brew provides a warming sensation within its tart, almost wine-like flavor. Chimay yeast gets some of the credit for authenticity. Dogwood’s winter recipes changes each year, though so far this seasonal release has always been a Belgian beer of some sort. The summer brew is a coriander and orange peel laced Belgian White.

Simply named, as all their beers are, Dogwood Pilsner presents an immediate, or sooner, smack of hops. Bittered with Magnum hops and dry-hopped with whole leaf Saaz, only after the hops rush subsides does the lager’s light body and hint of malt appear. The Pils is filtered, though most of the other beers are not, and properly lagered. Fruity aroma announces Dogwood Pale Ale, though 30-35 ibu’s, mostly Cascade including dry hopping, control the flavor chart. This medium bodied ale, Dogwood’s best seller, is deliciously quaffable. Breakdown IPA, the only beer given a real name in order to differentiate it from the Pale, pushes 50 ibu’s. It is indeed hoppy start to finish, incorporating the tasty bitterness of Magnum, Goldings and a 50 pound Crystal hopback. Dogwood Stout, deep black shrouded with a brown foam hood, emits coffee aroma. Unfiltered, it is dominated by thick mouthfeel and strong roasted malt flavor. Oktoberfest is the fall seasonal and is available in bottles and kegs, as are all of Dogwood’s beers. Roughly 65% of the brewery’s production is bottled.

A healthy group of locals populate the tasting room every Thursday while Moran conducts a regularly scheduled brewery tour. These Dogwood fans love the brew and the fact that it’s free. The brewery cannot sell beer at retail, but they can give it away, as they do at beer festivals across the South.

Crawford’s grandparents are Irish, so beer has always been part of his life. Fond childhood memories of his father’s Guinness Stout, which the young pre-brewer was often allowed to taste, still summon a smile. As illustrated by his brewery’s winter and summer seasonal offerings, his tastes now lean toward the broad class of Belgian beers, Crawford’s true passion. But that doesn’t mean that other styles are short-changed. During a 1999 visit to Beamish Brewing in Ireland, he was taken on an impromptu tour by the brewery’s production manager. Afterwards, when the two compared notes, Crawford proudly mentioned that Dogwood Stout had been awarded a silver medal in World Beer Cup competition. Beamish Stout had not scored as well. Since no gold medal was awarded in that stylistic category that year, Crawford had every right to brag that his Stout was judged best in the world. The Irishman was embarrassingly impressed. It’s not easy to beat the Irish at their own game. Dogwood has other certificates pasted on their tasting room wall as well, several from the World Beer Championship and one especially meaningful to the brewers, selection as 1997’s Favorite Southern Beer by the readers of Southern Draft Beer News.

Though the Dogwood blossom is not the Georgia state flower, Moran chose this deep South icon as his brewery’s name and emblem because of its regional connotations. A sign of early Spring, of life, growth and beauty – it plays well within the state, which is the boundary of Dogwood’s distribution.

Brewing award-winning beers and having fun, Crawford Moran, Matt Speece and their Dogwood Brewing Company crew couldn’t be happier. “Not bad for a couple of rednecks making beer down here,” Moran exclaimed over an early morning Stout. Not bad, indeed.

Dogwood Brewing Company (micro)
1222 Logan Circle NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
404/367-0500
www.dogwoodbrewing.com

These days Crawford owns/run 5 Seasons Brewing in Atlanta, GA  -please visit their site.

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