SweetWater Brewing Crafts Success in Georgia

"Craft beer fans in Georgia love local. They appreciate knowing where their products come from and being able to visit that place.  We love making that available and giving back to the community where we live and work. The city, the state and region have all embraced us and helped make us successful.”

– Freddy Bensch, Founder & Big Kahuna, SweetWater Brewing Company

In 1997, college roommates Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney fulfilled their dream of establishing a brewery when they founded SweetWater Brewing Company. in Atlanta. Having attended the American Brewers Guild in California to sharpen their skills, the pair sought to bring a West-coast style brewery to the Southeast and followed the hype of the 1996 Centennial Olympics to Georgia.

With the help of the state’s Small Business Association, GDEcD’s Small Business team and a loyal community of fans, Freddy and Kevin have grown their brewery to a 150,000 square-foot facility employing 180 people and selling product in 20 states.

SweetWater is one of the most acclaimed breweries on the East Coast, ranking as the 18th largest craft brewery in the nation in 2017.

WHAT GEORGIA OFFERS SweetWater Brewing Company

  • Small Business Association (SBA) loans and startup investment
  • GDEcD’s Entrepreneur & Small Business team provided resources and incentives for expansion in 2013
  • Currently working with GDEcD’s International Trade team to expand export market to Korea, Canada and Europe.
  • State and local support for expansion of brewery from the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, including mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, and Governor Nathan Deal at ribbon cutting
  • Georgia World Congress Center hosts the annual 420 Fest in Atlanta


  • Grand Champion at US Open Beer Fest, 2012
  • Small Brewer of the Year, Great American Beer Festival, 2002
  • Nearly 2 dozen medals from the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Festival for various beers
  • River Defender Award from Chattahoochee Riverkeeper
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