Hop on this, Columbus: Microbreweries, distilleries now allowed — with one on the way

A brewery is coming to Columbus and it hopes to bring food trucks

The mayor of Columbus, Skip Henderson, and co-owner of a brewery talk about what to expect from a brewery soon coming to Columbus. Michael and Kathy Denehy hope to have a brewery opened in Columbus at the beginning of May.
Up Next
The mayor of Columbus, Skip Henderson, and co-owner of a brewery talk about what to expect from a brewery soon coming to Columbus. Michael and Kathy Denehy hope to have a brewery opened in Columbus at the beginning of May.

Microbreweries and microdistilleries are now allowed in certain city districts after a vote by the Columbus Council earlier this week.

The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to amend Columbus’ Unified Development Ordinance and alcohol licensing regulations to allow microbreweries and microdistilleries to operate in the Uptown, Central Riverfront, General Commercial and Light Manufacturing zoning districts.

The rule change opens the door for breweries and distilleries to come into the city, and there is already a business interested in being the city’s first brewery.

Brian Sillitto, executive vice president of economic development at the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce, presented a request for additions to the ordinance at a March 12 meeting.

He spoke on behalf of Michael Denehy, who co-owns Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse in West Point with his wife Kathy.

Denehy was looking to open a second brewery in Columbus when he ran into a stumbling block — neither microbreweries nor microdistilleries were an allowed usage for the property where he wants to locate his business, nor anywhere else in Columbus.

“This request is essentially to pave the way not only for this company but also for other companies and other breweries that may want to locate in Columbus,” Sillitto said Feb. 20. “Microbreweries or breweries as you may have read or experienced in other jurisdictions across not only this state of Georgia but also throughout the southeast is big business. In fact, ‘brewery tourism’ is even a term. So having a second largest city in Georgia — we don’t have a brewery here and some would question why don’t we.”

According to statistics from the Brewers Association, in 2017 there were 3,812 microbreweries in the U.S., with 51 microbreweries currently listed in Georgia and none in Columbus.

The Cannon Brew Pub on Broadway is listed as a microbrewery in most other instances as it does brew its own beer, but because it is also a restaurant it is not considered the same as a microbrewery.

Under the new rules, a microbrewery is described as an establishment in which no more than 10,000 barrels of beer or malt beverages can be manufactured or brewed on the premises within a calendar year. The beer can be sold for consumption on or off the premises.

The regulations for a microdistillery, where distilled spirits are manufactured, are the same.

Denehy said Thursday he plans to go forward with a new brewery in Columbus.

“We believe Columbus is under served in craft beer,” he said. “As Georgia’s second largest city, it has the appetite and room for added craft beer options. We look forward to joining places like the Cannon Brew Pub, who are friends of ours, and other craft breweries to make Columbus a destination for craft beer tourism.”

Denehy’s wife Kathy is currently a major in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, and is stationed overseas in Korea through July. Denehy is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Special Forces and currently works at Fort Benning as an assistant program manager with Vertex Solutions.

Their military ties are a big part of the reason the pair chose Columbus for their next business venture.

“As military people ourselves, the citizens of Columbus resonate with us: they’re our people,” he said.

Denehy said the new brewery will be located at 1301 6th Ave., one block from where developers are planning to potentially turn an old Coca-Cola bottling factory into apartments and office space. He said the property is currently under contract.

“What we love about the location is it’s in what everyone would call downtown but expands the food and beverage industry further; it’s halfway between the river and the (civic center), and the warehouse district is part and parcel for breweries,” Denehy said.

Becca Zajac, vice president of Marketing and Community Relations at Uptown Columbus, said she expects the 6th Avenue area to see drastic changes over the next five years.

The street is currently home to several businesses as well as the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce and The Lofts at Swift Mill.

“We know that within the Uptown footprint, there is a finite amount of property left for development and we are thrilled to see development expanding in other directions,” Zajac said.

“It’s a great street, it’s been paved, they’ve done beautification in the medians . . . it’s probably the second prettiest street after Broadway. It’s a really good buffer between midtown and Lakebottom and Uptown; it’s equidistant to both, so you could enjoy the amenities of both.”

She said any development that happens in walkable distance from Uptown will benefit the whole city.

“A brewery is something that all of Columbus has been waiting for,” Zajac said.

The Denehys anticipate opening the 3,000 square foot brewery at the beginning of May, a date Michael said could shift earlier based on how rapidly the administrative and construction details are completed.

Denehy said he and his wife have no plans to close the West Point location. The second location will carry on the same traditions and events, however.

“We will have an outdoor beer garden complete with beer games as well as indoor seating in the taproom so guests can witness the fully-functioning operation,” he said. “We also plan to host occasional large-scale events like Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day and will have food trucks on site. We welcome food truck community to get in touch to make arrangements, and we will continue events schedule including trivia and live music at the Columbus location.”

Councilors Mimi Woodson, Jerry Barnes and Judy Thomas were not present at the March 26 meeting where the ordinance updates were passed, but Woodson had voiced her support at the March 12 meeting due to the proposed distillery being in her district.

Woodson said she had visited Denehy’s West Point brewery.

“I went out to the brewery to see what we were talking about because I didn’t have a concept of what a brewery was, and when I went I was very surprised to see the business the way it was — it was so friendly, so family-oriented, it was really nice,” she said. “And there were people there from Columbus and it was funny because they recognized me . . . they said ‘I hope you guys will do this in Columbus because we travel all over Georgia, and this is the best one we’ve found.’”