At five years old, Southbound Brewing Co. is bursting at the seams.
The products of Savannah’s first production microbrewery are now distributed throughout its home state and the Carolinas. They are on track to produce 7,000 to 8,000 barrels of beer this year, and just won gold at the Olympics of beer competitions.
Southbound will celebrate its fifth year with a huge party May 19. After a highly successful Tom Petty tribute show back in January, featuring Savannah’s The Train Wrecks, Southbound decided to repeat that format with an Allman Brothers tribute show for their birthday.
In the beginning
When co-founders Smith Mathews (brewmaster and managing partner), Carly Wiggins (marketing and sales director) and Pratt Mathews (production operations manager), were looking for a city to set up shop, they saw an opportunity in Savannah.
“When we were picking cities, Savannah was standing out to us,” Smith Mathews said. “One, for the tourism. The location is on the water. You have the beach. Geographically, it’s a great location. We can run south and hit Florida and north to South Carolina and North Carolina. It really makes sense.”
Using Savannah’s established bar culture as a hub and proving ground, Southbound was able to blossom in multiple directions, expanding both locally and regionally over the last five years, while testing and producing a strong line of year-round and seasonal beers.
“Five years ago, Savannah was very different than it is today,” he continued. “Broughton Street wasn’t developed. It’s exploding right now and it’s been fun to be in the mix of it all. We saw that coming and hit it at a good time.”
Last year when Georgia Senate Bill 85 was signed into law, allowing breweries and distilleries to sell directly to customers, Southbound was able to create an authentic taproom in their brewery, which increased traffic and cash flow, making it easier to host larger events.
“Savannah folks are just figuring out that you can go to a brewery and buy a pint and it's the cool thing to do, to hang out there,” Matthew said. “If you go to Charleston, they have 26 or 28 breweries and their taprooms are always slammed, all the time.”
All of Southbound’s beer is either named after a song, or musically related, so hosting live music was a key component. The new law has helped open the door for that element of their brand.
“If it’s not named after a song, it has some musical influence,” Mathews said. “Everything we do is musically influenced. We’re just trying to push good beer and good music.”
Southbound lead brewer Jeremy Hammons not only brews your favorite Southbound beers, but also plays drums for Savannah’s The Train Wrecks and Nancy Druid. Along with Southbound events coordinator Natalie Alexander, Hammons organized the music for the fifth anniversary show.
“The Allman Brothers are not necessarily in our wheelhouse, so we brought in some friends to help out,” Hammons said. “We have John Patton and Jonathan Williams from the Domino Effect, The Mustard. They all play in those bands and have been playing together, so we brought them in. They do a lot of Allman Brothers, and sick guitarists.
“The Hextones are going to do a lot of the more known tunes, like 'Whipping Post,'” Hammons added. “We’re doing a lot of the instrumental stuff. We’re going to do a lot of the more jammy side of the Allman Brothers.”
The Train Wrecks will also add drummer Ira Miller (The Hypnotics), guitarist Ben Keiser and Phillip Price (COEDS) on keyboards to round out the all-star Savannah lineup.
For the birthday party, Southbound will have several special small-batch beers on tap, exclusive to the evening. Accenting the night's theme, they’ve worked up a peach blonde ale, aptly titled Eat A Peach, after the Allman Brothers' hit third studio album.
Named after a song on that same album, Mountain Jam, one of Southbound’s new year-round anchor beers, will be on rotation. Earlier this month, Mountain Jam won a gold award for Other International-Style Lager at the 2018 World Beer Cup.
“That was pretty awesome,” Mathews said of the award. “It was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. They host that international competition every two years. It’s the top competition in the world. We beat out some major challengers.”
Accompanying those highlights will be the return of Whiskey on the Stones, which earlier this year won an online poll conducted to see which of the brewery’s small pilot batches were favored by the people. Southbound employees' choice was Iron Lion, one of the brewery’s first core beers. Moon Dance, a spice stout, will also return for the anniversary party. Chazito’s food truck will be on hand with a custom menu as well.
“It’s definitely been met with its challenges,” Mathews said. “We’ve been very fortunate to be super accepted by Savannah and all the customers who really like our beer. That’s been awesome. Everything has been well received. As with any small business, growth and trying to meet our demand for manufacturing is always challenging. Every day we face another challenge. It keeps it interesting.
“We’re still developing as a company,” he continued. “We’re going to be putting out new, fun brands. We saw the success with Mountain Jam and some of the other beers we’ve been putting out. We’re going to be constantly putting out a really nice variety to keep things fun and interesting. It’s a really cool time to be involved and I think we’re in a good position. Five years in, we have a lot of experience. We’re well established. There is going to be a lot more competition coming around. I think we’re all in it together.”