In downtown Valdosta, Georgia Beer Company is brewing good times. Take in a game of darts or trivia, listen to live tunes…or just chill in the beer garden under glowing amber lights before walking a few blocks to your favorite dinner destination.
Located in a century-old brick building with imposing Renaissance arched windows, Georgia Beer Company was founded by Chris Jones and Jack “J. Ryce” Martin, classmates from Valdosta State University (VSU). The result of a public-private partnership between Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority, Georgia Beer Company has reenergized Valdosta’s pedestrian-friendly main street area boasting eateries, boutiques and art galleries.
Ellen Hill, Valdosta’s Main Street Director, says Georgia Beer has been an amazing addition to downtown. "Having a brewery in Valdosta has brought more visitors than we could have imagined. We've seen more foot traffic and tourism, which helps all the downtown businesses."
This vibrant watering hole, housed in the city’s former water works building no less, is more of a melting pot. Slide into a seat at one of the 10-foot-long tables and you might meet a VSU professor, or a tourist tempted by the billboard on I-75, or a young family with kids and Fido in tow – all are welcome.
“Georgia Beer was key to revitalizing downtown, creating a family-friendly environment and tourist destination all in one,” explains Andrea Schruijer, Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority executive director. “Chris and J. Ryce were ready with a business plan and economic impact analysis – they just needed a space. We were excited to partner with the Downtown Development Authority to bring new life to the old water works facility.”
There’s a shared sense of commitment and ownership reflected in Valdosta’s main street revival. “We were inspired by the community support…local businesses, government, and residents rooting us on during those early, 80-hour work weeks,” notes Chris. “Knowing we had so much support made all the difference.”
“For us, it’s all about being heavily invested in the community. We support as many local farms, events and organizations as possible,” explains Chris. From satsumas to sugarcane, Georgia Beer sources most ingredients from regional growers. And, if there’s a local charity fundraiser, you’ll find Georgia Beer Company among the lead sponsors.
Their community involvement extends to Moody Air Force Base as well. Chris, a 19-year U.S. Coast Guard veteran and active reservist, and J. Ryce are Honorary Squadron Commanders of the highly decorated 75th Fighter Squadron, home of the famous A-10 Warthog. The brewery named its PJ Pale Ale after the 38th Rescue Squadron, home of the “PJs,” and donated large proceeds of its sales to the Para Rescue Foundation.
You'll find varieties of Georgia Beer – IPAs, seasonal flavors like Blueberry Field Party and St. Helen’s Oktoberfest, and traditional brews – in 400 retailers throughout Georgia. Or hop by 109 S. Briggs Street next time you’re in Southwest Georgia. A cold glass and warm smile await.