Hartwell resident Scott Barfield never thought a lot about opening a craft brewery. He just knew he liked going to them.
Before moving to Hartwell, he spent 13 years in Athens.
“Being in Athens, we were there when Terrapin first started. Creature Comforts came in and Southern Brewing came in,” Barfield said. “Personally, one of our children lives in Fort Collins, Colorado and they
have 40 breweries there. I also visit the ones in Asheville, North Carolina. As you can tell, I visit a lot of breweries. What I like about them is that they are places where a group of people come together and have a common interest. It is not a bar. You’re just going to a place to share a common interest with other people.”
For Barfield, the idea to open a brewery in Hartwell came about last December.
Now, with three other investors, the dream is turning into a reality that will open for business in August.
The name of the business is Southern Hart Brewing Company and its newly-renovated home will be at 350 Howell St.
“When we first moved here, we were looking as to where we could go with a group of people to watch a game or something like that. There was nowhere to go,” Barfield said. “We thought of it just being like a tavern and then we got into it a little bit and I started some research.”
Barfield, who acts as the group’s CEO and general contractor, credits former Hartwell Downtown Development Authority director Henley Cleary with helping him and his partners find a vision.
And with the craft beer movement still on the rise, there’s definitely a market for a brewer with a vision.
CRAFTING A BETTER BEER
Watch out light beer. The Buds and Millers of the world have had to step aside for a group of scrappy upstarts that are now becoming household names for beer lovers far and wide.
Athens-based beer companies like Terrapin Brewing Company, Creature Comforts and Southern Brewing Company are among those.
Oconee Brewing Company in Greensboro, Left Nut Brewing in Gainesville and Whistle Stop Brew Company in Cornelia all have their own dedicated followings as well.
And Blue Ridge may be a small but its brew-friendly presence is large as both Fanning Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men Brewing recently set up shop downtown.
Barfield is hoping for similar success. This time Hartwell-style.
“Our primary focus is to do something that will be great for here and help revitalize Hartwell. Hartwell is growing. We can tell it is growing,”
The brewery will occupy a space that was once a flourishing downtown pharmacy. The main floor is 5,100 square feet. There is an upper room that is approximately 1,900 square feet. All-in-all, they are working with 7,000 square feet.
“It’s a lot of building,” Barfield said. “It looks like we have an old tongue-and-groove floor. We have to take it all up because the joists under the floor are 32 inches apart and they need to be six to eight feet. We want to put it back together, if possible.”
In many ways, the space is reminiscent of an 1880s saloon. Hidden beneath thick plaster, Barfield and his crew discovered exquisite brick walls.
The concept behind the design is to create a number of different vignettes. There will also be a small stage where the brewery can host local bands.
In addition, there will be a back entrance to the brewery from historic Depot Street.
READY TO POUR
With so much going on, and the fact that he is putting in 14-hour days in preparation for the opening, Barfield says the brewery will offer a lot of good, traditional food options and should most likely be characterized
as a brewpub that will, of course, include Wifi and have charging stations for electronic devices throughout.
While there will be smaller tables that seat four, there will also be a number of tables that seat 16.
“We want this to be a place to get to know people who you don’t know,” Barfield said. “We want it to be a big social event and we are going to do a lot of surveys to cater to what the people say they want.”
There are also several tastings planned.
“We did our whole marketing plan based on Hartwell,” Barfield explained. “It has nothing to do with tourism. If the tourism comes, then good.”
Pulling off the establishment of a brewery in downtown Hartwell has not been an easy task, but it has been made easier with the assistance of the town’s leadership. Barfield gives particular credit to Mayor Brandon Johnson, councilman Tray Hicks and assistant city manager Jon Herschell.
“We want to create a blueprint for others on how to do this, not just breweries,” Barfield said. “We also want to center this around historical restoration and preservation. Working with the city and the Downtown Development Authority, we are going to be able to really make it.”
While Southern Hart Brewing Company will serve its own beer, it will also serve the beer of other breweries in the area.
“We want to almost create a cultural revolution,” Barfield added. “People have to remember that Budweiser was, at one point, a craft brewery. There are lots of ales and lots of lagers. We want to find the ones that fit Hartwell.”