Athentic Brewing sign
Photo by Joshua Jones, Athens Banner Herald

The article was originally featured in Online Athens, written by Chris Starrs. You can read the original article here.

Although Athentic Brewing Company will officially open Saturday with curbside pickup service featuring four editions of its frothy products, the company is already part of the fabric of Athens’ ever-growing beer purveyors.

Mark Johnson, who with Paul Skinner is the co-founder and co-owner of Athentic Brewing, said earlier this week that the Classic City’s newest beermaker has been welcomed by its fellow brewers.

“The brewing community is more of a family than a bunch of competitors,” said Johnson, who pointed out that Akademia Brewing, Normaltown Brewing and Creature Comforts Brewing have all been helpful in seeing Athentic get off to a strong start.

“In the brewing community, the other brewers don’t see us as competition – they see us as another friend,” added Christa Rampley, the taproom manager for Athentic, which is located in Normaltown just off Prince Avenue on Park Avenue (formerly the offices of Physicians Back & Neck Clinic).

Johnson and Skinner, who by day work in the veterinary biologics industry at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, have been plotting their path into the beer biz for five years, beginning with homebrewing more than a decade ago.

“Paul started homebrewing in 2011 and I joined him in 2012,” said Johnson. “We started doing some competitions and had some pretty good success through the years in competitions and we also did free events where we’d do a pot luck with our friends and they’d bring a dish and we’d supply the beer and some pulled pork or chicken…We had a couple of events each year and we were getting somewhere between 90 and 200 people at these events.

“After having some success in some competitions, people said you guys ought to do this. That’s when we really started considering brewing beer for a living, or at least as a second career.”

Athentic’s still-under-construction facility includes a tap room (which will remain closed until pandemic recommendations suggest otherwise) with an impressive self-pour tap wall, a stage for live music presentations and no less than eight rest rooms. The building also has a sizeable patio, which Kimberly Wise, Athentic’s marketing and event coordinator, said would hopefully be opened in mid-July.

Selections that will be available — in 22-ounce “bombers” — during Saturday’s curbside pickup include a pale ale (known as Sister), an American wheat (Sunshine), a saison (Amour de Ferme) and a coffee brown ale (Perfect Number). Wise said that following soon after will be single and double IPAs and “crowd favorites from the homebrew days” like Rapid Recovery, a blonde ale brewed with kudzu flower.

Wise said that the company, which was incorporated in 2015 and spent several years seeking a lot on which to land, already feels at home in Normaltown.

“It’s an awesome location to be at because the Normaltown area is so close-knit and easily walkable, and you’ve got neighborhoods right here so you can just walk right up,” she said. “We’re really hoping to be part of the community in this area and we’re really happy to be at this location because it allows us to do more of our community-centered goals.”

And while some might despair over starting a new business during a pandemic, Johnson said the timing has appeared to work out in Athentic’s favor.

“To be honest, we were probably lucky we weren’t open when the pandemic struck, simply because we wouldn’t have been open for very long and we would have incurred a bunch of additional expenses and had our full staff hired,” he said. “So not having to do that allowed us probably a slightly easier time surviving these last few months of the pandemic. We’re still in a pandemic, but I think it softened the blow a little bit and actually gave us a little bit of a respite from trying to hurry and get open because we knew at that point we weren’t allowed to be open.

“So we have been working on getting all the things done we needed to get done, getting all of our ducks in a row and we’ll continue to get this thing built out and get it done and let the pandemic progress and we’ll come out of it when things start to ease up. We do have that benefit of seeing other (breweries) reopen and see what they’re doing. We get the benefit of seeing everybody else go first.”

Athentic Beer wall
Photo by Caroline Barnes, Red & Black

This piece was originally featured in the Red & Black, written by

Paul Skinner and Mark Johnson are trying to figure out a way to lift two refrigerator crates into their facility without tracking any more mud inside. A patch of red sludge lays ahead of them, and they must cross a makeshift bridge of other upturned crates to hit the front door.

Rain might be the number-one enemy of Athentic Brewing Company. If the weather is poor, concrete cannot be poured. If concrete cannot be poured, the parking lot, curbing and sidewalks cannot go in. Without the concrete, the business cannot acquire an occupancy permit. It’s a waiting game.

Athentic is poised to become the first brewery in Normaltown and the first in Athens with a self-serve taproom. The brain-child of industrial microbiologists Skinner and Johnson, the Park Avenue microbrewery has delayed its opening from a tentative date in fall 2019 to the foreseeable future — though “March is not unrealistic at all,” Skinner said.

The main factors in its delay are coordination challenges for the completion of its parking lot. The Athentic storefront is part of the Park & Prince redevelopment project spearheaded by JOMA Construction and Smith Planning Group, which will encompass preserving the Walgreen’s on Prince Avenue, adding new ground for retail or restaurant spaces and adding a parking lot for the brewery.

“We’re not the only construction project in town,” Johnson said. “You don’t have to go very far down Prince Avenue to find more construction, and so there’s only a finite number of people who can do this work. If they’re not here, you can bet, if it’s a nice day, they’re somewhere else.”

The construction delay is a factor of deciding to open up a brewery in Normaltown, which both Skinner and Johnson do not regret. The owners pride themselves on the location — the Normaltown storefront was the key to their strategy of “being a local hangout, a local community-focused brewery,” Skinner said. The location also allowed for on-site parking, which was a huge selling point.

In the meantime, Athentic is keeping busy. The team has installed the Table Tap technology necessary for the self-serve model, recently completed the first round of hiring for taproom staff, added a small stage to the back of the event space and are “trying to keep our name involved in conversations with other organizations in town,” said marketing and events coordinator Kimberly Wise.

The inside of the brewery is immaculate and new — a large lobby space stocked with merchandise opens up into a bright, industrially-lit taproom with high tables, benches and a red couch. Three televisions covered in plastic hang above the 12-tap self-serve wall, with enough space for 12 additional taps the team anticipates adding after its initial opening. A garage door adjacent to the stage opens up to a handicap-accessible patio space “wide enough to accommodate a food truck,” Skinner said.

The space is designed to be as streamlined and accessible as possible. Skinner and Johnson chose the self-serve technology to eliminate the long lines they observed forming at other breweries and provide customers an increased sense of autonomy with what brews they choose to taste.

“We talk a lot about the beer, but the experience is what we’re really trying to sell,” Skinner said. The beer is part of that, but the venue is what we’re really hoping will bring in people.”

Community first

There are four other breweries up and running in Athens: Southern Brewing Company, Creature Comforts Brewing Company, Akademia Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Co., the last of which currently maintains the widest distribution. Another microbrewery — Normaltown Brewing Company, which has secured a storefront on Oneta Street — is in its early stages of development.

Though the craft beer industry is booming, there really isn’t a bubble of competition, Johnson said. The staggered additions of breweries only benefit Athens’ craft beer scene and drive up brewery tourism. Johnson notes the irony of thinking five breweries is “a lot” when other large Southern cities such as Asheville, North Carolina or Knoxville, Tennessee currently sustain around 30.

The breweries in Athens all operate on different models and each has its niche market — from large-scale distribution efforts at Terrapin to Akademia’s smaller brewpub-focused model. One can go into Athens and experience all different scales across craft brewing, Skinner said.

Early on, Athentic shared a close relationship with Akademia: as a part of Athentic’s prize package for winning the 2017 Athens Homebrew Classic, Akademia provided some of its space for Athentic to brew its first commercial beer, Bold-Faced Rye. The space grew into a collaborative environment for “talking about beer, making beer, thinking about beer. Everything was beer,” Skinner said.

“I know that once we open, [other breweries] will be our biggest fans,” Wise said. “There’s really no animosity and no competition — it’s all about growing and enjoying the product.”

In terms of community support, Athentic wants to pay-it-forward: the brewery envisions itself collaborating with other homebrewers or interested groups (Skinner mentions the possibility of “brew days” for bachelor or bachelorette parties) to put guest brews on tap and supporting other breweries in any capacity they can.

Though hyper-focused on opening, the Athentic team is looking toward future involvement and collaboration with local art and music communities and charitable organizations. The brewery partnered with Historic Athens to serve as a sponsor for the 2019 PorchFest and announced it will sponsor the Storage Squad Racing bicycle collective for its upcoming race season. In the brewery itself, a broad wall connecting the lobby to the taproom was left purposefully blank to fill with local art, and the interior stage was implemented to attract performers in the area.

Skinner and Johnson plan on representing the brand at the 25th Annual Classic City Brewfest in April, but they don’t want to get ahead of themselves. After all, it’s a waiting game: “I have a hard time seeing past the next day, the next week,” Skinner said.